With the 2017 Major League Baseball season in the books and the Astros crowned World Series champions, it's officially not too soon to look ahead to 2018.
A few teams clearly stand above the rest heading into the offseason, while other potential contenders will look to strengthen their squads via free agency and trades during the winter.
While the complexion of teams will change, the cores will remain the same. And with that, we polled our staff of MLB writers and editors for their way-too-early favorites for next year.
Without further ado, some 100 days before pitchers and catchers wander into camp, a preliminary top eight:
1. Houston Astros
Texas remains the epicenter of football, even after the Astros brought home the Lone Star State's first World Series title. So, in the parlance anyone there can appreciate: The Astros return almost all of their starters on both sides of the ball, and in George Springer, have an athletic playmaker who can wreak havoc on opposing defenses. OK, in all seriousness, the Astros are primed to dominate again. And while winning a World Series in November can create a quick and untenable turnaround, consider this blessing in disguise: Injuries limited the workload on top starters Dallas Keuchel (145 2/3 innings), Lance McCullers (118 2/3 innings) and Charlie Morton (146 2/3). They'll also have that Justin Verlander fellow for a full season.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
A gut-wrenching end to the season doesn't detract from their overwhelming depth that is very well-suited to the 162-game grind. Expect even more 10-day DL stints and a flurry of starting pitchers to shoulder the load as the club works its way back from this 15-game postseason. They'll even have some financial flexibility: Carl Crawford's $21.8 million salary is finally off the books, though the Dodgers may prefer trying to re-set their luxury tax obligations.
3. Washington Nationals
It's understandable if Dave Martinez's grin was a bit muted when the Nationals introduced him as their new manager Thursday.
He has a tall task: Exceed or match Dusty Baker's 97 wins, and then win a World Series. Simple, right? Fortunately, the Nationals return loaded with depth, a killer 1-2 starting combo of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and a dynamic prospect in Victor Robles to unleash as they see fit. Provided Daniel Murphy avoids complications from off-season knee injury (he should be ready by Opening Day), the Nationals are easily the team to beat in the East, and perhaps the entire NL.
4. Cleveland Indians
That 22-game winning streak seems like a long time ago, huh? ALDS tumble notwithstanding, the Indians will flirt with another 100-win season. Shortstop Francisco Lindor, who turns 24 this month, looks primed for an MVP season. Assuming good health, they could trot out a starting rotation where the top four (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Danny Salazar) all average at least 10 strikeouts per nine innings. They should dominate the AL Central.
5. Chicago Cubs
A significant off-season reboot has arrived - say goodbye to Jake Arrieta and John Lackey - but the core remains. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras could make any team solvent. Theo Epstein and his front office mates have a tricky challenge ahead - remaking the rotation and bullpen but presumably saving cash for next year's free agent frenzy, along with the huge raises coming soon to Bryant and Co.
6. New York Yankees
How much difference did Joe Girardi make? Perhaps we'll find out. Like the Cubs, the Yankees face a similar juggling act with CC Sabathia's expected departure and the possible opt-out of Masahiro Tanaka, who looked rejuvenated and dominant in the playoffs. Regardless, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will play 81 games at Yankee Stadium, which will make any skipper look smart.
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
Aberration or harbinger? The Diamondbacks at times looked like the NL's second-best team, though they'll always be hard-pressed to top the Dodgers in the West. And much of their firepower could be attributed to the July arrival of J.D. Martinez, who seems likely to depart as a free agent. Still, they played .581 ball (54-39) before his arrival.
8. St. Louis Cardinals
Based largely on spec - the Cardinals badly need a re-boot and figure to get aggressive this off-season. They already possess one of the game's great assets: A handful young players who hit home runs by the bushel. While Randal Grichuk might be on the trade block, shortstop Paul DeJong (25 homers) and outfielder Tommy Pham (23 homers) will provide cheap pop. If Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha truly grow into the 1-2 punch many always imagined - they're not far away - they could be the favorites to win the Central.