MLB Power Rankings: Will Each Team Be Better or Worse by 2014?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2012

MLB Power Rankings: Will Each Team Be Better or Worse by 2014?

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    With the regular season over, my weekly power rankings article will be tabled for the time being while we await each team's offseason moves and the results of the postseason.

    However, that doesn't mean we can't make some hypothetical rankings on where each team is heading in the years ahead. Looking at where a team is heading over the next two years gives a good big picture idea as to where a franchise is heading.

    So here is a look at my predicted power rankings for where each team will stand at the end of the 2014 season. For comparison's sake, here is a link to my final power rankings for the 2012 season. So is your team in a position to be better or worse by the end of 2014?

Houston Astros

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    2B Jose Altuve, SP Lucas Harrell

    For a rebuilding team, the Astros don't have much to build around. Altuve should factor into immediate and future plans, and Harrell was a nice find this season, although he is already 27.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    SP Jarred Cosart, 1B Jonathan Singleton, CF George Springer

    Cosart and Singleton, both of whom were acquired from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade, should make their debuts at some point in 2013, and the team hopes they'll settle in atop the rotation and in the middle of the lineup, respectively.

    George Springer, the team's 2011 first-round pick, has legitimate five-tool talent and has moved quickly through the system in reaching Double-A last season. He could play his way up next season, but expect him in center field by 2014 at the latest.


    Overall Expectations

    The Astros' rebuilding process is not going to be a quick one, and they are a safe bet to lose at least 100 games each of the next two years. However, they had a good draft in 2012 and should continue to stock pile top-of-the-draft talent in the years to come. By 2015, they could be approaching a .500 team and one that's heading in the right direction.

Cleveland Indians

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Carlos Santana, 2B Jason Kipnis, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, CF Michael Brantley, SP Justin Masterson, RP Chris Perez, RP Vinnie Pestano

    The Indians will likely part ways with both Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner this coming offseason as they continue to go younger.

    Kipnis and Cabrera should anchor the team moving forward, and Santana still has the talent to be an impact bat in the middle of the lineup. The team could look to deal both Masterson and Perez as well as Shin-Soo Choo this offseason to restock a thin farm system.

    The addition of Terry Francona to lead the team is a big one, and he'll have the opportunity to mold a young team exactly how he wants as the Indians begin what could be a lengthy rebuild.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    SS Francisco Lindor

    The Indians farm system is a thin one, with much of their top talent in the low minors and still several years from making an impact.

    One guy who could arrive soon, though, is Lindor, who was taken sixth overall in the 2011 draft and spent all of the 2012 season as an 18-year-old playing in the Midwest League. He held his own against older competition and should continue on the fast track.


    Overall Expectations

    The addition of Francona is certainly a plus for the Indians, but they'll need to be patient while they restock a barren minor league system and retool their franchise from the ground up.

    Expect them to deal Masterson and Perez this offseason and Choo, who is a free agent after next season, at the deadline in moves that should bring some good, young talent their way. 

Minnesota Twins

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Joe Mauer, LF Josh Willingham, CF Denard Span, RF Ben Revere, DH Ryan Doumit, SP Scott Diamond, RP Glen Perkins

    The Twins' offense was surprisingly effective this season, but their complete and total lack of starting pitching outside of Diamond led to a 96-loss season and a last-place finish in the AL Central.

    The team will be out from under Justin Morneau's contract following next season, and they have roughly $20 million coming off the books this offseason, so they'll have money to spend on pitching in the next few offseasons.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    2B Eddie Rosario, 3B Miguel Sano, OF Aaron Hicks, OF Oswaldo Arcia, SP Kyle Gibson

    The Twins have one of the game's top prospects in Sano, and the 19-year-old has spent a full season in Single-A and could move quickly from here if he keeps performing at such a high level.

    Rosario could step into the starting second base job next season, but the biggest question mark is Gibson, who was on the fast track to the Twins' rotation after being taken in the first round in 2009 before Tommy John surgery sidelined him midway through the 2011 season.


    Overall Expectations

    The Twins' days as perennial contenders in the AL Central have come to a close, as it will likely be at least a few seasons before they are competitive again. Pitching is a glaring need, but their infield is far from established as well. With some patience, they have prospects who could step into key roles and help the team return to a sustained level of success.

