1. Los Angeles Dodgers
There’s little not to like about the reigning World Series Champions. They’re heading into the opening day with a similar, if not more loaded, championship-caliber roster. The core of their lineup remained intact, and their pitching is outrageously deep. For starters, David Price is coming back and will likely be pitching out of the bullpen because of how stacked the starting rotation is. Don’t forget that in addition to Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, and Julio Urias, the Dodgers added Trevor Bauer. Los Angeles will be remarkably tough to beat in any given series in October.
2. San Diego Padres
Showing up second on the preseason power rankings is uncharted territory for San Diego. It’s well deserved though, considering the absurdly loaded roster they’ve put together in recent years. In addition to returning almost everyone, they acquired Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Mark Melancon, and Korean star Ha-Seong Kim. Repeating their 62-percent winning percentage and advancing to the second round of the playoffs should be the floor of San Diego’s 2021 aspirations.
3. New York Yankees
The 2021 Yankees will go as far as their starting rotation takes them. Stop me if I’m sounding familiar? There’s zero doubt about an absolutely stacked lineup that’s returning all of the familiar names of recent years and little concern about a bullpen that still has one of baseball’s most dominant closers, but a healthy dose of question marks in a rotation that can’t seem to find an identity. Sure, Gerrit Cole is probably the best pitcher in the world. However, what are they going to get out of Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery though?
4. Atlanta Braves
Maybe this will finally be the Braves’ year. Owners of three straight division titles and three straight gut-wrenching ends to a season, they’re due for a breakthrough and they have the roster to make it happen. There’s little concern of the offense, and they signed Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to join Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and (eventually) Mike Soroka in the rotation. Looks pretty good, doesn’t it? The bullpen may be the biggest question mark, with a few suspect names currently penciled in as high-leverage guys. Nonetheless, we should probably get used to seeing Ronald Acuna and Co. play in October.
5. Chicago White Sox
Which White Sox team will we see in 2021, and how the heck does Tony La Russa fit into all of it? Chicago was leading the division at 32-16 through 48 games last year, but dropped nine of their final 12 and handed the Twins their second straight AL Central title. The combination of veteran and young talent on this team is eye-popping. Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn, and Liam Hendriks are all over 30 and will play a big role on this team. That group alone makes for a solid core, leaving out entirely an all-26-and-under squad of Lucas Giolito, Garrett Crochet, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal, Eloy Jiminez (who will miss 4-5 months with a torn pectoral muscle), Michael Kopech, and now possibly Andrew Vaughn as the everyday DH. Oh, and Tim Anderson and Aaron Bummer are both 27. The loss of Jimenez hurts, but make no mistake, this team is still dangerous.
6. New York Mets
Francisco Lindor. I could probably stop there and move on. It’s not just Lindor, however. While admittedly he likely moved the Mets up a few slots on his own, new owner Steve Cohen wasn’t joking around when he said he wanted to spend money and watch the Mets win. While he missed out on a couple of marquee names (notably Trevor Bauer), the Mets still beefed up an already solid roster. Since I called Gerrit Cole the best pitcher in the world, I’m not quite sure what to call Jacob deGrom. But he’s like, really good. Add in Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, and eventually Noah Syndergaard, and that’s a pretty untouchable rotation. Sprinkle in a few peripheral additions such as Trevor May, Kevin Pillar, and James McCann, and you might have a real contender in New York not named the Yankees.
7. Minnesota Twins
October 5th, 2004. That’s the last time the Minnesota Twins won a playoff game. They’ve lost 18 straight since, including two at home against the Houston Astros last year after winning the division for the second straight season and finally avoiding the Yankees in the first round. Little good that did them. There’s no reason to think Minnesota won’t be back in the mix again in 2021, however. A healthy Josh Donaldson and Byron Buxton could make one of baseball’s strongest offenses even better. With a solid bullpen and a rotation that includes Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, and J.A. Happ, the regular season shouldn’t be the problem. Let’s talk again in October.
