MLB Power Rankings: Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, Michael Pineda Shake Things Up

Timothy Howell@@tmurrayhowellCorrespondent IIJanuary 30, 2012

MLB Power Rankings: Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, Michael Pineda Shake Things Up

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    It's been more than a month since I released the first edition of my MLB Power Rankings—and a good deal has transpired since then.  

    As of this writing, only 10 Type "A" or "B" free agents remained, with the lone "A" player being Roy Oswalt. 

    With so many key free agents already snatched up and happily placed with new teams (or re-signed by their "old" teams), it leaves slim pickings in terms of impact free agents still on the market.  

    Granted, the acquisition of an Edwin Jackson or a Roy Oswalt could shake some things up, but their impact would be realized most by the middle-of-the-pack teams—the teams that still wouldn't really be in the potential playoff picture.  

    Thus, it seems high time to step back, analyze, and readjust my power rankings.  

    Here's a list of my new rankings, with each team's prior rankings in parentheses, and an explanation as to why they ascended, descended or remained static.

    As always, I gladly welcome all comments, screeds and/or diatribes.


30. Houston Astros (30)

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    Of the Astros' four free agent signings, two (Travis Buck and Zach Duke) were inked to minor league deals.  

    Since the Astros are largely a Quadruple-A team at this point, both Buck and Duke will have a serious chance of making a major league roster spot out of spring training.  

    The Astros signed Type B free agent Chris Snyder, as well as Jack Cust.  

    Cust last played for the Seattle Mariners and hit himself out of that lineup.  Cust needs to be a full-time DH, and if he makes the Astros' as a starting outfielder, they should be ranked 31st.

29. Oakland Athletics (29)

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    The Athletics signed Bartolo Colon, who had a solid season with the Yankees in 2011, going 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA.  

    With New York's Yankee Stadium being somewhat of a launching pad, Colon could have success with the Athletics.

    If he doesn't eat them out of house and home first, of course.

    Then again, if Moneyball holds any truth and Beane really does charge his players for sodas, the A's might make a nice profit by supplying Colon's much needed sugary fix.

    Beane re-signed Coco Crisp (because you have to spend some money).  Jonny Gomes will look to take over for the departed Josh Willingham in left field.

28. New York Mets (27)

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    The Mets improved their bullpen by signing two Type "B" relievers who both played last year with the Blue Jays—and who also bring some closing experience to the foray—in Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco.

    The gigantic Rauch (5-4, 4.85 ERA, 11 saves) and the cardiac-inducing Francisco (Rangers' fans know what I'm talking about) are both now members of New York's other baseball team.

    Francisco had 17 saves last year with a 1-4 record and a not-too-shabby 3.55 ERA.

    Pitcher Miguel Bautista and catcher Rob Johnson were both signed to minor league deals and could be up with the team out of spring training.

27. Chicago Cubs (28)

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    Losing Carlos Zambrano (now with the Miami Marlins) enabled the Cubs to leap up one spot.  Well, that and re-signing Kerry Wood (and his 10.1 Ks per 9) to a one-year deal.  

    David DeJesus is a nice pickup too, as he adds some outfield versatility as well as a bat that should "play" well at Wrigley.

    Other than that, when your biggest offseason signing is a member of the front office, well, it's time to get ready for a long season.

    It won't be too long, Cubs fans, you are now in capable hands.

26. San Diego Padres (26)

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    The San Diego Padres traded away their ace (Mat Latos) to Cincinnati for the Reds' last three first-round picks.  One of which, Yonder Alonso (2008 draft, seventh overall pick), will most likely step in to play first base, especially since first base prospect Anthony Rizzo was traded to the Chicago Cubs for, yep, you guessed it, another former first round pick, Andrew Cashner (2008, 19th overall pick).

    Why dominate the 2008 draft boards in 2008? That's just boring. The Pads are wrecking house on '08 in 2012.

    The Pads performed more trade-magic by acquiring Carlos Quentin from the White Sox for essentially nothing—two young pitchers that look like nothing more than organizational depth at this point in Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez—to get the slugging outfielder who is still just 28-years-old.   