Chicago Cubs

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Welington Castillo, 1B Anthony Rizzo, 2B Darwin Barney, SS Starlin Castro, LF Alfonso Soriano, CF Brett Jackson, SP Jeff Samardzija, SP Travis Wood, RP James Russell

    The rebuilding effort is underway in Chicago. With Castro re-signed and Rizzo making an impressive debut in Chicago, they have at least two superstar building blocks for the future.

    Soriano may well be traded before the end of the 2014 season, and the team will need to figure out whether or not Samardzija is the staff ace they hope he can be.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    IF Junior Lake, OF Matt Szczur, P Arodys Vizcaino, P Trey McNutt

    Seeing as they appear 100 percent committed to rebuilding from the ground up, the Cubs don't have much in the way of MLB-ready talent in their minor league system right now.

    Vizcaino and McNutt represent their top two pitching prospects right now, and both could wind up pitching out of the bullpen after running into injuries and inconsistency. Lake and Szczur are nearing big-league ready, but don't have a clear-cut position or role once they are.


    Overall Expectations

    The Cubs are expected to struggle for the next two seasons, with 2015 a good time to expect some of their top-notch lower-level talent to make an impact in guys like Albert Almora, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler. They'll likely look to add some veteran starters to fill out their rotation this offseason, but don't expect miracles in years two and three of the Theo Epstein era.

Colorado Rockies

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Wilin Rosario, 1B Tyler Colvin, SS Troy Tulowitzki, IF Josh Rutledge, LF Carlos Gonzalez, CF Dexter Fowler, RF Michael Cuddyer, SP Jhoulys Chacin, SP Drew Pomeranz, RP Rafael Betancourt (2014 option)

    The Rockies battled through a disastrous 2012 season, and while their offense was solid despite the loss of Troy Tulowitzki, their pitching staff was horrible all season.

    Chacin and Pomeranz should be guaranteed rotation spots next season, but the rest of the staff needs an overhaul and the in-house options are slim.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    2B Charlie Culberson, 3B Nolan Arenado, SP Tyler Anderson, P Zach Putnam

    Anderson doesn't have top-of-the-rotation stuff, but he was great last season in going 12-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 20 Single-A starts. He should move quickly and could earn a rotation spot at the end of next season.

    Arenado took a step back in 2012, but he remains one of the best third base prospects in baseball. If he can improve in his second go-around in Double-A, he should be in Colorado by the second half of 2013 with no real third base option in place.


    Overall Expectations

    The Rockies have to sort out their starting rotation. They posted an MLB-worst 5.22 ERA, and that was enough to drag them to last place despite a league-high .274 team batting average. Getting back superstar Tulowitzki will help, but unless they find some reliable arms, expect more of the same in 2013.

Miami Marlins

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Rob Brantly, SS Jose Reyes, LF Logan Morrison, CF Justin Ruggiano, RF Giancarlo Stanton, UT Emilio Bonifacio, SP Mark Buehrle, SP Nathan Eovaldi, SP Jacob Turner, RP Heath Bell, RP Steve Cishek

    The Marlins seemingly went all in this offseason when they spent big to usher in their new stadium. But when things went south early, they sold big at the deadline, acquiring future pieces Brantly, Eovaldi and Turner.

    Along with those young guys, they also have one of the game's most exciting young sluggers in Stanton and a legitimate table-setter in Reyes. They'll need to fill out their infield, though, and could opt to move ace Josh Johnson this offseason to help add even more young pieces.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    3B Zack Cox, CF Christian Yelich, SP Andrew Heaney, SP Chad James

    The Marlins will likely continue to look for major league-ready talent if they opt to trade Johnson or anyone else on the roster. Cox, acquired from the Cardinals, could get a shot at the third base job after the team dealt Matt Dominguez.

    Yelich is their top prospect and a legitimate five-tool player who will take over in center field as soon as he's ready. James has shown flashes since being taken in the first round in 2009, while Heaney was their first-round pick in 2012 and should move quickly.


    Overall Expectations

    For as high as expectations were entering the season, they should be similarly low entering the 2013 season after the team finished off a disappointing 93-loss season. The team has made the right move in beginning to stockpile young talent, and they are likely headed for a youth movement of sorts in the years to come. If nothing else, the continued development of Stanton will be worth the price of admission.

