It was a long, dark winter, but MLB opening day is finally here.
Unlike last season, opening day will arrive in April rather than July. That alone is a reason to be excited.
As always, anything can happen over a full 162-game season. Of course, not all 30 MLB teams are created equal. In fact, there’s a huge gap between the teams at the top and the teams at the bottom. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier to predict how the baseball season will pan out. Nevertheless, that won’t stop us from offering our first power rankings of the 2021 MLB season.
Power rankings as of March 30.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
Based on their offseason, the Pirates are starting from scratch and aren’t planning on being competitive for the next few years.
Rookie third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes is a player to watch. But outside of Gregory Polanco, there aren’t too many household names on Pittsburgh’s roster, which could mean a long season.
29. Detroit Tigers
The rebuilding in Detroit continues, although the Tigers still only have a few pieces of the puzzle.
The Tigers are going to need young pitchers like Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal to step into prominent roles. Otherwise, things could get ugly for a team that lost 114 games two years ago.
28. Texas Rangers
To be fair, the Texas lineup has some potential but few guarantees outside of Joey Gallo. More importantly, the rotation could potentially be a mess without Lance Lynn. The Rangers will be relying on some young arms and the hope that Mike Foltynewicz can rebound from a dreadful 2020 with the Braves.
Even if things break well, the ceiling for Texas is somewhat limited.
27. Colorado Rockies
The starting rotation that led the Rockies to the postseason in 2017 and 2018 is still intact. However, that group has failed to deliver in the last two seasons.
They also have a Nolan Arenado-sized hole in the middle of their lineup. If Colorado expects to make some noise, the pitching will have to hold up and some young players will have to emerge in support of Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story.
26. San Francisco Giants
San Francisco’s season could be decided by how a veteran rotation holds up. The group could be decent, although health could be a concern. Meanwhile, outside of Mike Yastrzemski, the Giants have a lot of veteran hitters who are past their prime.
They don’t look like a rebuilding team, yet they don’t have the horses to compete.
25. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles were actually in the playoff race for a little while during last year’s 60-game sprint. This year, they get slugger Trey Mancini back from cancer and have a few more promising young hitters beside him like Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle. However, the rotation still needs work outside of John Means.
Also, playing in the AL East isn’t going to do them any favors.
24. Seattle Mariners
For a rebuilding team, the Mariners have been able to compile an intriguing roster. Granted, a lot of things will have to break well for Seattle to be playing competitive games in September. But bringing in James Paxton and a couple of other veterans to supplement a young roster will make the Mariners an interesting team to watch early in the season.
23. Miami Marlins
They made the postseason last year, so the Marlins must be good, right? That’s not necessarily how things are going to play out.
Miami’s young starters coast a ton of promise, but they’ll need to cover 162 games this season instead of 60 games. There are also questions about the bullpen and a lineup that’s probably no better than average.
In other words, the Marlins aren’t exactly a sleeper.
22. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks look solid but unspectacular on paper, which isn’t going to be enough to make much noise in the NL West.
The Arizona rotation could be good, although they’ll need more out of Madison Bumgarner. Meanwhile, the heart of the batting order has the potential to do some damage with Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and Christian Walker. But the depth may not be there for the D’Backs to be an elite offensive team.
21. Kansas City Royals
The Royals have the potential to be better than most projections. The problem is they’re banking on a few too many veterans in their mid-to-late 30s who could fall flat. But they still have Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler, and Salvador Perez. Plus, bringing in Andrew Benintendi and Carlos Santana gives their lineup some depth.
Kansas City’s rotation could help the Royals make things interesting, but it’s not good enough compared to the teams at the top of the AL Central.
20. Cincinnati Reds
Without Trevor Bauer, Cincy’s rotation isn’t quite as formidable as it was a year ago. There are also reasons to be skeptical about the team’s offensive prowess after the Reds underachieved in that department last year. That’s not to say that the Reds can’t make some noise in a wide-open NL Central. But it’s hard to see them being anything better than a .500 team.
19. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brew Crew might be the walking definition of an average team.
The Milwaukee rotation is solid and deep but lacks elite arms. The Brewers also have a capable hitter at every position, but unless Christian Yelich can regain his MVP form, they lack star power.
Even if Yelich has a bounce-back season, the Brewers could still get lost amid the clutter of mediocrity in the NL Central.
18. Los Angeles Angels
As usual, the Angels have a lot of promise and a plan for how they’ll compete. But they always seem to get punched in the mouth by the injury bug.
With Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, the Halos will find a way to score runs. If the rotation can stay healthy, they might be able to make things interesting. But everything will have to fall into place perfectly to get the Halos to the postseason.
17. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox probably aren’t going to keep up with the top teams in the AL East. But things do look a little better than they did a year ago, especially if Chris Sale can return at some point to lead the rotation.
If nothing else, Boston’s lineup has a ton of power, which should provide some excitement, even if this doesn’t look like a playoff-worthy roster.
16. Philadelphia Phillies
Philly’s big moves this offseason were mostly to maintain the status quo by re-signing J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius. That makes it hard to believe that the Phillies will be better than a year ago in MLB’s deepest division.
Can they get something substantial out of their rotation beyond Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler? The answer to that question will determine if they can maybe sneak into the Wild Card race.
