AL Pennant? Maybe ... but AL West is Astros' to Lose Yet Again in 2018

Mark Lathrop

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 2:06 PM UTC

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 2:06 PM UTC

Early 2018 player projections have the Astros being just as good as they were this year. Our MLB handicapper Mark Lathrop breaks down the roster and the expected moves Houston will make to improve.

The champion Houston Astros are now listed as favorites to win the 2018 World Series at Bovada, and although I can think of more than a few other ways to spend your money than a +500 wager that pays off 11½ months away, there are some merits to discussing their chances. When the AL West odds come out they should be heavy favorites as well, and it is their division to lose once again.

Houston paid +650 this year in winning the American League pennant, and flew over their 89.5 total wins line at Bovada by winning 101 games on the year. My sabermetrics projection had them pegged at 94 wins, for reference. It could be stated this early that they will be projected to win even more games in 2018. That is because of the Aug. 31 addition of Justin Verlander, who bumps the Astros up to having one of the best rotations in the league at this time. In addition, the Astros have Lance McCullers Jr., Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, who bring Houston 4 starters projected over 2.8 WAR in 2018. That kind of depth is just not present in other rotations in the American League outside of perhaps Cleveland.

The Houston offense is also projected to be just as good in 2018 as it was in 2017. They have a list of 10 players expected to get significant at-bats who could reach double digits in home runs, and nine offensive players expected to put up over 101 wRC+. This lineup will be relentless again, with Carlos Correa (5.9 WAR), George Springer (4.9 WAR), Jose Altuve (4.4 WAR) and Alex Bregman (3.6 WAR) all coming into their primes and leading the pack. Injury concerns and age related performance drop-offs won’t hit this group for another few years, with Springer being the oldest of the 3+ WAR group above at 28 years old.

If there are any moves to be made with this club, expect it to be small pieces to bolster the bullpen. Ken Giles has the closer role locked down, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some shuffling behind him. With Houston’s starting depth, some 6-7th place rotation guys could be converted to the bullpen as well.

It would take a flop of massive proportions for this team not to make the playoffs again in 2018. The Angels are getting older and have a poor pitching staff, the Mariners are in the middle of a failing rebuild, and the Athletics have been mired in mediocrity for years. The futures wagers for the Astros to get into the playoffs will be steeped in chalk – chalk that is well deserved.

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