    Look for the Friars to be stout in the not-too-distant future.  

    As for now, they're lying in the weeds waiting for their prospects to become big league ready.  

    It shouldn't be too long. 

25. Seattle Mariners (21)

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    Okay, so what do you get when you sign two fringe-major leaguers in George Sherril and Aaron Heilman, and then trade away your number two starter (Michael Pineda)?

    Well, you get knocked down from 21st to 25th.  How much longer will Felix Hernandez be willing to play for a team that seemingly signs (or develops) players so that they can become trading pieces?

    Good news for the Mariners is that the centerpiece in the Pineda trade, Jesus Montero, is my pick for 2012 MLB Rookie of the Year.  

    It's doubtful that his offensive boost will be enough to get the Mariners out of the basement (at least not until the Astros transfer in to the AL West in 2013.

    Still, there's a lot of young up-and-comers on this Mariners team in Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Justin Smoak, Alex Liddi and Kyle Seager to watch mature into productive major leaguers (or not).

24. Baltimore Orioles (24)

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    The Orioles continue to create a bizarro-world Frankenstein's Monster of former Texas Rangers.

    This time they've added Armando Galarraga (president of the Jim Joyce Fan Club) to a minor league deal, and Endy Chavez (.301/.323/.426 in 2011) to their big league roster.

    Chavez is a nice pickup, and he definitely deserves the chance to play everyday.  The O's also acquired Wilson Betemit, a middle-of-the-road hitter who had good peripherals in '11 (.292/.346/.525) in limited playing time last year with the Tigers (just 133 PAs). 

    Betemit is a better third baseman than slugger Mark Reynolds and can be used as a defensive replacement while Reynolds gets some additional time at DH.

23. Minnesota Twins (25)

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    The Minnesota Twins added Josh Willingham (who brings plus-power to replace the departed Michael Cuddyer).

    Minnesota also added a nice, low-risk right-hander in Joel Zumaya (a one-year deal at $800K). Jason Marquis is now a Twin, and hopefully still a solid starter and will be looking to rebound from a rough 2011.

    Perhaps their best signing was that of catcher Ryan Doumit.  

    Doumit can hit (.303/.353/.477 in '11 with the Pirates), and, more importantly, he might signify the end of the Joe Mauer as full-time catcher era.

    Mauer's bat (and overall health) are far too important to submit to the daily rigors of catching everyday.  

22. Los Angeles Dodgers (23)

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers made an offseason splash by signing a "Who's Who" of "Who?!"

    Matt Treanor, Chris Capuano, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston, Aaron Harang, Mike MacDougal and Juan Rivera.


    That's the kind of list of names where you could slip your own name in and probably get away with it.  

    But, hey, the team will get sold and they will (likely) get a better owner.  Plus, they still have Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp.

21. Colorado Rockies (19)

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    The addition of Michael Cuddyer is nice.  He can play just about anywhere, and his power numbers are bound to improve as he plays in the thin, frigid air of Colorado.

    Ramon Hernandez is a nice addition to replace the departed Chris Iannetta at catcher.

    The Rockies also signed octogenarian Jaime Moyer.

    There must have been an audition for Cocoon 3 somewhere in the greater Denver area. 

    I'm pulling for you, Moyer.  Lord knows a starting pitcher that is almost half a century old and tops out at 80 MPH needs someone in their corner.  

    Especially when they attempt a career resurrection at the infamous launching pad known as Coors Field.

20. Pittsburgh Pirates (22)

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    Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes now call PNC Park their home field.  

    The countdown to the major league debuts of super-prospects Gerrit Cole, Jameson Tailon, and Josh Bell has commenced.

19. Kansas City Royals (17)

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    You can only be so proud of the depth of your minor league system for so long. Now it's time to see if Kansas City's  farm team of high regard can follow in the footsteps of Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon.

    Will Bubba Starling be up on the big league team by 2013?  