15. Chicago Cubs
The core of the team that made the Cubs one of the best teams in the National League a few years ago is still largely intact. But Chicago’s rotation has been put together on a wing and a prayer.
If Chicago's pitching holds up, the Cubs have the bats to make things interesting in the NL Central. But this is also a team that could struggle and become sellers at the trade deadline.
The faces are a little different from past years, but the Cleveland rotation is still talented enough to make them a contender in the AL Central. But what will be the impact of trading away Francisco Lindor?
In fairness, there’s a little more power in Cleveland than in recent years. But outside of Jose Ramirez, there’s nobody who can carry a lineup.
13. St. Louis Cardinals
Trading for Nolan Arenado will help a lackluster offense. But until the Cardinals get something out of their young outfielders, there’s only so much that Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt can do on their own.
Fortunately, the St. Louis rotation has plenty of upside and looks good enough on paper to make the Red Birds a slight favorite in the NL Central.
12. Washington Nationals
If the rotation stays healthy, the Nationals are going to be an interesting team to watch. But how much can we trust Stephen Strasburg or an aging Max Scherzer to survive 162 games?
The additions of Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber should help add depth behind Juan Soto and Trea Turner, who were arguably the best players at their position last year. But Washington’s lineup still might not be good enough to win consistently unless the pitching is elite.
11. Minnesota Twins
The pitching staff doesn’t look quite as deep or intimidating as it did a year ago. However, Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ should be fine as complementary pieces to Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios.
The Twins also added shortstop Andrelton Simmons, giving a boost to a lineup that already has tons of firepower. This is definitely an above-average team, but it doesn’t quite have the look of a serious championship contender.
10. Tampa Bay Rays
Nobody’s saying the Rays intentionally tried to get worse this offseason, but Charlie Morton and Blake Snell both leave huge shoes to fill. Tampa is banking that Chris Archer comes back healthy, Rich Hill can stay healthy, and Michael Wacha can bounce back from a dreadful 2020 campaign.
On the bright side, the bullpen is still loaded and the Rays will get a full season out of Randy Arozarena while hoping Austin Meadows can get back on track.
9. Oakland A’s
This could be one of Oakland’s last chances to get to the postseason and do some damage. The team’s rotation looks outstanding, especially if youngsters like Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk can take another step forward.
Despite some changes in the lineup, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Ramon Laureano are still around to anchor a lineup that should mash enough to keep the A’s in playoff contention.
8. Houston Astros
Minus George Springer and Justin Verlander, the band is more or less back together in Houston. The problem is that the Astros actually had a losing record during last year’s 60-game regular season before reaching the ALCS.
Adding Jake Odorizzi late in the offseason was a big move for them. But while the upside is high, there are lingering questions about how the Astros will hold up over 162 games.
7. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays were definitely one of the biggest winners of the offseason. The young trio of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette should continue to improve. Now Toronto has George Springer and Marcus Semien to take on prominent roles.
The only concern is that the rotation may not have high-end arms outside of Hyun Jin Ryu. That could keep the Blue Jays from joining MLB’s elite this season. Nevertheless, Toronto has a lot of intriguing pieces and will be fascinating to watch in 2021.
6. New York Mets
The Mets certainly acted like contenders during the offseason.
New York made critical upgrades at shortstop and catcher with Francisco Lindor and James McCann, respectively. Even before those additions, we knew the Mets would mash with Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith, and Jeff McNeil.
More importantly, the rotation is deeper than it was a year ago and the bullpen has a handful of high-end arms, which means the Mets have championship potential.
5. Chicago White Sox
With Lance Lynn coming aboard, Chicago’s rotation has a chance to be something special. One could say the same about the bullpen with Liam Hendriks closing games.
Even with Eloy Jimenez sidelined until August at the earliest, the White Sox have a stacked lineup and could be among the best offensive teams in the league if Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal start to come into their own.
4. Atlanta Braves
The Braves got great pitching from their youngsters late last season, and now they welcome Charlie Morton and bring back Mike Soroka from injury. The rotation is loaded with some of that depth spilling into the bullpen. Meanwhile, the middle of Atlanta’s order is stacked with Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna, Marcell Ozuna, and Ozzie Albies.
Depending on how much some of the complementary players contribute, the Braves might have just enough to be serious challengers in the National League.
3. New York Yankees
Recent disappointments in October aside, the Yankees are still the team to beat in the American League.
Adding Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber to the rotation was huge, even if the Yanks have some promising young arms waiting in the wings. Of course, the bullpen remains deep, as does the lineup with DJ LeMahieu returning to be the catalyst.
Health and expectations remain concerns in the Bronx, but if they stay healthy and play their best, there’s nobody in the American League who should keep the Yankees from reaching the World Series.
2. San Diego Padres
The Padres deserve a lot of credit for closing the gap with the Dodgers more than anyone expected.
Let’s be honest, adding Blake Snell and Yu Darvish in one offseason is a serious commitment to winning. Plus, as long as Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer come anywhere close to earning their paycheck, San Diego’s lineup is going to be among the elite offensive teams in the National League.
Alas, they still lag behind their division rivals to the north.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The reigning national champs have more or less the same roster as last year except with Trevor Bauer and David Price added to the pitching staff. Price may not even be good enough to start, which says everything you need to know about the L.A. rotation.
We know that scoring runs won’t be a problem with Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, and others in the lineup.
The Dodgers will begin the 2021 season as the team to beat.
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