Three rookie coaches are favorites to win the World Series in 2018

Alex Cora, Aaron Boone and Dave Martinez enter the 2018 season in an exclusive club, joining only a handful of other rookie coaches to take over a team that had made the playoffs the year before. Major League Baseball’s long history has seen only ten such captains, and not even one of them led his team to the World Series in that first period.

Worse, more than half of those rookie coaches failed to take their legacy playoff teams to the postseason, including fourth-place finishes suffered by Jimy Williams with the 1986 Toronto Blue Jays and Bryan Price with the 2014 Cincinnati Reds.

Among the four who managed to lead their team to a return to the playoffs are two who failed to advance beyond the division series, Ken Macha with the Oakland Athletics in 2003 and Brad Ausmus with the Detroit Tigers in 2014. In his first year as Captain Mike Matheny led the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals to the NL Champions Series, as did Dave Roberts two years later with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It’s possible that MLB could see in 2018 the first rookie manager to lead a playoff team to a pennant, considering some of the firsts that have happened in the past two seasons. Last year, of course, the Houston Astros won their first World Series title, and in 2016 the Chicago Cubs won their first in over a hundred years.

Of the three rookie managers to inherit playoff teams, two compete in the American League and the other on the Senior Circuit. All three have teams that are heavy favorites to win the pennant, and it’s even possible that two of them could do just that.

If New York wins the title, Aaron Boone would become the first rookie manager to win a pennant after inheriting a playoff team. The Yankees are certainly among the preseason favorites, having acquired 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins and re-signed veteran lefty starter CC Sabathia.

Standing in their way, however, is their old rival from Boston, the defending division champions now led by rookie captain Alex Cora. The Red Sox themselves had a busy winter, adding much-needed offensive power by signing free-agent slugger JD Martinez.

It’s entirely possible that if the Yankees or Red Sox manage to capture the pennant, they’ll face another rookie manager in the World Series. The Nationals, who had the best record in all of baseball last season before falling back into the playoffs, are now being led by Dave Martinez.

His path to the NL pennant will be facilitated by a sensational team of starters, including Cy Young contenders Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Washington also beefed up the offense around former MVP Bryce Harper and third baseman Anthony Rondon, acquiring powerhouse left-handed hitter Matt Adams to share first base duties with veteran Ryan Zimmerman while also spending time in the outfield.

Although New York and Boston have made bigger improvements to help their new leaders on the bench, Washington still seems to have the best chance of winning a pennant. The Yankees and Red Sox not only have to battle each other, but they also have to beat the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.

The Nationals, on the other hand, should be able to cut through a division where almost every other team is in rebuilding mode. The postseason has been pretty cruel to Washington in recent years, but their biggest competition has done little to bolster their 2017 pennant defense. The Los Angeles Dodgers, in fact, lost valuable starter Yu Darvish over the winter, and the last week they suffered an injury that puts their main slugger, Justin Turner, on the disabled list to start the season.