18. Washington Nationals (14)

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    Gio Gonzalez immediately improves a young starting rotation just by bringing his left-handedness to Washington. He's good, and at 26 years old, is just entering his prime.  

    I like their low-risk pickup of former Phillies closer Brad Lidge  to a one-year deal.  

    If Stephen Strasburg pitches to full potential, Jordan Zimmermann does his thing, and Gio baffles the NL as he did the AL, the Nationals will become playoff contenders sooner rather than later.

    And oh yeah, they have some kid named Bryce Harper who is supposed to be pretty good too.  

    I'll be curious to see how Mike Morse produces after signing his sweet offseason extension, and if Danny Espinosa can cut down on his Adam Dunn-like strikeout to walk ratio (2.91 in '11). 

    I want to observe a full year of Strasburg doing his thing before I'm 100% sold on the Nationals as playoff contenders.

    Hopefully 2012 will be the year.  I'm also willing to bet that Harper makes the team out of spring training.

17. Chicago White Sox (16)

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    The Chicago White Sox signed relief pitcher Jason Frasor.  The Detroit Tigers signed Prince Fielder. Both teams are in the AL Central.

    I really like Paul Konerko.  

    Alexei Ramirez is grossly underrated.

    With Carlos Quentin now in San Diego, it's time for Adam Dunn to do something other than slowly walk back to the dugout after striking out again and again.

16. Cincinnati Reds (20)

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    Mat Latos is a nice pickup for the Reds.  I don't think Edinson Volquez will be missed.  

    I really like the Ryan Madson pickup—one that came essentially on the "cheap" at just $8.25 million—and Ryan Ludwick is going to be a nice bat in that lineup.

    People complain about the team trading Yonder Alonso (he left in the Latos deal) but with Joey Votto at first, Alonso's best value was a trade piece.

    Well played, Cincinnati—it was truly a mutually beneficial trade.

15. Cleveland Indians (18)

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    The Cleveland Indians have been decimated by injuries in recent years.

    Look for the Tribe to have a solid season—from start-to-finish in 2012—if Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore (both played a combined 179 games in 2011) can stay on the field for 125-plus games apiece.

    Everyone raves about Asdrubal Cabrera's stellar defense. It's easy to do as he can make some unbelievable plays.  The dude can hit too—.273/.332/.460, with 25 knocks.  

    Ubaldo Jimenez (if he's not secretly hurting) needs to step it up.  

    If he can unleash the fury he flashed in Colorado in 2010, then the Indians have a stellar 1-2 punch with he and the grossly underrated Justin Masterson.

    The Indians have a bullpen that is best personified by the unassumingly-named Joe Smith (2.01 ERA and bullpen-best 1.09 WHIP in '11).  

    If Smith and Vinnie Pestano (12.2 K/9 in '11) can duplicate their success from a year ago, they, as well as the Tribe bullpen, could become household names.

14. Toronto Blue Jays (12)

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    The Blue Jays have gone from a closer whose last name is Francisco (Frankie) to one whose first name is Francisco (Cordero).

    I'm not sure if Coco is an apt bullpen replacement for the departed Rauch, and Francisco.

    The Blue Jays also signed left-handed reliever Darren Oliver—whose middle name is not "Francisco"—a key bullpen piece for the Texas Rangers during their last two AL Championship runs. 

13. Milwaukee Brewers (15)

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    The Milwaukee Brewers have an excellent rotational front-three in Zach Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and Shaun Marcum.  

    The pickup of third basemen Aramis Ramirez is nice to leverage the loss of Prince Fielder.

    Shortstop Alex Gonzalez is a defensive upgrade over Yuniesky Betancourt, but can he still hit? 

    It doesn't look good for Ryan Braun to stave off his failed drug test and subsequent 50-game suspension. 

    Do the Brewers have enough offense to miss Braun for one-third of the season?  

12. San Francisco Giants (13)

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    The Giants focused on beefing up their bullpen this offseason, doing so by signing Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt (both left-handers) as well as right-handers Guillermo Mota and Clay Hensley.

