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#pounditThursday, August 13, 2020

Ranking the top 10 World Series contenders

Kris Bryant

Much attention has been given to the number of MLB teams that are currently going through rebuilding processes, but there are still a number of teams trying to win it all this season. The race for the World Series should be thrilling in 2019, with a lot of talented teams from both leagues that can correctly claim that they have a chance at winning the whole thing.

Some teams definitely have a better chance than others, though. Here are the top 10 preseason contenders for the 2019 World Series.

10) St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals never take missing the playoffs well, and that usually provokes a reaction. This offseason, that reaction was to acquire Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the hopes of turning their fortunes around. Goldschmidt has since signed an extension, and that’s great news for a Cardinals team that won 88 games last year. If their talented young pitchers continue to mature, they stand a great chance of making the playoffs, even in a tough division, and anything can happen once they get there.

9) Philadelphia Phillies

Bryce Harper is the headline attraction, but the other moves the Phillies made in the offseason set them up well to contend. J.T. Realmuto may end up being one of the biggest additions of the offseason, Jean Segura is a solid under-the-radar move, and Andrew McCutchen will bring talent and veteran leadership to a fairly young team. The Phillies need to get pitching beyond Aaron Nola, and they made a number of tweaks to their bullpen to make that happen. If they pull that off, they have every chance of winning the franchise’s first title since 2008.

8) Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers were close to making the World Series last year and probably should have had the Dodgers down 2-0 in the NLCS until their bullpen tripped up. Their tweaks this offseason have mostly been cosmetic, though they’ve been linked with Craig Kimbrel in light of serious injury concerns regarding Corey Knebel. That’s definitely worth watching and is a bit worrying. If Christian Yelich can repeat his 2018 heroics, the Brewers will be right back in contention.

7) Washington Nationals

The Nationals may be flying under the radar this year, as the loss of Bryce Harper has deprived them of the face of their franchise. It would be a mistake to discount them, however, because they’ve rather deftly moved to keep themselves competitive with a series of good moves. Yan Gomes and Brian Dozier won’t replace Harper, but they’re savvy additions offensively, and the acquisition of Patrick Corbin ensures one of baseball’s more formidable rotations. If they’ve fixed the bullpen, which they’ve taken aggressive steps toward doing, they may well fend off Philadelphia in the NL East.

6) Cleveland Indians

This was a strange offseason for Cleveland, which seemingly spent most of it shopping some of their best players. Ultimately, no deal was made, and that means the starting rotation is intact entering 2019, which will keep them in contention. The departures of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen mean someone has to step up in the bullpen, and they’ll lean heavily on Brad Hand. Francisco Lindor will provide offensive star power once healthy. The key pieces are still intact here, but this team has seemed to underachieve in the postseason. Their championship window won’t be open forever, and they’re clearly willing to move on big players once they become too expensive, so this is going to be a pivotal year for them.

5) Chicago Cubs

The Cubs largely stood pat after a 2018 season that saw them fade heavily down the stretch. They’re essentially banking on some players who didn’t perform last season to do so this year. Key to that is pitcher Yu Darvish, whose injury-hit 2018 campaign made him a non-factor. That’s expected to change, and a full season of Cole Hamels is expected to help too, in addition to a fully healthy Kris Bryant. The pressure is on for Chicago, as manager Joe Maddon enters a contract year. Expectations are high, but the Cubs are mostly sticking with what they had previously expected to work.

4) Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers made minor additions this offseason, adding A.J. Pollock in center field and Joe Kelly to bolster their bullpen. For a team with back-to-back NL pennants, that’s an entirely defensible strategy. Health is a worry, as Clayton Kershaw’s spring has been marred by shoulder trouble, which bears watching as the season goes on. They still have the talent to make a run deep into October. Even though last year’s World Series was one-sided, they still made it, and they came within one game of beating Houston the year before. They cannot be counted out.

3) Houston Astros

The Astros are eager to avoid a repeat of last season, when the Boston Red Sox stuffed them in the ALCS. They, too, made minor offseason moves, chief among them the addition of former Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley, who will provide a valuable left-handed bat in the lineup. The rotation may take a hit with Charlie Morton’s departure, but it’s hard to have too many doubts about a unit led by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Key for the Astros will be the health of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa; both struggled in the second half due to nagging injuries, and both will be needed for the Astros to return to the World Series.

2) New York Yankees

An offseason of Manny Machado rumors ultimately came to nothing, but the Yankees don’t need him to be a legitimate World Series threat. Instead, the Yankees beefed up their pitching, adding left-hander James Paxton in a trade with Seattle, retaining free agent J.A. Happ, and throwing Adam Ottavino into the bullpen mix. Concerns over the health of Luis Severino and Dellin Betances aren’t without reason, but if they can get healthy, New York should finally have a quality pitching staff to go with one of the league’s best lineups. They’re going to be a huge threat to win it all.

1) Boston Red Sox

To be the best, you have to beat the best. The Red Sox were a dominant force in 2018, winning 108 games and breaking off a playoff run that saw them go 11-3 and never face elimination. The bulk of that team returns, though the departures of Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly will undoubtedly impact the bullpen. The lineup and rotation are both every bit as deep as they were last season, and they’ll ensure that Boston has a chance to win everything they set out to win this year. Early on, they are deservedly the favorites once again.

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