1. Threat Level: Astros
The Astros are coming off a season that saw them capture their franchise’s first World Series trophy, one can expect them to be a serious threat to the Indians. One of the few teams that have the batting to equal out the Indians pitching, the Astros boast the deepest and best lineup in the AL. Consider this, as a team, they had a 127 OPS+ (meaning that, as a team, they hit better than the league average offense by 27%). That’s the equivalent to having an entire lineup full of Edwin Encarnacion’s, Brian Dozier’s or Corey Seager’s. Other than the loss of Carlos Beltran, this lineup will remain the same as last year.
The pitching was about league average last year (96 ERA+, 9th in AL and a 4.12 ERA, 5th in AL), but they made big strides to fix that. We saw what late-season addition Justin Verlander was able to do with the team in just 34 innings. Well, now they get him for a full season and his usual 200+ innings. They also added Gerrit Cole in a trade with Pirates in the offseason. However, other than his career year in 2015, Cole has been just slightly above league average. Still, having him as your third or fourth starter should be considered a luxury. Their bullpen is a little light on top-flight relievers, but with Chris Devenski and Ken Giles, they should make due. Expect another near 100-win season.