8. Toronto Blue Jays
Is Toronto (Dunedin) stashing any more sons of former greats in their farm system? Let’s check back in twenty years and see if the Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette trio can beat their fathers’ combined 20 career All-Star appearances. It’s tough when you play 38 games against the Yankees and Rays, but there’s plenty of optimism circling Toronto (Dunedin) at the moment. They added George Springer and talked Marcus Semien into playing second base, traded for Steven Matz, and signed David Phelps and Tyler Chatwood to bookend the bullpen. This looks like one of the most complete Blue Jays rosters we have seen in quite some time. Look out, Yankees!
9. Houston Astros
Thanks to the aforementioned Twins, the Astros are looking to build off of a 2020 postseason push that went beyond the first round. On paper, Houston looks decimated with departures and injuries. Yet, we can’t all seem to shake the feeling that they’ll find themselves back in the mix in October. Without Gerrit Cole, and with Justin Verlander still rehabbing, Zack Greinke will lead the way in the rotation that will also be without Framber Valdez for the time being. With the news that top-prospect Forrest Whitley would need season-ending Tommy John surgery, Houston panicked and signed Jake Odorizzi to a two (or three?) year deal that most writers are still trying to break down. While it’s nothing fancy, a rotation with Greinke, Odorizzi, and Lance McCullers Jr. should still get it done. As much as we want to deny it, their offense still looks pretty solid as well, especially if Yordan Alvarez returns to form and Kyle Tucker continues to blossom. Besides, even if we think their roster has taken a hit, who is going to beat them in the division? Oakland?
10. Tampa Bay Rays
Imagine coming within a few games of winning the World Series, proving yet again that you know what you’re doing with personnel decisions, only to be mocked all offseason for your personnel decisions and being picked to finish third in your division. Welcome to the world of the Tampa Bay Rays. I want to criticize them for breaking camp without Wander Franco on the major league roster, but I think they know what they’re doing. Even more than some years, however, there’s a lot of question marks on this roster. Will Rich Hill, Chris Archer, and Michael Wacha hold down the bottom of the rotation? What versions of Yoshi Tsutsugo, Randy Arozarena, and Austin Meadows will we get? Can Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, and Nick Anderson stay healthy after a deep postseason run last year? Without the expanded playoffs, the Rays should make things interesting down the stretch for the AL East and wildcard picture.
11. St Louis Cardinals
Nolan Arenado! He should slot in nicely with Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong. It’s unfortunate that he’s blocking the other Nolan, Nolan German, from making his Cardinals debut, but that’s a nice problem to have. If the likes of Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neil, and Harrison Bader can take a step forward, their offense could be elite. They might be a bit top-heavy, with a lot of question marks after Jack Flaherty in their rotation and Jordan Hicks as their closer (who has question marks of his own). That’s why they can’t be put any higher on the power ranking list.
12. Washington Nationals
As a non-Nationals fan, it’s hard to feel bad for a rough 2020 season after watching their remarkable World Series run in 2019. They got theirs and paid the price last year. However, they’ve reloaded and are healthy and should be right back in the mix in 2021. In addition to the all-world combo of Juan Soto and Trea Turner, they traded for Josh Bell and signed Kyle Schwarber. Sprinkle in Victor Robles, Starlin Castro, and Ryan Zimmerman, and you have the makings of a pretty scary lineup. They also signed Jon Lester to back up Scherzer, Corbin, and Strasburg as well as Brad Hand to lead an already solid bullpen.
13. Oakland Athletics
Can you lose Liam Hendriks, Joakim Soria, Marcus Semien, and Robby Grossman and still compete? For starters, they replaced the two relievers by signing Trevor Rosenthal and Sergio Romo and just trading for Adam Kolarek. In addition to Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, Oakland signed Mitch Moreland and traded for Elvis Andrus. A healthy Ramon Laureano back to his 2018 and 2019 form would be a game-changer as well. The true X-factor in Oakland though is their starting rotation. A group consisting of Chris Bassitt, Jesus Luzardo, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Daulton Jefferies, and possibly A.J. Puk has a chance to be one of the strongest and deepest in baseball. If things click for this group, we might be seeing Oakland scoot up the rankings a bit as the season progresses and give Houston a run for their money.
14. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brew-crew has come crashing back down to Earth a bit after their spectacular run in the 2018 postseason. While they might not win nearly 100 games as they did in 2018, they should still be pushing for a playoff spot come September. They’re a bit top-heavy, however. After Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura, and Kolten Wong (signed in February), who is going to consistently provide offense? The addition of Jackie Bradley Jr. and the return of Travis Shaw should help. Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes are a solid one-two punch, but what about the rest of the rotation? The same thing goes for the bullpen after Josh Hader and Devin Williams (who is supposedly healthy). Can the bottom half of their roster carry their share of the weight?
