- Major League Baseball is full of haves and have nots in 2018. We've sorted which teams you should watch this year ... and which ones you should certainly avoid.
There will be 4,860 games of MLB action this season—roughly 13,000 hours of homers, strikeouts and men adjusting their cups, spread across 30 teams of varying quality and fun. You could lose your mind and all your free time flipping from game to game over the course of the year, trying to find what’s worth watching and cutting out the deadest spots and worst innings. But that’s a lot of hard work, and a lot of sifting through some truly dreadful at-bats to find the gold. Which teams are ultimately worth your time? Let our Watchability Rankings for 2018 help you determine who should be your first choice on MLB.TV, and which squads you’ll want to avoid at all costs.
If you can name more than three non-Miguel Cabrera regulars in this lineup or any single reliever beyond closer Shane Greene, you deserve either a medal or need way more hobbies.
The pieces of the next great Padres team exist … they’re just mostly in the minors. Remember names like Fernando Tatis Jr., MacKenzie Gore and Cal Quantrill, who will have an impact in 2019 and beyond. But for 2018, while exciting young players like Manuel Margot and Dinelson Lamet are already in place, there isn’t much more to get excited about this year in southern California.
In terms of the players on the field, the Marlins should be dead last by a wide margin on this list, littered as their roster is with no-name minor leaguers and over-the-hill veterans filling out the margins. But they split a series with the Cubs to start the season so maybe it won’t be so bad? It’ll probably be pretty bad.
Unsurprisingly, if you remove all the talented players from a team, you tend to lose some of the excitement. Case in point: the Royals, now without Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain (but still employing the services of Mike Moustakas, albeit on a depressingly low contract). The 2015 title team has been scattered to the wind, and what’s left is a slightly competent yet uninspiring cast of Quad-A players and declining veterans for a lineup that will struggle mightily to do the most interesting thing a baseball team can do: score runs.
The Rays weren’t exactly captivating when they were competitive. This year’s Tampa team, though, will struggle to draw eyeballs after selling off its biggest name pieces this winter and instead rolls out an endless series of guys who will hit .275 with 15 home runs and play second base. The Rays’ four-man rotation/bullpen day starting arrangement will be worth a gander, though.
It’s hard to find much to recommend about a team mired in what seems like a perpetual rebuild, but Cincinnati at least offers power in the lineup, led by underappreciated genius Joey Votto. Just don’t pay too much attention to the rotation, which is the pitcher equivalent of a Superfund cleanup site.
Oakland had a dark-horse contender flavor to it this spring, but those hopes have been dashed a lot by the losses of Jharel Cotton and former first-rounder A.J. Puk to Tommy John surgery. Nevertheless, the A’s should hit, led by masher Khris Davis, and that helps them climb slightly out of the bottom of these rankings.
Short answer: Ronald Acuña. Long answer: Ronald Acuña, but also Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, Luiz Gohara’s fastball, Dansby Swanson’s hair, and Brandon McCarthy’s Twitter account. But mostly, it’s Ronald Acuña—or at least, it will be whenever the otherwise lackluster Braves get done screwing with his service time.
The Pirates went from contender to bummer with just two moves this winter, booting Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole and, in the process, making it clear that it’s once again rebuilding time in Pittsburgh. As sad as that is, there are still some fun names here, particularly hard-throwing Jameson Taillon and the talented Gregory Polanco, who faces a make-or-break year after three straight disappointing seasons.
Dingers, dingers and more dingers: The Orioles will create souvenirs by the dozen this year with Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo all in the lineup—and with their rotation, too. That group should be better this year with Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb replacing the gruesome twosome of Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez, but expect plenty of double-digit scoring contests at Camden Yards this year. How enjoyable you find that depends on which side you’re rooting for.
Texas’ edifice is as shaky as it gets, built on a rotation full of question marks and a bullpen that’s even more unreliable. The lineup still cranks, though, and every game is a new chance to appreciate the joy that is Adrian Beltre. Please make room for him on your screen and in your heart, and for Joey Gallo, a one-man Home Run Derby.
