After waiting 108 years, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series 2 years ago. They were looking to become the first team since the New York Yankees (1999-2000) to repeat. It would not happen as another team would win the World Series for the first time in franchise history. The Houston Astros who were born in the National League in 1962 moved to the American League in 2013. Winning their division with a record of 101-61, they were playing for a city that was dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Just like the Yankees used the 9/11 disaster as their rallying cry (they lost the World Series in 7 games to Arizona) Houston sewed “Houston Strong” on their jersey’s. They would take out the Red Sox (3-1) in the first round. In the ALCS against New York, they jumped out to a 2-0 lead. They Yankees took all 3 games in the Bronx only needing 1 more win to get to the biggest stage in baseball. It would not happen as the Astros starters shut down the Bombers in the next 2 games giving up only 1 run. The Los Angeles Dodgers were up next and in a epic 7 game series, the Astros were hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy. Which brings us to the 2018 baseball season. Industry Rules looks at the 10 teams that hope to be playing in October.

#10 – Minnesota Twins: In 2016, the Minnesota Twins were the laughing stock of baseball. With the worst record (59-103) they did something last year no other team did in the history of the league the following year. They qualified for the postseason by finishing second in the AL Wild Card. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead against the Yankees, only to lose the 1 game playoff. They outscored every other team after July 31st. Newsflash: They will not surprise any team this year. They added ex-Yankees starter Michael Pineda and bolstered up their bullpen adding Fernando Rodney. Byron Buxton is a budding superstar who’s defense is second to none. He took home the Platinum Glove Award and Wilson Defensive Player of the Year. Veterans Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer keep the clubhouse together.

#9 – Milwaukee Brewers: After winning 86 games, they came within 1 game of making the postseason as a wild card team. Said veteran Ryan Braun of the team known as “pirates and hooligans”, “other teams know we’re a good team. We’ve proven we’re a good team.” Manager Craig Counsel knows that every year is different as the majority of his crew will return. Using a culinary analogy he said, “every time grandma makes the chili, it’s a little different. But it’s still grandma’s chili.” Their biggest issue will be their starting pitching. Zach Davies and Chase Anderson are back from the starting five. Said General Manager David Stern, “adding to our pitching depth is something we need to look at.”

#8 – Washington Nationals: Washington has arguably the best baseball player in the game in Bryce Harper who will be an unrestricted free agent at seasons end. They moonwalked last year winning their division by 20 games. It did not translate when they faced the Cubs in the first round losing in 5 games. Manager Dusty Baker was let go after only 2 years. His replacement, Dave Martinez has never managed in the majors. Creativity is his forte and he plans on instituting unorthodox things. The injury bug has plagued the team over the years to core players. Starter Stephen Strasburgh, Adam Eaton and Willie Ramos were victims over the past two years. In order for the Bryce situation not to be a cloud over the team for the season, The Nats need to come out strong. Otherwise, all the talk will be where he will get traded before the deadline.

#7 – Chicago Cubs: It was the classic hangover for the boys from Chicago. When they won the World Series in 2016 after a 108 year drought, manager Joe Madden could do no wrong. He kept the team loose admist all of the expectation bringing exotic animals into the clubhouse and dressing up his players in psychedelic outfits. That magic lasted 1 year. Although they did make the playoff and took out the Nationals in the first round, they would lose in the next round to the Dodgers. This year, they look to get to their 4th straight NLCS and win their division for the 3rd straight time. It is not an unrealistic expectation given their starting rotation. Jon Lester is at the top of the rotation with the team adding You Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. Offensively, the big question surrounds the return of Kyle Schwarber. He was sent down to the minor after a slow start but rebounded ending the year with 30 home runs and 59 RBI. General Manager Theo Epstein thinks this could be a breakout year for some of his players. “We have a lot of guys with the potential to take a big step forward,” he said of the upcoming season.