15. Cleveland Indians
I feel bad for Cleveland fans. They’re perennially a few free-agent signings away from a dominating roster, yet they never pull the trigger. They took their cost-cutting approach to whole new levels in 2021, paying their entire team nearly the same amount that former Indian Trevor Bauer is getting from the Dodgers this year. It’s not just Francisco Lindor, either. They let Brad Hand and Carlos Santana walk, included Carlos Carrasco in the trade with New York, and chose not to resign Sandy Leon or Tyler Naquin for next to nothing. What’s embarrassing though for the rest of the league is they still might find a way to compete with such an abysmal payroll. Their rotation still boasts Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, and Triston McKenzie. James Karinchak has a chance to emerge as one of the league’s best closers this year as well. Jose Ramirez can’t do it all on offense, however. Eddie Rosario (signed in February), Franmil Reyes, and Josh Naylor need to step up and provide some consistency in the center of this lineup.
16. Philadelphia Phillies
If Philadelphia hadn’t disappointed in 2018 and 2019 which very similar rosters, the baseball community as a whole might be more inclined to rank them higher in their preseason power rankings. Fool me once, fool me twice, right? Here we are though, yet again, talking about how much “potential” this roster has. For starters, a lineup that already looked loaded from top to bottom might watch Alec Bohm turn into a star this year. A rotation with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin should get the job done, and a bullpen led by Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, and Hector Neris should be solid. Check out Jose Alvarado’s numbers from Spring this year, he’s throwing absolute gas. That’s a very good sign that Alvarado will work out for Philadelphia.
17. Los Angeles Angels
Everyone is oozing over Shohei Ohtani this spring and for good reason. He’s cracking 100 mph on the mound, and roping hits into the gap seemingly every other at-bat. If he can stay healthy, paired with Mike Trout and Anthony Rondon, the trio would make for arguably the best two-three-four group in the league. The problem though is everyone else. How reliable are Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, and Dexter Fowler? Their rotation is also a slew of uncertainties, starting with Dylan Bundy, who will likely pitch opening day for the Angels. They traded for closer Raisel Iglesias and signed Junior Guerra and Alex Claudio to shore up the bullpen. I can’t help but feel as if another year will go by and we’ll collectively continue feeling bad for Mike Trout.
18. Chicago Cubs
Cubs fans had gotten pretty cozy as one of the most spend-happy teams in the league, but all great things must come to an end. Despite a good season in which they won their division at 34-26, getting swept by the Miami Marlins cascaded the Cubs into a salary-shedding rebuild. After letting a handful of Cubs staples walk in free agency, one can’t help but feel as if Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Willson Contreras are next. Despite the reduction in salary, they’re still closer to league average and should have a decent lineup that also includes Ian Happ and offseason addition Joc Pederson. Their pitching staff is suspect, however. After Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies, how reliable are Jake Arrieta and Trevor Williams? Also, declaring Craig Kimbrel as your opening day closer is asking for trouble.
19. Boston Red Sox
It won’t be easy playing 57 games against the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays. After a World Series in 2018, things have come crashing back down to Earth for Red Sox Nation. Last year marked the first sub-.500 season since 2015, and the second straight without a postseason birth. Since 1995, the Red Sox haven’t stretched a playoff-less streak beyond three seasons, and they have accumulated four World Series rings since 2004. Ethics be damned, Alex Cora is back and will likely have this team competitive again within a few years. It doesn’t appear to be happening in 2021, though, as the Red Sox will have to claw just to stay above .500 in such a tough division. To be fair, it’s mostly the pitching that projects to hinder this team. They brought in only Garrett Richards and an injured Adam Ottavino to help out the staff. The offense, however, might be pretty good. They signed Enrique Hernandez, Hunter Renfroe, and Marwin Gonzalez to slot into an already solid lineup. I’m just here to watch Bobby Dalbec hit home runs.
