We are mere hours away from the start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season.
If that doesn't sound right to you, I assure you I'm not jesting. The season is opening in Japan this year. The Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners have the honor of kicking things off, and first pitch is scheduled to take place right around 6:10 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning.
Or, for those of you who live with me on the West Coast, right around 3:00 a.m.
Not exactly an ideal way to open the season for those of us who live in the states, but it is what it is. And hey, at least it's regular season baseball.
And since the start of the regular season is imminent, now is as good a time as ever to take stock of all 30 major league clubs. The only way to do that is to power rank them.
So behold! Here are my final preseason power rankings for all 30 clubs.
1. Detroit Tigers
On paper, this Tigers team is absolutely stacked. The Tigers have a top-heavy rotation led by Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, and the middle of their lineup features two MVP candidates in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Their bullpen is anchored by a guy in Jose Valverde who didn't blow a single save last season. This team will be competing for the AL pennant by the end of the season.
2. New York Yankees
There are some question marks hanging over the back end of the Yankees starting rotation, but they're strong as can be everywhere else. Their lineup is one of the deepest and most powerful in baseball, and their bullpen is the best bullpen in baseball. Despite their rotation concerns, they can rest easy knowing CC Sabathia is going to win close to or more than 20 games.
3. Texas Rangers
The Los Angeles Angels made all the big moves this offseason, but the Rangers are still king out in the AL West. Their lineup is still ridiculously strong, and their starting pitching staff is still pretty deep despite the loss of C.J. Wilson. I have my doubts about Joe Nathan, but I love the rest of Texas' bullpen. Another trip to the World Series is not out of the question.
4. Los Angeles Angels
OMG! Albert Pujols is an Angel!
Yes he is, but what makes the Angels great is their starting rotation. The Angels have more talent one through four in their rotation than any team in the majors. Their bullpen has its issues, but the Angels starting pitching and improved lineup will make them slump-proof this season.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
I maintain that the Angels have a deep and talented rotation, but the Rays are right there with them. The Rays have easily the best rotation in the AL East, and it will be one of the best in the majors when all is said and done. A lot of people have doubts about this offense, but I'm not one of them. Carlos Pena and Luke Scott were nice additions, and Desmond Jennings has the potential to be even better than Carl Crawford.
6. Philadelphia Phillies
At the end of the 2011 season, the Phillies were the best team in baseball by a wide margin. They've gotten worse ever since, as injuries have robbed them of key members of their lineup and their bullpen lost some depth over the offseason. Even still, the trio of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels is so good it borders on being unfair.
7. San Francisco Giants
Buster Posey is back, and the Giants made some under-the-radar moves (i.e. trading for Melky Cabrera) over the offseason that will help them score more runs. Their pitching staff is led by three co-aces in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, and their bullpen is the best in the National League. If they stay healthy this season, the Giants will win the NL West.
8. Washington Nationals
I'll admit it. I'm higher on the Nationals than most.
The thing I love most about the Nats is their starting rotation, which is young, deep and talented. We're finally going to see what Stephen Strasburg can do over a full season, Gio Gonzalez is a strikeout artist with a high ceiling, Jordan Zimmerman was sneaky-good last season and Edwin Jackson is a fireballer who can be unhittable on a good day. The Nats lineup is far from perfect, but it has some thunder in it. Once Drew Storen comes back healthy, their bullpen will be elite.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
Prince Fielder is out of the picture, but don't think his departure has crippled the Brewers. They still have one of the deepest rotations in the National League, not to mention one of the deepest bullpens. If their pitching holds up, they'll have more than enough offense to pile up wins.
10. Boston Red Sox
The back end of Boston's rotation is a mess and there are some question marks hanging over this bullpen now that Jonathan Papelbon is gone and Daniel Bard's status is up in the air.
But hey, the top three pitchers in Boston's rotation are all rock-solid, and its lineup will score a ton of runs this season. The Red Sox are not as horrible as many people think they are.
11. Miami Marlins
On paper, the Marlins are as strong as any team in baseball. They have a talented rotation, a solid bullpen and a lineup that is full of both power and speed.
The one big "if" is health. Several of the Marlins' key players are injury-prone, and that's a big concern. If the injury bug bites this team in 2012, disaster will ensue.
If the injury bug doesn't bite, the Marlins will shoot up these rankings in no time at all.
12. St. Louis Cardinals
Just like the Brewers, don't assume the Cardinals are helpless just because they lost their big slugger over the offseason.
Pujols' offense will be easily replaced if Carlos Beltran hits like he did last year, and David Freese and Allen Craig can both stay healthy and productive. In addition, improved health will make Matt Holliday an MVP candidate.
The bigger concern with the Cardinals is Chris Carpenter's health. The Cards have the depth to account for his absence in the short term, but not the long term.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks overachieved last season. We all know it's true.
But not by much. The D-Backs have two outstanding pitchers at the top of their rotation in Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson, they have a deep bullpen and they have a lineup that will hit a ton of home runs.
I shudder to think how good this team could be if the top arms in the system get called up and start contributing immediately.
14. Atlanta Braves
A lot of people are down on the Braves right now, and for good reason. The news coming out of Braves camp this spring has been largely bad.
But look beyond the bad news and at the good stuff. You'll see that the Braves still have one of the deepest pitching staffs in baseball, which will most certainly come in handy. Plus, there's no way this lineup will be as bad in 2012 as it was in 2011. The Braves will likely get off to a slow start, but they'll come around.