Forever cursed to win exactly 82 games, Seattle’s roster is quickly aging into irrelevance, as Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano all draw closer to retirement and, for Hernandez and Cano, well-deserved Hall of Fame enshrinement. They’re why you’ll be staying up late to watch Mariners games—that and the last days of Ichiro, back in the Pacific Northwest for what is almost assuredly his goodbye tour of MLB.
Losing Madison Bumgarner for two months to a broken finger cost the Giants a lot here, both because his starts were the best thing they had going and because his absence will likely doom their already slim playoff hopes. If you enjoy reliving the 2013 season but with all the best players in strange new uniforms, though, the Giants have plenty to offer, from Andrew McCutchen to Evan Longoria to the robotic excellence of Buster Posey.
17. Blue Jays
A lineup that once thumped with the best of them lost a lot of its oomph last year, as Josh Donaldson spent half the year hurt and Jose Bautista spent all season doing his best impression of a corpse. Everyone needs to be healthy for Toronto to contend and be entertaining, but there are still some standout individual talents here, from Donaldson to the energetic Marcus Stroman to flamethrowing closer Roberto Osuna.
The dirty secret of this Colorado squad is that, aside from Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, the lineup isn’t all that great. That may end up being the Rockies’ Achilles heel, but I can’t in good conscience drop them any further on this list, as any Coors Field game is guaranteed to be a moronic and enthralling fireworks show of offense. Plus, Arenado’s work at third base deserves a Nobel Prize, or at least a MacArthur Grant.
St. Louis will be better this year than last, most like, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a terribly fun team to watch. Marcell Ozuna should hit some laser home runs, and every Carlos Martinez start is full of energy. But you’re also going to spend a lot of time slowly drifting off during Matt Carpenter at-bats. At least there are plenty of interesting rookies here, though, including Luke Weaver and (if he comes back functional from Tommy John surgery) former top prospect Alex Reyes.
14. White Sox
The White Sox will be sporadically kicking ass in the second half, as the team that no contender wants to play in September. Everyone on this roster is a fresh-faced youngster, and the army of super-prospects that GM Rick Hahn has assembled—from Yoan Moncada to Lucas Giolito to, down the line, Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech with his 103 mph fastball—should eventually bring some life to an otherwise uneventful year on the South Side.
Arizona has the benefit of being a part of one of last October’s most exciting games, in a wild, back-and-forth wild-card showdown with Colorado that shortened the lifespans of half of Phoenix’s population. That’s not a surprise, given how many dynamic players the D-Backs have, from the stoic Paul Goldschmidt to strikeout king Robbie Ray to Archie Bradley’s Andrew Miller-esque relief work. The only possible factor against their watchability: The humidor the team installed over the winter, which threatens to deaden offense in lively Chase Field.
What do you do for an encore when you go from rebuilding team to wild-card contender by surprise in the course of a season? Aim higher. That’s what Milwaukee went for in acquiring Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, looking to take a terrific lineup and super-charge it. One point against the Brewers, though: a blah rotation that Milwaukee fans will probably be watching through their fingers.
A caveat: The Mets are only this high in the hopes that everything somehow goes right again. That means 30 starts a piece from Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, and some semblance of health and productivity from Matt Harvey and Steven Matz. It also means a full season of walloped home runs and bat flips from Yoenis Cespedes, and a lineup capable of putting up more than three runs per game. Will all that happen? Probably not. But if it does, the Mets are an exciting bunch—and hey, even if not, their foibles are front-page news (or, in New York, backpage puns).
Like the Sixers, your feelings on the Phillies depend on how you feel about youth movements, promise, and (yes) process. After a couple of years in the wilderness, Philadelphia has excitement in spades with this roster full of electric stars and prospects: Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, and many more. Add Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana as the occasionally transcendent veterans and the eccentric Gabe Kapler as the untested new skipper, and you have a roster that could and should surprise all season long. The real fun comes in 2019 and beyond, but the Phillies have oodles of potential, much of which you’ll see this year.