20. Cincinnati Reds
It was fun while it lasted, Cincinnati. For a second there, a vision of competitiveness started to take shape in the form of Reds uniforms. Fast forward a few months, however, and that vision is getting a little blurry. Trevor Bauer and Raisel Iglesias are gone, and Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray might be next. Even if he’s not traded, Sonny Gray is expected to start the season on the injured list with back spasms. By all accounts, they got worse. The center of the lineup should still have some familiar names, including Nick Castellanos, Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, and Mike Moustakas. Consistent offense from outfielders Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, and Aristedes Aquino wouldn’t hurt, either. What was once a dominant-looking rotation, now looks remarkably top-heavy with Tyler Mahle and Wade Miley sitting under Luis Castillo.
21. Miami Marlins
It’s time to pour one out for the year the Miami Marlins have had. What started with a COVID-19 outbreak that nearly threatened the entire baseball season ended with a sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Braves in the second round. Sadly for Miami, it’s hard to see a path where they continue their success in 2021, as there’s just not enough MLB-caliber talent on this roster quite yet. They’re very close, however, with a loaded farm system that is inches away from seeing a handful of players reach the majors. The middle of their lineup isn’t going to scare off even the most mediocre of pitchers, nor will the bullpen strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. Their starting rotation, on the other hand, does have a chance to shine. Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Eliesar Hernandez, and Sixto Sanchez could come together to create quite the crew.
22. San Francisco Giants
The whole “even year” World Series trend was cool while it lasted, but that was so early 2010s. Other than a run in 2016, the Giants have since not only failed to make the playoffs, but haven’t even finished above .500. It’s a tough pill to swallow for a fanbase that had gotten accustomed to winning. The elite Buster Posey days are behind us and we’re entering the Mike Yastrzemski phase of Giants baseball. The unfortunate thing though is that there’s little else to go alongside Yastrzemski. I’m not sure anybody on this team will crack 25 home runs this year, which seems remarkable in 2021, considering the average player hits over 20. They did bring in Tommy La Stella, Jake McGee, Anthony DeSclafani, and Aaron Sanchez to stabilize the roster a bit, but it’s not going to be enough. You’ll notice a trend though for many of the teams down here on the bottom third of the list. They tend to be in the top third of the farm system rankings, which is the case for San Francisco. Hopefully a wave of young talent reaches the majors soon (Joey Bart, anyone?) and helps bring the Giants back into relevancy.
23. Kansas City Royals
I really wanted to make the Royals my dark-horse candidate for 2021, but then I remembered that 57 of their games were against the Twins, White Sox, and Indians. That being said, there’s something about this roster that makes me think they don’t belong so far down this list. First, look at the offense, which added Andrew Benintendi and Carlos Santana to a group that included Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Salvador Perez, Jorge Soler, and Hunter Dozier. Sure, they aren’t going to be nicknamed the Kansas City Bombers any time soon, but it’s a solid lineup. They also have an intriguing group of pitchers both in the starting rotation, in which they added Mike Minor via free agency and in the bullpen. It’s unlikely, considering they also are counting on a wave of talent from a top-ten farm system in the near future, but the acquisition of a few above-average players could make this team pretty good.
24. Detroit Tigers
It’s hard to root against a team that is not going to be very good, but that’s what happens when you sign A.J. Hinch. They’re likely going to finish last in the AL Central, which would make it four of the last five years for Detroit. It’s been rough for Tigers fans. While they did sign Robbie Grossman, Nomar Mazara, Wilson Ramos, and Julio Teheran to shore up the roster, these aren’t world-beaters, and could even be gone by the trade deadline. With Matthew Boyd, Jose Urena, and the aforementioned Teheran likely taking the mound over their first three games, Tigers fans are desperate for the emergence of pitching prospects Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize, and Matt Manning, all three of which could blossom in 2021.
