In the final piece of our series, here are the Top 10 teams, based on input from evaluators. It starts with an organization that has a chance to complete the foundation of a dynasty.
1. Chicago Cubs
At their best: Because the Cubs have so many young, developing players, they could be even better than in 2016, when they won 103 games. From catcher Willson Contreras to Kyle Schwarber (who is 23 and has just 278 regular-season at-bats) to infielder Javier Baez (who has made tremendous improvement at the plate) to MVP Kris Bryant (who has just two years in the big leagues), there could be a lot of growth on a team that was as well-rounded as any in recent memory.
What could go wrong: The Cubs have incredible position-player and bullpen depth, but a soft underbelly of the club -- as with all contending teams -- can always be found in the rotation depth because few clubs go eight, nine or 10 starters deep. Remember that spring training week in 2014 when the Atlanta Braves lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy within 24 hours, and it changed everything for them? Jon Lester is 33 years old, John Lackey had some shoulder trouble down the stretch last season, and rival evaluators say the one overriding developmental need for the Cubs is young starting pitching.
A key number: According to Baseball Reference’s Pythagorean W-L, the expected win-loss record for the ’16 Cubs was 107-55 -- even better than they actually fared. The expected record for the second-place Cardinals: 88-74. That is an enormous gap.