#6 – Arizona Diamondbacks: Your team had not had a winning season in the last 6 years. Not much was expected except that streak would extend to 7. Led by J.D. Martinez, the Diamondbacks ended up winning 93 games, finishing in second place. They outscored Colorado (11-8) in the wildcard. Unfortunately, they had to face the Dodgers in the next round of the playoffs. They were swept in three games ending their season in the blink of an eye. Still, the winning environment was set at by second year manager Corey Lovullo who from the very first day of spring training said, “what matter to the players, matters to me.” They heeded those words and it showed in their play. They now have to learn how to win without Martinez who signed with Boston.

#5 – Boston Red Sox: They won their division for the second year in a row only to lose in the first round of the playoffs to Houston. It prompted General Manager Dave Dombrowski to sign Martinez hoping to bolster the offense. The heart and soul of the team, Dustin Pedroia is coming off knee surgery and first year manager Alex Cora will have to figure out who will replace him to start the season. The starting pitching is solid with Chris Sale being the ace. David Price is a pitch away from landing on the DL and has proved his worth in the past. It will be hard for them to win the division for the third year in a row.

#4 – Cleveland Indians: The Indians were the favorite to get to the World  Series. They won 102 regular season games. President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti did not rest on his laurels after they lost in 5 games to the Yankees. He signed Seattle’s Yonder Alonso who hit 28 home runs last year to a 2 year deal for $16 million. The pitching staff will have to adjust as Mickey Callaway was hired as manager of the New York Mets a spot he held for the last 5 years. Starter Danny Salazar has shown flashes of brilliance but staying healthy has been an issue. Elbow and shoulder problems caused him to miss the postseason the last 2 years. They will score runs and will keep their fingers crossed that budding star centerfielder Bradley Zimmer will be consistent throughout the year.

#3 – Los Angeles Dodgers: When you win the most regular season games (104) it is expected that your team will represent your league in the World Series. They did not disappoint their fans except for the outcome against Houston. In heartbreaking fashion, they only had to win 1 game at home to take the trophy for the first time since 1988. Winning their division for the 5th straight year was not enough to appease them. They will have to deal with the cloud that is starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw who will be entering the year with the option of becoming a free agent. Do they sign him to an extension or risk losing him getting nothing in return. They re-signed starter Alex Wood who won 16 games and made his first All Star appearance. Manager Dave Roberts is still getting heat for starting Yu Darvish in game 7. If they struggle to start the season, he may be looking for another job.

#2 – New York Yankees: How do you follow up after coming within 1 game of winning the World Series? You trade for the reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. The guy who managed the team for the last 10 years, winning their last title in 2009, Joe Girardi was dismissed at the end of the year. Aaron Boone takes over a team that is offensively loaded. The starting pitching is what concerns Bomber fans most. Can Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia avoid spending significant time on the DL? Will Luis Severino and Sonny Gray be able to put up consistent innings? The injury bug has already hit the team. Greg Bird underwent ankle surgery and will miss the first 6 weeks of the season. The Evil Empire is in full effect after they acquired Stanton. How he will handle the bright lights and the Bronx cheer when he fails in a big situation of will remains to be seen. They were not expected to do as well as they did last year. 2018 is totally different.

#1 – Houston Astros:  The Astros will have starter Justin Verlander for the full year and he showed how valuable he was for the team, especially in the playoffs. That is one of the biggest reasons that the Astros can win the World Series for the second year in a row. The team did deal with a variety of injuries to key players (Dallas Keuchal, Carlos Correa) hope it will not repeat this year. They have one of most dynamic players in the game in Jose Altuve who won the franchise’s only MVP. George Springer, the MVP of the World Series, is hoping to be consistent for the whole year. Manager A.J. Hinch has challenged his team saying, “I’m going to be the guy that has to tell these guys to flip the script and get on to 2018. We won’t be any less hungry or any less motivated to try to do it again. I think our guys enjoyed the run and want to do it again.”