Boston Red Sox

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C/DH Ryan Lavarnway, 2B Dustin Pedroia, 3B Will Middlebrooks, LF Daniel Nava, SP Jon Lester (2014 option), SP Clay Buchholz, SP Felix Doubront, SP John Lackey, RP Andrew Bailey

    After their August blockbuster with the Dodgers, and with guys like David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and potentially Jon Lester headed for free agency this winter or next, the Red Sox's core of players has shrunk significantly.

    Pedroia remains the heart of the offense, and Middlebrooks showed plenty before an injury ended his season, but whether or not the team extends Ellsbury will be the biggest question surrounding the offense. The rotation is a mess, and getting Lackey back likely isn't the answer.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    SS Jose Iglesias, SS/3B Xander Bogaerts, CF Jackie Bradley Jr., RF Bryce Brentz, SP Allen Webster, RP Chris Carpenter

    Bogaerts is the pride of the Red Sox organization, hitting .307 BA, 20 HR and 81 RBI as a 19-year-old last season, reaching Double-A in the process. His future may be at third base, but once he's ready, the Red Sox will make room for him.

    Bradley is an exciting prospect as well, and his continued progression could be reason enough for the team to not give Ellsbury a big payday. The pitching remains the question, though, as Dodgers acquisition Webster could contribute next year. Anthony Ranaudo is close if he's healthy, but the team has little else.


    Overall Expectations

    The Red Sox have nearly $80 million coming off the books this coming season alone, as they are in a position both financially and personnel wise to completely overhaul their franchise.

    The front office knows what it takes to build a sustainable winner, and they won't opt for a simple, quick fix by spending a ton of money this offseason, so expect a few trying years before they make their return to contention. 

Kansas City Royals

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Salvador Perez, 1B Eric Hosmer, SS Alcides Escobar, 3B Mike Moustakas, LF Alex Gordon, DH Billy Butler RP Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera, RP Greg Holland, RP Tim Collins

    A quick look at the core of returning Royals players sums up the current state of their franchise pretty well. They have a good, young lineup and a terrific bullpen, but zero in the way of reliable starting pitching.

    Perez has the potential to be one of the best catchers in baseball by next season, and Butler enjoyed a breakout season in 2012. The addition of Wil Myers to this lineup should allow the Royals to score plenty of runs.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    2B Christian Colon, RF Wil Myers, SP Jake Odorizzi, SP Kyle Zimmer, SP Mike Montgomery

    The Royals have a handful of other pitching prospects (not listed here) who could make an impact if they can take that next step, but Odorizzi, Zimmer and Montgomery are in the best spot right now to contribute soon.

    Zimmer, the team's first-round pick in 2012, should move quickly, while Odorizzi could be the staff ace as soon as this coming season.

    Myers, the Minor League Player of the Year, will be the starting right fielder on Opening Day, and former fourth-overall pick Colon has shifted from shortstop to second and could arrive next season as well.


    Overall Expectations

    The Royals future success is going to rely almost exclusively on how quickly their young pitchers can make the transition to the big-league game. Their ever-improving offense should make things easier on the staff and provide plenty of run support. If two of three guys can emerge as legitimate big-league starters, they should be able push for second place in the AL Central.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    1B Ryan Howard, SS Jimmy Rollins, CF John Mayberry Jr, RF Domonic Brown, SP Cole Hamels, SP Cliff Lee, SP Roy Halladay (2014 option), SP Vance Worley, SP Kyle Kendrick, RP Jonathan Papelbon, RP Antonio Bastardo, RP Josh Lindblom

    The Phillies are more or less locked into the roster they currently have for the next two years, though guys like Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz and Roy Halladay could be gone.

    They have a ton of money tied up in a handful of aging guys and a relatively thin farm system, but they do still have a terrific pitching staff capable of carrying the team.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    C Tommy Joseph, SP Trevor May, SP Jesse Biddle, SP Brody Colvin, SP Ethan Martin, RP Phillippe Aumont

    The Phillies are loaded with pitching prospects, as the trio of May, Biddle and Colvin have been viewed as the future of the team for some time now. May is the most advanced of the trio and should debut at some point in 2013, but they could all be in the rotation by the end of 2014.

    Joseph, acquired from the Giants in the Hunter Pence trade, should replace Carlos Ruiz after next season. However, he is the only real position prospect close to making a significant impact in the majors.


