When the 2017 season ended, the Houston Astros were celebrating the first World Series title in franchise history. With all of their star players back and some big offseason additions, the Astros open 2018 as the unanimous No. 1 team in our rankings. But who is hot on their heels? Will the Yankees bash their way to a title? Can the Dodgers get one more win and bring the trophy back to L.A.? For every team, we identified the best- and worst-case scenarios and the one player who could make or break [url=http://www.49ersofficialsprostore.com/Pierre_Garcon_Jersey_Cheap]http://www.49ersofficialsprostore.com/Pierre_Garcon_Jersey_Cheap[/url] the season. We also included projected records and division finishes from ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski using his ZiPS system. (Editor's note: Because the rankings were voted on by a panel -- David Schoenfield, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, Bradford [url=http://www.officiallakersshoponline.com/Larry_Nance_Jersey]Authentic Larry Nance Jersey[/url] Doolittle and Sarah Langs -- they might not match Szymborski's projected finishes.)
Best case: Ace Justin Verlander not only picks up where he left off last season but also helps new Astro Gerrit Cole rediscover his inner-first-rounder. Carlos Correa keeps all [url=http://www.footballcardinalsofficial.com/Authentic-Larry-Fitzgerald-Jersey]Larry Fitzgerald Womens Jersey[/url] his ligaments intact and gives teammate Jose Altuve a run for his money in trying to become just the second AL player this century to win back-to-back MVP titles. Houston becomes the first team since 2000 to repeat as World Series champs.
Worst case: Two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani goes 6-0 versus the Astros (including a perfect game), while hitting .573 with eight homers off Houston hurlers, helping the Angels become the first team ever to go 19-0 against a division rival. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers miss time once again, and even worse, they infect Verlander with the injury bug. The Astros become the 10th squad since 2000 to miss the playoffs the season after winning it all.
Make-or-break player: The Stros went 81-39 when Correa was healthy (.675). During the six weeks he missed due to a thumb injury, they were 20-22 (.476). No wonder the 23-year-old shortstop finished 17th in the MVP voting, despite playing just 109 games. Crazy thing is, based on his 5.2 fWAR (seventh in AL), Correa should've finished even higher. -- Eddie Matz
Best case: It's championship or bust for a Dodgers team that came one stinking [url=http://www.officialauthenticbroncostore.com/Nike-Shane-Ray-Jersey.html]http://www.officialauthenticbroncostore.com/Nike-Shane-Ray-Jersey.html[/url] win from taking it all in 2017. While no one in L.A. would admit it, what might aid that cause is if a couple of starters beyond Clayton Kershaw prove so adept at navigating beyond 18 batters that it convinces Dave Roberts to give them a little longer leash in the postseason. Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Walker Buehler -- whoever. Just two arms that can ease the burden of Roberts' postseason bullpen.
Worst case: There is so much redundancy built into the Dodgers' roster that it almost feels immune to worst-case scenarios. But they exist for everyone. All teams, even the Dodgers, rely on a certain bit of star power. If Justin Turner's wrist injury lingers and ruins his season, and if Corey Seager's elbow becomes a bigger problem, and if Cody Bellinger's strikeout-heavy cold stretches become a strikeout-heavy cold season, and if Kershaw's back problems resurface, and if Kenley Jansen's hamstring pops ... you get the picture. Still, a lot of [url=http://www.authenticfootballonlinestore.com/san-francisco-49ers-c-1574_1655.html]Womens San Francisco 49ers Jersey[/url] things have to go wrong to keep the Dodgers from the ranks of the elite.
Make-or-break player: Seager is probably the closest thing to a make-or-break player that the Dodgers have. If his elbow keeps him out of the lineup or unable to make the requisite throws from shortstop -- and there has been no indication this spring that will be the case -- then it creates an unfortunate domino effect. L.A. is deep all over but less deep at shortstop than any other position. Chris Taylor can play there, as can Enrique Hernandez. But if Taylor is taken out of center field, it creates a defensive hole at that spot, and Hernandez is valuable as a utility guy but might not be able to start against [url=http://www.jetsfootballofficialshop.com/Authentic-Jamal-Adams-Jersey]http://www.jetsfootballofficialshop.com/Authentic-Jamal-Adams-Jersey[/url] righties, anyway. It would simplify matters if Seager's elbow stays sound. -- Bradford Doolittle
Best case: A 28th World Series ring is well within the realm of possibility for the Yankees in 2018. With a well-developed farm system that's paying dividends and after a few shrewd offseason moves, their power arms and power bats have them well-positioned [url=http://www.authenticbruinsproshop.com/authentic-59-tim-schaller-jersey.html]Womens Tim Schaller Jersey[/url] to win big this season. Last year's earlier-than-expected appearance in the ALCS ought to also help first-year manager Aaron Boone's young yet experienced club.
Worst case: Health is a concern for every team at this point, but it is especially so for a team as carefully constructed as the Yankees. Such concerns caused New York to focus this spring on building defensive depth and looking for versatility both within the lineup and out of the bullpen. If the Yanks' season goes unexpectedly sideways, it likely would be due to key injuries that were tougher to overcome than anticipated.
Make-or-break player: This superstar-laden 40-man roster won't have many "break" players this year. That's especially true in the lineup, where the effects of one slumping player shouldn't have a deleterious domino effect. In fact, certain players will benefit from this deep lineup. Catcher Gary Sanchez definitely should, and he could be the biggest breakout player. His offseason defensive tweaks also should directly impact the Yankees. -- Coley Harvey
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