2021 MLB Preseason Power Rankings
With Opening Day upon us, I thought I would try my shot at creating my own MLB preseason power rankings.
These rankings are no doubt going to change throughout the season. In fact, a lot of the teams on my list aren't starting in the position I expect them to finish the season in. Some teams look tremendous on paper; but will it translate to production on the field? Similarly, some teams are bound to improve their roster via trade and minor league call-ups, as the season progresses. I should also add that these rankings are NOT the same as my predictions and projections for these teams this season. For my full MLB season preview, click here. Nevertheless, here's where our teams stack up entering play Thursday.
1) Los Angeles Dodgers - The defending champs seemingly got even better this winter, adding Trevor Bauer and David Price to their (already) elite pitching rotation. Draftkings has their preseason over/under win total set at 101.5, the highest among teams, and rightfully so. After some folks discredited their COVID-championship in a shortened season, the revenge tour for Dave Roberts' Los Angeles Dodgers starts now.
2) Atlanta Braves - Once again, the Bravos are not generating the same kind of hype as other teams are. And once again, PECOTA projected Atlanta to finish fourth in a hyper-competitive NL East. Playing from under the radar once again should serve this team nicely. Undermanned at starting pitcher after the losses of Mike Foltynewicz, Dallas Keuchel, Cole Hamels, and budding star Mike Soroka, the Braves' pitching rotation greatly overachieved last postseason, as the young nucleus of Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson - all age 26 and under - helped the Braves build a 3-1 series lead over the Dodgers in last October's NLCS. The Braves had the Dodgers beat, and were just outs away from their first World Series trip since 1999, before the team's stellar bullpen unexpectedly imploded. The Braves return their same core from last year, adding battle-tested postseason workhorse Charlie Morton to their rotation, with the expectation that Mike Soroka can return to the rotation by the start of the summer. With a deep postseason run already under their belts, the Braves will be hungry for more this season.
3) San Diego Padres - In a shortened 2020 season, the Padres were the talk of the league. Backed by their excellent left side of the infield and exciting flair, the Padres made the postseason for the first time in 14 years, then made a pair of trades that sent shockwaves across the West Coast this winter, acquiring Blake Snell and Yu Darvish. On paper, this team is fantastic. It will be an uphill climb for them to surpass the Dodgers this season and live up to expectations with the target on their backs in a full 162.
4) Chicago White Sox - The White Sox, like the Padres, check every box on paper, and will now face the test of living up to expectations in a full season. Unlike the Padres, however, they don't play in the same division as the defending champs, and their toughest rival is a Minnesota Twins team that hasn't won a playoff game since 2004.. Even after losing slugger Eloy Jimenez, the White Sox look the part of an offensive powerhouse, paired with what hopes be the team's best pitching rotation since the days of Buehrle, Garland, Garcia, Vazquez and Contreras.
5) Tampa Bay Rays - After winning the American League East and the American League pennant, the Rays are once again being undervalued and discredited. The Rays and Yankees should be in a close battle for first place all season long. Despite losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, the Rays have three top 85 prospects, all pitchers, set to make an impact this season. They also have one of the smartest front offices and the number one prospect in all of baseball, Wander Franco coming to the show soon.
6) New York Yankees - Based on track record, name brand and the state of the American League, the Yankees are just about everyone's favorite to win the American League this year. The Yanks' lineup should give them more than enough production en route to their fifth straight postseason appearance. Their rotation, however, is iffy. Past Gerrit Cole, there really isn't a solidified number two or number three starter the Yankees know they can count on. In order for the Yankees to win the American League and return to the World Series for the first time since 2009, they will need Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery to re-elevate their games.
7) St. Louis Cardinals - After trading for Nolan Arenado (my preseason MVP pick!), the Cardinals have an opportunity to leap from National League Central division contender to National League pennant contender.
8) New York Mets - The Mets, White Sox, Blue Jays and Padres all belong in a similar category. With the addition and extension of Francisco Lindor, on paper, the Mets look very good. Defensively, they may struggle however. For the last half decade, the Mets' starting pitching has been their greatest strength. With Syndergaard on the DL, and the offseason departure of Steven Matz, their rotation will be counting on some new faces to carry the workload.
9) Oakland Athletics - The A's are expected to regress this year, but there isn't an AL West team I like more than them this season. Losing Marcus Semien will hurt, but he underperformed in a shortened 2020 season and the team still won the AL West.
10) Minnesota Twins - Neither the A's or the Twins have won in the postseason in 15 years. Their lineup should once again score a lot of runs, but past Maeda and Berrios, the rotation is suspect at best.
11) Philadelphia Phillies - For three years straight, the Phillies have finished right around .500. The Phillies won 80 games in 2018, 81 in 2019, and went 28-32 in 2020. Last year, it was the Phillies' historically bad bullpen that let them down. With Jose Alvarado, Archie Bradley and Brandon Kintzler now in the fold, there's no way their bullpen can be as bad as it was a season ago. The 2021 Phillies are the most talented, well-rounded squad the organization has had since the beginning of their rebuild.