    Overall Expectations

    The Phillies' title-contention window is closing quickly, but they still have the horses to make some noise if they can stay healthy. The Phillies' pitching is what will lead them, but their offense will need to step up or else their rebuilding effort may begin sooner rather than later.

Chicago White Sox

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    1B/DH Adam Dunn, 2B Gordon Beckham, SS Alexi Ramirez, LF Dayan Viciedo, CF Alejandro De Aza, RF Alex Rios, SP Chris Sale, SP John Danks, RP Addison Reed

    The White Sox entered the 2012 season expected to begin rebuilding, but instead they found themselves in contention for the AL Central title before a late-season collapse allowed the Tigers to pass them.

    They have a number of veterans locked into long-term deals, as their offense is more or less set moving forward outside of third base. Sale looks to be the real deal and should anchor the staff for the next decade as one of the AL's top arms.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    OF Trayce Thompson, SP Nestor Molina

    The White Sox may very well have the worst minor league system in baseball, and it didn't get any better with the team's acquisitions of Brett Myers and Francisco Liriano at the deadline.

    Molina pitched decently in his first full season above Double-A, and if he can take a step forward he should be able to earn a rotation spot within the next year, while Thompson has a similar skill set to Adam Dunn with the ability to steal a base.


    Overall Expectations

    The White Sox have some decisions to make in the years ahead, as they could look to blow things up and trade off whichever veterans they can, or they could try to add a few arms to what remains a solid lineup and make another run at the AL Central. They'll need to address their farm system at some point, or they could be in for an Astros-like fall-off once it comes.

New York Mets

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    1B Ike Davis, 2B Daniel Murphy, SS Ruben Tejada, RF Lucas Duda, SP Matt Harvey, SP Jon Niese, SP Dillon Gee, RP Bobby Parnell

    The biggest players as far as the Mets' future is concerned aren't on the above list, as David Wright and R.A. Dickey both have options for 2013 before hitting free agency at season's end, and the team will likely try to lock them both up long term.

    Davis has flashed terrific power but needs to make more contact, while Tejada proved he may be the answer at shortstop before injuries cut into his season. Harvey will likely be joined by Zack Wheeler in 2013, and those two could sit atop the staff for the next decade.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    3B/SS Wilmer Flores, SP Zack Wheeler, SP Jeurys Familia, SP Jenrry Mejia

    The Mets have the horses to put together a potentially dominant rotation moving forward, as Wheeler ranks among the best pitching prospects in baseball, and Familia and Mejia have both shown flashes during their minor league careers.

    Flores has seemingly been on the prospect map forever after signing at the age of 16, and he took a big step forward last season, splitting the year between High Single-A and Double-A at the age of 20. He'll replace Wright if he's not retained or Flores could be headed for another position change.


    Overall Expectations

    The Mets gave their fans a taste of what they're capable of in the first half in 2012, and while their second half slide was disappointing, they have a bright future. The duo of Harvey and Wheeler alongside Dickey could be lethal, and their young offense should continue to improve. I still don't think they'll be able to push the Braves and Nationals, but they'll keep moving in the right direction.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C J.P. Arencibia, 1B Edwin Encarnacion, SS Yunel Escobar (2014 option), 3B Brett Lawrie, CF Colby Rasmus, RF Jose Bautista, SP Ricky Romero, SP Brandon Morrow, SP Henderson Alvarez, RP Casey Janssen (2014 option), RP Sergio Santos

    The Blue Jays were hit as hard by injury this past season as perhaps any team in MLB history, so it came as no surprise that they finished a disappointing 73-89.

    Encarnacion enjoyed a breakout year among the rubble, and teaming him with a healthy Bautista next season is a scary thought. Beyond those two, Lawrie has the makings of a star, and potential abounds in the starting rotation.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    C Travis d'Arnaud, IF Adeiny Hechavarria, CF Anthony Gose, RF Jake Marisnick, SP Deck McGuire, RP Marcus Stroman

    The Blue Jays have an incredibly deep farm system, and while McGuire is their most advanced pitching prospect, guys like Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard could certainly take a big step and make an impact by 2014. Stroman, their 2012 first-round pick, should join the bullpen this coming year.

    A healthy d'Arnaud should push Arencibia for his job and could lead to a trade, while Marisnick and Gose are as good an outfield duo as any in the minors.