    Brandon Belt should get another chance at earning the starting first baseman's gig this spring training. As is the norm, the main question with the Giants is if they can hit enough to take full advantage of their excellent starting rotation.

11. Miami Marlins (11)

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    When the Marlins made a quick offseason splash by singing Jose Reyes and Heath Bell, they improved their odds of becoming a playoff contender in 2012.  

    Adding left-handed starter Mark Buehrle was also a great pickup.

    With the Marlins, it's up to Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez to stay on the field and free from injuries. If that's the case, there might be cause for much celebration in Miami.

10. Boston Red Sox (9)

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    Right now, the Boston Red Sox—on paper—are just ridiculously stacked.  

    I still consider them the cream of the AL East.  And yes, I realize that I have them ranked behind both the Yankees and Rays.

    Here's the deal, the Red Sox's success depends on the health of Clay Buchholz, and Josh Beckett (and a return from Jon Lester).  

    And that's a three-man rotation that is one of the best in the majors.  

    But who's their number four and five starters?

    Will it be the recently signed (to a minor league deal) Vicente Padilla?  You know he's down for some chicken and beer. Maybe Aaron Cook will take the bull by the horns.  I like the odds of Daniel Bard stepping into the rotational mix.

    Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross will both do very well in Boston in 2012. Kelly Shoppach, well, not so much.

    The bullpen is improved with Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon—it'll also soften the blow of not having Daniel Bard in the 'pen.

    If the Red Sox get a decent season from Carl Crawford (sure, I know he's banged up, but he should be in there for the majority of the year) and he can stay healthy, they have a chance to run away with the AL East.

    That's a lot of "ifs."  

9. Tampa Bay Rays (10)

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    The Rays picked up free agent first baseman Carlos Pena—a familiar face in Tampa Bay.  Luke Scott and Fernando Rodney are brand new to the Joe Maddon crew.  

    We'll see if Maddon can work his yearly magic with his new guys in place.  

    I'm sure he can.  

    Even if he can't, there's no way you can argue that the Rays starting rotation of: James Shield, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, and whoever else, is absolutely sick.

    If it truly is a time for a "changing of the guard" in the AL East, the Rays rotation might just be why.

8. St. Louis Cardinals (4)

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    The Cardinals didn't drop down four spots on my list because they had a terrible offseason or anything like that.  As stated previously, Pujols leaving was a good thing.  

    St. Louis got their money's worth for ten years.  

    The Carlos Beltran signing is very nice.  He proved last year that he's still got plenty left in the tank (just like Lance Berkman).

    No, the Cardinals dropped down because even though they're welcoming back Adam Wainwright, I don't think they can win without Nick Punto.

    But then again, who can, really?

    In all seriousness, I think I was too caught up in their whole "catching fire at the perfect time" thing from last year's playoffs.  

    I like them in the eighth spot, and I hope that David Freese regresses back to his mean. 

7. New York Yankees (8)

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    I'm sure Yankees fans will jump all over me for only raising their team up one lousy spot in my rankings. Oh, the nerve I must have.  The Yankees traded for Michael Pineda!  And signed Hiroki Kuroda!

    And yes, they improved their rotation.  And now they're in good shape (much better shape) to make it to the playoffs once again. This year. 

    But here's what no one in New York wants to talk about: they traded future stud Jesus Montero.

    Montero is young, and can flat-out hit.  The Yankees have plenty of pop and dudes that can hit right now, sure.  

    But they also have more than their fair share of aging and regressing sluggers that cost way too much money (A-Rod and Jeter are the obvious ones, but Teixeira's BA and OBP have declined the last three years in a row, a bad, tell-tale sign).    

    I think they should have gotten a bit more out of the Montero trade, but when you're trading with the Seattle Mariners, you can only get so much.  

6. Atlanta Braves (6)

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    The Braves didn't really do too much this offseason. That's okay, thanks to one of the best-run farm systems in minor league baseball, they really didn't need to.  