12) Houston Astros - The Astros made history in 2020, becoming the first team with a losing record to not only make the playoffs, but to get to the American League Championship Series. The jury is still out on whether the Astros will resemble more of their 2020 regular season or postseason performance in 2021.
13) Milwaukee Brewers - The Brewers had a lot of new parts in 2020, and traditionally a second-half team, weren't given enough time to work things out and make it click. The pieces are there with a great manager, with Lorenzo Cain returning to the team and Christian Yelich poised for a return to MVP form.
14) Washington Nationals - Attempting to cling on to their 2019 World Series run, the Nationals are a bit of a mystery entering 2021. The Nationals were not afforded the same luxury of starting slow in a shortened 2020, as they did in 2019. We'll see if a full 162 serves them better in 2021.
15) Toronto Blue Jays - Toronto's young core made last season's expanded postseason field, and the Blue Jays were not quiet this winter, adding George Springer, Marcus Semien, Steven Matz and Kirby Yates. Yates looks to be out for much of 2021, and Springer will also miss a considerable chunk. Still, the infield of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Semien will be a very good one.
16) Chicago Cubs - The Cubs and the Indians are both caught between a rock and a hard place. The two teams that made up the 2016 World Series are now on the tail end of their competitive windows. Don't get me wrong, the Indians young rotation should be good for a very long time. But how are they going to score runs this year? Both teams are somewhere between contending for a division title and reloading the pipeline at the deadline. I actually think the Cubs' new rotation will surprise people in 2021, but their struggle to consistently manufacture runs will greatly hinder them. Yet, both teams are still capable of competing for a postseason spot. As for now, we'll stick both teams in the middle, and see in which direction each trends.
17) Cleveland Indians
18) Cincinnati Reds - The 1.5 year-long Trevor Bauer experiment didn't net the Reds any playoff wins, and they lost Bauer for nothing this past winter. The Reds started selling off parts last winter, and appear to be a defensively confused team with Eugenio Suarez moving to shortstop and Mike Moustakas manning second base. Their rotation will be solid, but like Chicago and Cleveland, will need more production out of their lineup in order to compete.
19) Arizona Diamondbacks - The Diamondbacks overachieved in 2019, and after adding Madison Bumgarner, had convinced me they would be in the hunt for a playoff spot in 2020. Instead they took a step backwards. The potential is there for the Diamondbacks to be a mid-80s win team, however, there's also a good chance they're sellers come the deadline.
20) Miami Marlins - It seems a little unfair to put a young team that won a playoff series this low in the power rankings. The Marlins rotation should be electric in 2021, but the NL East is going to be a gauntlet this year. Which of the four other teams is one that will move to the bottom of the division? The Marlins could prove a lot of us wrong, but they appear to be a team that is at least a year away from contention.
21) Kansas City Royals - We'll start the Royals at 21, but there's a good chance they finish the season higher than this spot. With Andrew Benintendi, Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler and Salvador Perez, the Royals shouldn't struggle to score runs. However, both the Royals and the Red Sox have the opposite problem of the Cubs, Indians and Reds. There just isn't a lot there with either pitching staff.
22) Boston Red Sox
23) Seattle Mariners - Keep an eye on this Seattle Mariners team. Last year, they came close to sneaking into the expanded playoffs. This year, with super-prospect Jared Kelenic on the way, and a number of exciting young players, including 2020 American League Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis. An outfield of Lewis, Kelenic and Taylor Trammell could be one of baseball's best by mid-summer. Realistically, they're probably at least a year away from contention, but as the division continues to weaken, as is expected, the Mariners are going to be a problem soon enough.
24) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Each year, there's a lot of hype on the Angels. I understand it. A team playing in Los Angeles with baseball's best player is a team that people want to see in the postseason. The Angels had the league's worst record for much of the 2021 season. A healthy Anthony Rendon will help, but the Angels' rotation is not one to count on at this time.
25) Detroit Tigers - Though it might not show up in the win total, the Tigers are grooming a promising young core with Casey Mize, Spencer Torkelson, Tarik Skubal, Riley Greene and Matt Manning. Torkelson and Greene appear to be a year away from the big league level, but Mize, Skubal and Manning will hopefully push the Tigers in the right direction this season.
26) San Francisco Giants - The Giants overperformed a season ago, just missing out on the expanded playoff field. The Giants have been gradually declining since their last postseason berth in 2016. It may be time to start blowing it up.
27) Colorado Rockies - After shipping Nolan Arenado out of town, there isn't much hope among Rockies fans.
28) Texas Rangers - The rebuild is on in Texas under new executive Chris Young. It should be a long summer for the Rangers' faithful, but at least they can have a full ballpark full of fans!
29) Baltimore Orioles - Like the Tigers, the Orioles are compiling a nice young nucleus, but in what should be a difficult AL East, they will likely serve as a sacrificial lamb to the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays this season.
30) Pittsburgh Pirates - Ke'Bryan Hayes (son of former big leaguer Charlie Hayes) will be a favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year. The Pirates won't be favorites in any other category however.
(Image via DUSTIN BRADFORD / GETTY IMAGES)