    Overall Expectations

    The Blue Jays were expected to take a big step forward this past season, before injuries derailed their season, and with their top prospects another year older and on the verge of contention, they should be in an even better position entering 2013. No question that starting pitching will need to be addressed though, as they lack a front line starter or two.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Jonathan Lucroy, 2B Rickie Weeks, SS Jean Segura, 3B Aramis Ramirez, CF Nyjer Morgan, LF Ryan Braun, SP Yovani Gallardo, SP Michael Fiers, SP Marco Estrada, RP John Axford

    The Brewers made an impressive late-season push, led by a potent offense and solid performances from their young pitching staff, and though they fell short, there is certainly reason for optimism moving forward.

    They'll need to decide whether or not to bring back Corey Hart once his contract is up after the 2012 season, and they could stand to add a veteran starter to their rotation ahead of their young arms.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    1B Hunter Morris, 2B Scooter Gennett, CF Logan Schafer, SP Tyler Thornburg, SP Wily Peralta, SP Taylor Jungmann, SP Jed Bradley

    At the time of the Zack Greinke trade prior to the 2011 season, the Brewers had as thin a farm system as any in baseball, but in two years they have built it into a legitimate asset.

    Thornburg and Peralta will be in the rotation next season, while Jungmann and Bradley should get a chance to win a job this spring as well. Morris, who hit .303 BA, 28 HR and 113 RBI at Double-A could be the long-term answer at first base.


    Overall Expectations

    Things look much better for Milwaukee than they did at midseason, as the emergence of Fiers and Estrada alongside Gallardo leave the team in a much better position than expected. Their offense should continue to rake, and while they'll be relying heavily on young talent they could contend for a wild-card spot if everything breaks right.

San Diego Padres

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Yasmani Grandal, 1B Yonder Alonso, SS Everth Cabrera, 3B Chase Headley, LF Carlos Quentin, CF Cameron Maybin, RF Will Venable, SP Clayton Richard, SP Cory Luebke, SP Anthony Bass, RP Huston Street, RP Andrew Cashner, RP Luke Gregerson

    The Padres pulled off a big deal last season in trading Mat Latos to the Reds, as they added Grandal and Alonso along with Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger. Those guys, along with breakout star Headley and extended veterans Quentin and Street, should give the team a good base to build around.

    The rotation is weak, but should be bolstered in the years ahead by what many consider to be the best farm system in all of baseball. As it stands, Richard is a very good arm and capable of serving as staff ace.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    2B Jedd Gyorko, IF Cory Spangenberg, SP Casey Kelly, SP Robbie Erlin, SP Joe Wieland

    The Padres will likely slot Gyorko into the starting second base role this coming season to get his bat in the lineup after he hit .311 BA, 30 HR and 100 RBI, as his natural position of third base is blocked by Headley who likely isn't going anywhere.

    Erlin and Wieland both joined the Padres in the Mike Adams trade with the Rangers back in 2011, and they could claim rotation spots along with Kelly this coming spring.


    Overall Expectations

    The Padres opted to hold onto their big trade chips at the deadline, and as a result should be in a position to contend in the near future. They'll get a steady influx of top-tier minor league talent over the next few seasons and should be in a position to contend by the end of 2014.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Michael McKendry, 1B Garrett Jones, 2B Neil Walker, 3B Pedro Alvarez (options), LF Jose Tabata, CF Andrew McCutchen, RF Travis Snider

    The Pirates have built an impressive lineup of homegrown players, fronted by superstar center fielder McCutchen and top-tier second baseman Walker.

    They are short on established pitching, but have a wealth of pitching prospects in the minor leagues who are ready to contribute at some point in 2013.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    IF Brock Holt, OF Starling Marte, SP Gerrit Cole, SP Jameson Taillon, SP Jeff Locke, SP Justin Wilson, RP Bryan Morris

    The duo of Cole and Taillon could make a huge difference in 2013 and will almost certainly play a huge role in the team's success moving forward. Locke and Wilson could both earn rotation spots as well by 2014.

    Holt has shown enough that he should be able to slide in at shortstop and at least bridge the gap to Alen Hanson, while Marte will push Tabata or Snider for a starting job out of camp.