Watching the Dodgers is akin to observing a brilliantly designed machine operate: If all the gears turn the way they should, then everything should flow uninterrupted and perfectly. It can feel a little bloodless sometimes, as Los Angeles constantly moves little-known pieces around to keep everything humming and relies heavily on depth, but the stars are still there to shine: Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and the ageless Clayton Kershaw will stand out above the Dodgers’ assembly line ethos.
This is the Francisco Lindor Show, in all its glory: his dazzling defense and burgeoning power and mega-watt smile, all the best advertisement for how fun this game can be. But Cleveland is more than its star shortstop. Every Corey Kluber start is a violent deconstruction of hitters, every Edwin Encarnacion home run is an adrenaline shot, and every thing that Jose Ramirez does is just plain fun.
7. Red Sox
Like Cleveland, Boston is blessed with a charismatic young superstar in Mookie Betts, who is a true five-tool stud and, in a Mike Trout-less universe, would be an MVP favorite. Alongside him is Chris Sale, a kinetics experiment gone wrong that hurls 96-mph fastballs and wipeout sliders from a delivery that looks like a bunch of toothpicks caught in a hurricane. To that, you can now add J.D. Martinez, who blitzed NL pitching for 29 homers in 62 games with Arizona and now will look to do the same to Junior Circuit hurlers at the lyrical little bandbox that is Fenway Park. He’s as complete a hitter as exists, and he’ll make both this team and its newly charged rivalry with the Yankees that much more fun to watch.
I’ll admit that I’ve spent plenty of Cubs games simply lost in Kris Bryant’s eyes, but he and his boyish good looks aren’t all that’s happening on the North Side. They disappointed last year, but the Cubs are still one of the NL’s most exciting teams thanks to that terrific blend of youth and power—particularly Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and the newly svelte Kyle Schwarber. New to Chicago this year, though, is Yu Darvish, who throws what seems like 15 different pitches and is a must-watch when he’s on.
The core of this team is frighteningly unfair: Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers, Dallas Keuchel … oh, and now Gerrit Cole. That’s a super-team in the flesh, and one that will bludgeon teams all year long in highly entertaining fashion.
I know, I know: It’s been a long time since anyone looked at the Twins and saw a team that made for appointment viewing. But Minnesota is loaded with All-Star talent in the lineup and an ace-in-the-making in Jose Berrios in the rotation. Plus, you’ll get to watch Fernando Rodney shoot arrows into the sky 30 or 35 times after a 1-2-3 save or get blown up like a gas station in an action movie on the nights he doesn’t have it at all. And then there’s Bryon Buxton, a god in centerfield whose offense is finally catching up to his otherworldly defense; the ultra-hyped über-prospect may finally be ready to come into his own.
A loaded lineup led by Bryce Harper, a rotation featuring Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, a bullpen that isn’t a sure bet to blow every lead it’s given … all the pieces are there for the Nationals to be not only a true World Series contender, but also a fantastically entertaining team. Harper alone makes them worth watching, though, as he enters what may be his last year in D.C. looking to bring the city its first World Series in a long time.
Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani? Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani! The game’s best player and a man already in the “greatest of all time” conversation at the age of twenty-freaking-six meets the most exciting foreign player since Ichiro. The odds are against Ohtani becoming a true two-way superstar, but you won’t want to miss watching him try. And for the first time in years, the team around Trout will have real contention hopes.
You don’t need me to tell you that the team that employs the two biggest sluggers in the game, each of whom has made an art form of launching baseballs 500 feet, is the one to watch above all others. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are the apex of baseball evolution, the point to which everything has led—massive dingers hit by gargantuan supermen, every ball off the bat a screamer at 110 mph. But they’re not alone. Gary Sanchez is every bit as strong and powerful. Luis Severino throws 99 mph at 23 years old. Gleyber Torres will be up soon and a star not long after. New York’s bullpen is going to be one of the best ever assembled. Just like the old days, the Yankees are loaded—and love them or hate them, you’ll want to watch them.