25. Seattle Mariners
Is it possible to have too much outfield prospect talent? Seattle watched Kyle Lewis develop into Rookie of the Year in 2020, and will eagerly await the emergence of both Jarred Kelenic and Taylor Trammell in 2021. Right behind them on the timeline is an even higher rated prospect, Julio Rodriguez. By this time next year, we could be talking about how all four of these players figure to fit into the lineup around the likes of Mitch Haniger, Kyle Seager, and Ty France. I just named five outfielders and a DH and tried putting them all in a lineup together, so some things gotta give. After Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle signed James Paxton and Chris Flexen to round out the rotation, and they traded or Rafael Montero and signed Keynan Middleton, who will in all likelihood be their closer and setup man. Just keep thinking about your great farm system, Seattle.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks
Somehow Ketel Marte has quietly remained one of the best-kept secrets in baseball during his emergence in recent years. It’s possible his back-down-to-Earth 2020 season calmed the excitement over his abilities. He isn’t the issue, but rather, the team built around him is. He’ll probably bat alongside Eduardo Escobar and Christian Walker in the lineup. While it’s not horrible, it’s not spectacular. For a team that finished almost dead last in home runs and in the bottom-third in team OPS in 2020, they did very little to address that issue. There’s a lot of young talent at the bottom of this lineup as well, and the emergence of a few of these players could improve the offense drastically. At the moment, it looks as if they’ll begin the season without their best pitcher, Zac Gallen (although it appears at least that any ligament damage was avoided and that he could be back within a few months). Outside of Gallen, and the signing of Joakim Soria as their new closer, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the consistency the rest of the pitching staff will provide.
27. Baltimore Orioles
Watching the Orioles play nearly half their games against the rest of the AL East is not going to be pretty. For a team with a top-five farm system in baseball, their time is coming. However, that time is not in 2021. Sure, getting back Trey Mancini and signing Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis to join Ryan Mountcastle and Anthony Santander makes for a passable lineup However, it’s not enough. Other than signing Matt Harvey and throwing him into the rotation, Baltimore has one of the most inexperienced pitching staffs in baseball as well. Their opening day starter will likely be John Means, and rookies Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin are likely to get their chance in the rotation from day one. Their most experienced reliever, and likely their closer, Cesar Valdez, has spent most of his professional career pitching in Mexico. We all just want to see Adley Rutschman get called up.
28. Colorado Rockies
You can’t trade away Nolan Arenado and expect to go up in the power rankings. It was just back in 2018 that the Rockies finished 91-71 and looked like they had opened up a competitive window for the foreseeable future. Yet all good things must come to an end, and they tend to do so a little quicker for mid-to-small market teams. They let Kevin Pillar and David Dahl go, and brought back Chris Owings. One can’t help but wonder if Trevor Story is next to be traded. Pretty soon Charlie Blackmon will look around him and wonder where everyone has gone. Sure, they still have German Marquez and Jon Gray at the top of the rotation and will try out Austin Gomber who they got back in the Arenado trade, but the rest of the pitching staff is suspect. Daniel Bard and Mychal Givens will hold down late-inning responsibilities as Scott Oberg works his way back to full health. The worst thing is, unlike the other bottom-dwellers on this list, Colorado doesn’t even have a strong farm system. At the moment, they’re currently viewed as one of the worst.
29. Texas Rangers
When Kyle Gibson is your opening day starter, you’re not going to find yourself too high on anyone’s power ranking list. It will be another rough year for Texas, who hasn’t finished above .500 since 2016. They’re giving Mike Foltynewicz a shot at redemption, and are excited about getting Dane Dunning back in the Lance Lynn trade. Counting on Matt Bush and Ian Kennedy to close out late-inning leads though is not a recipe for success. They traded for Nate Lowe and signed David Dahl, both of which will join Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor in the center of the lineup. Joey Gallo might crush 40 homers, but there’s not enough on this offense to consistently get the job done.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
At least their farm system is good. Then again, haven’t we been down this road before with Pittsburgh? They load up their farm system, players start emerging, and then they trade them away or let them walk in free agency? They had a three-year playoff stretch from 2013-2015, but have not made the postseason since. Second-year manager Derek Shelton is just hoping to show signs of progress in 2021, and keep his job for that matter. They did very little in the way of improving their offense, other than penciling in Ke’Bryan Hayes at the top of the lineup as the starting third baseman. They let Trevor Williams and Chris Archer walk from the rotation, and signed Tyler Anderson for some veteran stability. The most exciting thing about the pitching staff might be getting to watch Mitch Keller pitch, who is looking to build off a strong 2020 season. If another pitching prospect and a few hitters come up and perform alongside Hayes and Keller, Pittsburgh will have a nice core to build a competitive team around.