The Top Tier
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
The D’backs are an intriguing bunch. They traded Zack Greinke to the Astros last July and then signed Madison Bumgarner in the offseason to take his place as the veteran anchor. Their rotation boasts some other talented arms in Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver and Alex Young. Their bullpen needs better results from Archie Bradley, but could turn out to be a solid unit if he returns to form.
On offense, Eduardo Escobar and Ketel Marte are coming off excellent seasons, and first baseman Christian Walker provides additional pop. They’re joined by newcomers Kole Calhoun and Starling Marte, who could give the Snakes one of the better outfields around. With some additional young talent waiting in the wings, this is a team that won 85 games last year and could be even better.
2. Oakland Athletics
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The A’s won 97 games last year and made the postseason as a Wild Card team, and they should be in the thick of it again. As usual, they’ve got some talented young arms on their pitching staff such as A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo to join veteran Mike Fiers and a handful of other candidates, and their bullpen has some solid pieces as well.
The offense is led by a trio of excellent infielders in Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. Former Astros prospect Ramon Laureano has turned into a quality player, and if DH Khris Davis can bounce back, that’ll make them even more dangerous. This team just doesn’t have many weaknesses.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Even with the news that David Price is opting out of the season, this is still the toughest team the Astros will face this year. The Dodgers’ rotation is headlined by Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw, and there’s plenty of depth with Alex Wood, Dustin May, Jimmy Nelson and Julio Urias. The bullpen has plenty of options as well, leading up to closer Kenley Jansen. Bouncebacks from Joe Kelly and newcomer Blake Treinen could make them even deeper.
Their lineup is even scarier. Mookie Betts joins Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, A.J. Pollock and Joc Pederson to form a deep, imposing group. They probably benefit from the universal DH more than any other NL team as they can get all their top bats in the lineup every day. This could be the game’s most talented roster on paper, though we’ll see if the Astros continue living rent-free in their heads.