3. Houston Astros (4–3, minus-3)
The off-season acquisitions of DH Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Josh Reddick—added to a talented core of second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa, outfielder George Springer and others—created something of a consensus in analytical circles: The Astros might quietly boast the best lineup in baseball. Combine that lineup with a very deep bullpen, and Houston appeared to have an excellent chance to make a deep playoff run this season.
The X-factor was the rotation. Could 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel even come close to matching his form from two years ago? And could hugely gifted but oft-injured young righty Lance McCullers Jr. finally string together 30 starts in a season? Keuchel and McCullers, year to date: 27 IP, 25 K, 15 H, 4 BB, 1.67 ERA. Keuchel’s riding a completely unsustainable hit rate, and McCullers still need to hold up for six more months. But those hot starts have been impressive, and much-needed.
Add GM Jeff Luhnow’s newfound hunger to make impact deals and thus potentially further reinforce that rotation at the deadline, and the Astros could be legitimately terrifying this year.