The Houston Astros won their first World Series this week, and did so in very deserving fashion. This was a terrific team from top to bottom that was essentially designed years ago. Indeed, you may have heard by now that Sports Illustrated predicted in the summer of 2014 (when the Astros eventually lost 92 games) that the team would win it all in 2017. In many respects this was a lucky prediction, but it also demonstrates that the way a team builds can be a strong indication of what’s to come.
Even throughout this season, it was clear that the teams best built for consistency were the best. Heading into the World Series, one preview noted that two teams that were among the best in the league from start to finish had claimed supremacy in their respective leagues. Another way of putting that would have been that Dodgers-Astros looked like the matchup we were heading for all along. These teams built well enough to be considered strong in the preseason, played better than everyone else all year long, and wound up meeting in the Fall Classic. In 2017, it was that simple.
It isn’t always like that, but coming off a year that was almost oddly predictable it feels more appropriate than ever to take an early look ahead at the potential World Series favorites for next fall. Taking into account a few articles and odds listings that are already out there, here’s our look at the top contenders.
1. Houston Astros
Repeats don’t happen too frequently in baseball, so in that sense this seems unlikely. The Astros also got contributions this postseason from veterans who may not be around in 2018 (like Jason Verlander and Carlos Beltran). But the bulk of Houston’s core is still young, José Altuve is looking like the best all-around player in baseball, and this team now (rightfully) believes it can beat anybody. The Astros are very likely to be a playoff team again next year, and should be in the hunt to win it all.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers came up one game short this season, but it was actually the best postseason run they’ve had in quite some time. The one-two starting pitching punch of Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish isn’t going anywhere, and the lineup is built to last (not to mention the front office is capable of reloading it anyway). LA is never afraid to spend – think of them like the 2000s Yankees – which means a few big additions could be on the way to help get them over the hump.
3. New York Yankees
Before the Yankees made a surprise run to Game 7 of the ALCS, let’s remember they were supposed to be a season away. People expected this young Yankees team (which still has more significant talent on the way from AAA) to start competing in 2018. Already a year ahead of schedule, the Yankees may have the experience and talent to win it all next season. They’ll need to make a few contract decisions in the starting rotation, and they need a new manager. But this team is so well set up that one write-up noted the new skipper will be the luckiest in sports.
4. Cleveland Indians
Despite coming up short against New York in the division series, the Indians won over 100 games this season, including a run of 22 straight at one point. This was an exceptional team, and one that will be back almost in its entirety in 2018. The Indians should own the AL Central again next year, which means they’ll be back in the playoffs with a shot to improve upon their 2017 performance.
5. Washington Nationals
We’ll wrap up with the Nationals, who seem to have been knocking on the door of a World Series berth for the better part of a decade. This team has had a lot of bad luck in the playoffs, but the talent is there, and perhaps a new manager in Dave Martinez is just what’s needed to jolt them to the finish line.
You can also look to teams like the Cubs and Red Sox as potential contenders in 2018. But the five teams listed above look to be in the best position to compete for the next World Series.
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