Way-too-early Astros-Red Sox ALCS preview

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We kicked off our annual too-early-preview series a couple of weeks ago by examining what a potential Indians-Red Sox AL Championship Series would look like. Now, with Houston and Boston giving us another possible postseason glimpse (8 p.m. ET on ESPN), let's break down a potential October clash between these two American League titans.

Between now and then

In my current simulations, the Red Sox and Astros are both heavy favorites to win their respective divisions. Boston has been winning the East in each of the 10,000 runs through the remaining schedule I do each day. It has been that way for Boston for a couple of weeks, but Houston's story is a little different.

The Astros have owned the top power rating in my system nearly the entire season, going all the way back to the hot stove season. That's not a crazy stance for my system to take -- the defending champs are dripping with in-their-prime talent. Boston overtook Houston for a three-week stretch in August, but the Astros have resumed their reign over the majors.

That optimistic assessment of Houston's roster is why even though the Astros' edge over Oakland in the AL West is only 3½ games, they currently carry a 94 percent shot at the division crown, and a 100 percent lock on a playoff spot. Obviously, the Astros would much prefer the division title and would like to wrap that race up early enough to get some rest for a roster that has dealt with a lot of injuries.

With that in mind, it would seem that in this series and in the days to come, Houston has more at stake than Boston on the field. The Red Sox haven't clinched anything, but that will happen soon enough. In the meantime, Boston is just trying to make sure recently ailing starters Chris Sale, David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez are in postseason form when the calendar flips to October.

The Astros are on pace to win 100-plus games for the second straight season, so it's not like they've been cruising through the season. But that narrow advantage in the division will keep A.J. Hinch's club on edge. One bad week, then suddenly they could be looking down the barrel of a one-game visit to Yankee Stadium in the coin-flip game.

Boston's stars have plenty left to play for as well in terms of individual goals. Mookie Betts is the AL MVP front-runner, and J.D. Martinez is alive in that chase as well. Martinez also still has a shot at the Triple Crown. Finally, assuming Sale comes back sharp and gets three or four more starts, he's in great position to win his first Cy Young Award.