    Overall Expectations

    The Pirates have knocked on the door the past two seasons, but with the influx of young pitching into their rotation they could go through some growing pains the next few seasons. They'll come out the other side better off for it, but they could be headed for one step backwards to take two forward.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    2B/SS Ben Zobrist (2014 option), 3B Evan Longoria (2014 option), LF Desmond Jennings, RF Matt Joyce, SP David Price, SP Jeremy Hellickson, SP Matt Moore, SP Alex Cobb, RP Jake McGee, RP Wade Davis, P Jeff Niemann

    The Rays have glaring holes at catcher, first base and whatever middle infield spot Zobrist isn't currently stationed at. However, if they can fill those holes, they have a deep group of young starting pitchers and a good group of young hitters to build around.

    B.J. Upton is likely to be gone as a free agent this season, so add center field to the list of needs, but the team has the pieces to swing a trade or two, especially if James Shields is put on the block this winter.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    SS Hak-Ju Lee, CF Mikie Mahtook, OF Brandon Guyer, SP Chris Archer, SP Alex Torres, SP Alex Colome

    Lee is expected to be the answer at shortstop, and Mahtook should continue to move quickly through the organization and could be the answer in center field by 2014.

    Archer is good enough to crack the rotation for nearly any other team in baseball, and he is a major trade chip for the team moving forward. Torres and Colome are also close to big league ready, and will make their way to the rotation or potentially be traded in the years ahead.


    Overall Expectations

    The Rays' young pitching staff alone will be enough to keep them in the hunt for a playoff spot in the years to come, and if the team can plug some of their offensive holes by moving some of their surplus pitching, they could be very dangerous.

    Even a full season of Evan Longoria and a slight upgrade over the likes of Jose Molina, Carlos Pena and Sean Rodriguez should be enough to put them in the playoff picture in 2013.

Seattle Mariners

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C/DH Jesus Montero, 2B Dustin Ackley, 3B Kyle Seager, SP Felix Hernandez

    The Mariners went young this past season and struggled through a tough year offensively as a result. Kyle Seager showed some flashes as a run producer and should settle in as the everyday third baseman moving forward.

    Montero was a bit of a disappointment in his debut season after coming over from the Yankees, but he is too talented not to improve moving forward.

    The biggest question will be if the team ever decides to move Hernandez, arguably the game's most valuable pitcher, for more organizational help or if he continues to anchor their staff moving forward.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    C Mike Zunino, SS Nick Franklin, SP Danny Hultzen, SP Taijuan Walker, SP James Paxton, RP Stephen Pryor

    The Mariners have as impressive a trio of starting pitching prospects as any team in baseball, and Hultzen and Paxton could join the rotation to open the 2013 season with Walker possibly there by midseason. Pryor has the makings of a future closer and could assume that role by next season.

    Franklin should join Ackley to make up the team's double play combination for the foreseeable future, and Zunino absolutely tore through Low Single-A pitching after signing and advanced to Double-A. He'll have a shot to win the catching job this spring and should move quickly even if he doesn't.


    Overall Expectations

    The Mariners' future is as bright as any team in baseball, and while there will no doubt be some growing pains for the young rotation, the Mariners have all the pieces to be a contender by 2014 if everything breaks right with their young players' development.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Miguel Montero, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 3B Chris Johnson, LF Jason Kubel (2014 option), CF Chris Young (2014 option), RF Justin Upton, OF Gerardo Parra, SP Trevor Cahill, SP Ian Kennedy, SP Daniel Hudson, SP Wade Miley, SP Patrick Corbin, RP David Hernandez

    The Diamondbacks have a solid young team in place, with their only real hole being shortstop and a long-term answer at second base once Aaron Hill departs. 

    Starting pitching-wise, they have some choices to make in the rotation as Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs will compete with the four above mentioned arms.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    3B Matt Davidson, CF Adam Eaton, OF A.J. Pollock, SP Trevor Bauer, SP Tyler Skaggs

    Bauer and Skaggs rank among the top pitching prospects in baseball and should push for the top spots in the rotation once they arrive for good.

    Eaton provided a spark down the stretch atop the lineup and starting in center field, while Davidson could push Johnson at third base this coming season.


    Overall Expectations

    The Diamondbacks were surprise division winners in 2011 and disappointing third-place finishers in 2012, so this upcoming season will be when they establish where they truly stand with their current group of players.

    They have a very young team, with more prospects on the way and expected to make a significant impact, and if everyone plays to their potential they have the pieces to return to the postseason, even in a deep NL West.