    The signing of Jack Wilson adds nice bench depth and a glove that  can play outstanding defense on the left or right side of the infield.

    Similar to the Red Sox in 2011, the Braves were beat-up down the stretch and just plain ran out of gas. Look for Jason Heyward to hit more like his 2010 rookie campaign than he did in 2011.

    And oh yeah, Julio Teheran is going to be awesome.  

5. Arizona Diamondbacks (7)

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    The Diamondbacks re-signed Aaron Hill, Joe Saunders, Henry Blanco, Willie Bloomquist, Lyle Overbay, and John McDonald, all of whom contributed to last year's National League West Division title.

    The D-Backs also acquired the dubiously named Chris (get your spell check ready) Jakubauskas. I'm pretty sure everyone refers to him as "Chris."

    Type-A free agent pitcher Takashi Saito adds right-handed relief help and Jason Kubel provides yet another outfielder with plus-power.

    The Diamondbacks are for real. It's best we all just get used to it.

    Paul Goldschmidt is a beast and will destroy NL pitching next season. Just you wait.

4. Detroit Tigers (5)

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    The only reason the Tigers only mauled their way up one spot on my list is because of the defensive problems that Prince Fielder's acquisition creates.  

    If, as Jim Leyland asserted, Miguel Cabrera is his starting third basemen, the Tigers will have a serious problem on their hands.  Tigers fans will remember Cabrera at the hot corner "experiment" of 2008.

    He was a terrible third baseman with the Marlins, and that was a good seventy pounds ago.

    However, the addition of Prince Fielder is an excellent one, and that will no doubt make the Tigers into serious World Series contenders. 

    The Tigers were narrowly beaten by the Rangers during last year's ALCS.  This year, if the two teams are to meet again, it might not go the way of the Rangers.

3. Texas Rangers (3)

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    The Texas Rangers signed Brad Hawpe.  So who needs Prince Fielder, huh?

    I like Brad Hawpe.  Fort Worth, Texas-raised dude.  Nothing to not like about that.  But here's the deal, if Hawpe ends up on the Rangers' roster, something went horribly wrong somewhere.

    They also signed Yu Darvish, thus improving their starting rotation after losing their "ace" for the second year in a row.  

    Might Roy Oswalt be waiting in the wings?

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2)

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    I still feel that C.J. Wilson will be fantastic for the Angels during 2012.  Don't be surprised if he becomes their number two starter (or possible number one) by the end of the season.  

    The five-year window of getting the actual value out of the Albert Pujols contract begins now.  

    It's going to be a financial albatross in years six through ten (and yes, I know that they have a three-billion dollar television deal).  

    And if you though that C.J. Wilson had problems getting a word in with Albert Pujols there for their combined press conference, try being LaTroy Hawkins or Jorge Cantu.

    They weren't there, of course, but not many people are talking about their signings.  

    It's actually two nice little investments the Angels made.  Remember, that Angels' bullpen was a definite problem last season, and Hawkins should help things out.

    Cantu can be of assistance off of the bench and at the corner infield spots.

1. Philadelphia Phillies (1)

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    The Phillies picked up Dontrelle Willis and Joel Pineiro.  

    It's doubtful that either one will replace the recently departed Roy Oswalt, but both are viable options for the back-of-the-rotation.

    Isn't that funny? The Phillies really do have a back-of-the-rotation! Silly me, I thought it was just "aces only" on their staff.

    The Jonathan Papelbon deal is laughably ludicrous—4 years for a total of $50 million—but if the Phillies hadn't done it, someone else probably would have.  

    The bottom line is that they upgraded their bullpen while losing last year's closer (Madson), and that's no easy task.  

    Perhaps the biggest thing the Phillies accomplished this offseason was re-signing Jimmy Rollins.  His bat, and defense—as well as his presence—is something that is critical to the team's success.

    Both Laynce Nix and Juan Pierre signed minor league deals and will duke it out this spring training for a spot on the big league roster as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

    No "East Coast bias" here, my friends. I just honestly feel that the Phillies are the team to beat in 2012.