Spring training has begun for Major League Baseball, and we're all ready to put an offseason of controversy and finger-pointing behind us once and for all. While much is expected of the teams on this list this season, keep in mind that the defending world champion came from out of nowhere to take the trophy.
Here are five teams that will exceed their projected win totals:
Philadelphia Phillies (Projection: 85.5 wins)
For the past two seasons, the Phillies started hot before fading down the stretch to finish just below .500. Ultimately, manager Gabe Kapler was the one held accountable for the Phillies' "phailures" and was given the boot.
Reinforcements have arrived in the form of two former Yankees: new manager Joe Girardi and shortstop Didi Gregorius, along with fellow All-Star free agent pick-up Zack Wheeler. They join an already-promising lineup including All-Stars J.T. Realmuto and Aaron Nola. Oh, yeah, and Bryce Harper, who has to feel pretty sour about how last season turned out.
As many as four teams could contend for the NL East title -- basically, everyone except the Marlins - which could explain why sportsbooks aren't so high on the Phillies' playoff chances. Still, expect them to land in a better place than they were a year ago.
Cincinnati Reds (Projection: 85.5 wins)
After missing the playoffs for the past six seasons, the Cincinnati Reds became one of baseball's biggest spenders this offseason, continuing a trend they set at last season's trade deadline when they acquired pitcher Trevor Bauer. In all, the Reds spent $164 million on free agents, including Brewers right fielder Mike Moustakas and Cubs right fielder Nick Castellanos.
The new additions have increased the stakes for the Reds. To spend $164 million and fall short of October would be nothing less than a failure.
New York Mets (Projection: 87.5 wins)
The fallout from the Astros' sign-stealing also caught the Mets, who had a typically Mets offseason that saw their postseason hopes fall on the shoulders of an untested rookie manager. Still, Luis Rojas inherits a roster filled with promise, one that fell just short of making the postseason in 2019. If last season's NL Rookie of the Year, Pete Alonso, can avoid falling into a sophomore slump and their All-Star pitching staff can stay healthy for once, they can make a serious run in what will surely be a packed NL East race.
Houston Astros (Projection: 94.5 wins)
One of the hidden tragedies of the Astros' sign-stealing scandal is that it will forever obscure the accomplishments of a great group of players. Say what you will about their actions, but it can't be denied that even without whatever added boost that their subterfuge provided, they would have reached great heights toward the end of the last decade.
They now have all of 2020 to prove it. And the last thing the rest of baseball needed is an Astros team with a chip on its shoulder.
Baltimore Orioles (Projection: 56.5 wins)
The Baltimore Orioles are only on this list because the expectations for them are criminally low to begin with. After all, this is a team with hands-down the seediest owner in baseball - even among some top-class competition - and a team that has won a combined 101 games in the past two seasons. That's five less than the Dodgers won last season.
Surely they can't do worse? Rebuilds take time, of course, but O's fans have to hope for some signs of progress after two straight 100-loss seasons.