15. Cincinnati Reds
I have the Reds ranked this low because I'm a halfwit with devil horns and an agenda to destroy the city of Cincinnati.
That's what I'm sure Reds fans will say, anyway.
The truth is that I'm not sold on the Reds rotation beyond Mat Latos, their lineup has more than a few question marks in it and the loss of Ryan Madson for the season is huge.
In short, I see a team that is well south of elite.
16. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are getting there. They're not there yet, but they're close.
So it goes with the Blue Jays. They have some good individual pieces here and there, most notably Jose Bautista and breakout candidate Brett Lawrie, but they don't have nearly enough firepower to compete with the powers that be in the AL East.
Maybe next year.
17. Los Angeles Dodgers
The big story in Dodgerland this year will be the club's transition out of Frank McCourt's hands and into, well, whoever's hands. Dodgers fans will be happy as long as it's someone other than McCourt.
The Dodgers have some good individual pieces in Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and Dee Gordon will lead the National League in steals if he stays healthy and consistent. But compared to the top teams in the NL West, the Dodgers just don't quite stack up.
18. Kansas City Royals
The Royals have been one of the most inept franchises in baseball for decades at this point, but they're headed in the right direction. There's some great young talent in the organization, and it should be fun to see what Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas can do over a full season.
The trouble is that the Royals don't have a strong rotation, and their bullpen is much weaker now that Joakim Soria is out of the picture. The Royals will be a middle-of-the-road club this year, and nothing more.
19. Cleveland Indians
The Indians overachieved out of the gate last season, and they ultimately ended up using their fast start as an excuse to make an awful trade to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez.
The Indians are just as mediocre now months after that trade as they were when they made it. They'll be able to avoid a last-place finish in the AL Central, but they have absolutely no shot at stealing the division from the Tigers.
20. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are just good enough to avoid being horrible, but no team in the majors defines mediocrity quite like they do.
The White Sox could surprise people this season, but only if Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy all enjoy healthy and productive seasons.
I just made myself laugh.
21. San Diego Padres
The Padres don't look very strong on paper, as they have a rotation devoid of big names, a lineup devoid of power and a bullpen that doesn't look that strong without Heath Bell and Mike Adams.
But don't sleep on the Padres. Pitching and defense will be this team's M.O., and they could make a run at the NL West title if Yonder Alonso develops into a star and Carlos Quentin returns and starts hitting right away.
22. Colorado Rockies
I'm not going to question the Rockies' ability to score runs this season. They have a lineup that is deeper than it was in 2011, and it's strong in the middle with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez holding down the fort.
Pitching is a much bigger concern. The Rockies do not have a good rotation, and their bullpen has some serious question marks hanging over it. That's an ill omen for a team that will play half its games at Coors Field.
The Rockies were pretty terrible beyond April last season. Don't expect them to be much better.
23. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have some good young talent on the way, but it'll be another couple years before it all comes together and the Pirates can use it to make a run at a division title.
This season, the best the Pirates can hope for is that their rotation will be as good as it was early in the 2011 season and that their lineup will be carried by Andrew McCutchen. Even then, the Pirates will tread water in an NL Central that is very heavy at the top.
24. Seattle Mariners
There are things to like about the Mariners. Felix Hernandez should be considered the top Cy Young contender in the American League, Jesus Montero is a hitting prodigy, Dustin Ackley is a great young player and moving Chone Figgins back to the leadoff spot should get him going again. But overall, the best word to describe this team is "meh."
25. New York Mets
Johan Santana has looked great this spring, and because of that, I have more hope for the Mets than I did when the spring training season started.
But I still don't have much hope for this team. The Mets have weak starting pitching, a weak lineup and a weak bullpen. In the NL East, they're a lock for a last-place finish.
26. Chicago Cubs
Here's my advice for Cubs fans: Just sit back and enjoy watching Matt Garza pitch and Starlin Castro develop into a star player. Then hope that Anthony Rizzo gets called up at some point.
Beyond those things, this Cubs team really doesn't have much rooting interest. New boss Theo Epstein will need time to transform the Cubs into winners.
27. Minnesota Twins
I'll speak for myself and say that I'm looking forward to a bounce-back season from Joe Mauer. He was never in shape last season, and it showed.
I just don't know what to make of the rest of the Twins. Their starting pitching is at best mediocre, their bullpen is a mixed bag and their lineup revolves around two highly injury-prone players in Mauer and Justin Morneau.
The Twins were awful last season, and I don't think they're going to be much better even if everyone stays healthy.
28. Oakland Athletics
If Yoenis Cespedes lives up to his potential, the A's are going to have a bona-fide superstar.
But that's a big "if," and the rest of this A's team leaves a lot to be desired. The only guy who's a lock for a good season is Brandon McCarthy. Everyone else would be lucky to start on another club.
Where hast thou gone, Scott Hatteberg?!
29. Baltimore Orioles
An awful starting rotation? Check.
An awful bullpen? Check.
A mediocre lineup? Check.
Another also-ran season for the O's? You bet.
30. Houston Astros
The Astros were playing in the World Series just seven years ago. As you'll no doubt recall, that team was absolutely stacked.
I'll keep this simple. This Astros team is not stacked. It's basically a minor league team.
Thus, the Astros will not be going back to the World Series this year, or any time soon.
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