New York Yankees

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    1B Mark Teixeira, 3B Alex Rodriguez, LF Brett Gardner, SP CC Sabathia, SP Ivan Nova, SP Michael Pineda, RP David Robertson

    The Yankees will be paying their big three of Rodriguez, Teixeira and Sabathia north of $20 million each annually through 2016 (and A-Rod through 2017). Expect Robinson Cano to join that group once he is extended, as his contract is up after the 2013 season.

    Beyond those guys, however, the team could have a very different look by 2014 as a number of their veteran players could be gone by that time, and with payroll potentially being freed up in the process, the team could be headed for another big-spending offseason very soon.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    C Gary Sanchez, OF Zoilo Almonte, SP Manny Banuelos, SP Adam Warren, RP Mark Montgomery, P Dellin Betances

    The Yankees farm system is deeper than it's been in years past, but much of their top talent is still a ways off and likely won't be in the majors until 2015, with guys like Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Dante Bichette Jr. expected to make an impact then.

    As for the immediate future, Banuelos and Betances will likely get a crack at a significant role next season, while Warren is perhaps the most likely prospect to claim a rotation spot in 2013. Montgomery appears to be the heir to the closer's role, while Sanchez could be the everyday catcher by 2014.


    Overall Expectations

    It's no secret that the Yankees' core of players has gotten old, and their pitching has been suspect this season behind ace CC Sabathia.

    What they do in free agency will go a long way toward determining their success over the next two years, but expect a youth movement of sorts to come by the 2015 season if the team doesn't trade off their solid low-minors assets. Still, they should be in the thick of things over the next two years.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Yadier Molina, 1B Allen Craig, 3B David Freese, LF Matt Holliday, CF John Jay, SP Jaime Garcia, SP Lance Lynn, RP Jason Motte, RP Mitchell Boggs

    The Cardinals have continued to find ways to win through adversity, and while they stand to lose veterans like Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, Rafael Furcal, Chris Carpenter and perhaps Adam Wainwright, moving forward they have young players ready to step in and continue their winning ways.

    Craig has become a bona fide cleanup hitter, and Molina took his offensive game to another level this past season and is a legitimate MVP candidate. As long as they stay healthy, the Cardinals' offense should continue to rank among the best in baseball.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    1B Matt Adams, 2B Kolten Wong, OF Oscar Taveras, SP Shelby Miller, SP Carlos Martinez, P Trevor Rosenthal

    Wong has moved quickly through the Cardinals system and could take over as the everyday second baseman at some point in 2013, as he represents a significant upgrade over anyone they currently have filling the position.

    Miller should capture a rotation spot this coming spring, filling in for the likely departed Kyle Lohse, while Martinez could wind up as a starter at some point in the second half.

    Taveras is the one to watch though, as he tore apart Double-A pitching to the tune of .321 BA, 23 HR and 94 RBI as a 20-year-old last season.


    Overall Expectations

    The Cardinals keep finding ways to win, and with a bevy of impressive prospects on their way to the big leagues, they should once again have a nice mix of youth and proven commodities. Their rotation will need to come together around those prospects, but they have plenty of depth and should find five guys capable of giving the team good innings.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C A.J. Ellis, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SS Hanley Ramirez, LF Carl Crawford, CF Matt Kemp, RF Andre Ethier, SP Clayton Kershaw, SP Chad Billingsley, SP Josh Beckett, RP Kenley Jansen

    The Dodgers went all in on the trade market this past season, and as a result they will be more or less locked into their current roster moving forward.

    They may still open up the payroll to make a run at another starter, but for the most part the team they have is the team they'll look to make a title run with.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    1B/OF Scott Van Slyke, OF Alex Castellanos, SP Chris Reed, SP Zach Lee, RP Josh Wall

    The Dodgers dealt a good deal of their young talent at the deadline, but they still have their top pitching prospect in Lee and a pitcher who may be closer to big league-ready in Reed.

    Van Slyke and Castellanos are ready for a major league role, but that will likely be a bench spot with no real place for them in the starting lineup.


    Overall Expectations

    The Dodgers expect to win a World Series in the next couple of years, and they have already proven that they'll do what it takes to put themselves in the best position to achieve that. They need to add a starter and they need Crawford to bounce back with a strong season, but their lineup is certainly deep and capable of making some noise.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Matt Wieters, 1B/OF Chris Davis, SS J.J. Hardy, CF Adam Jones, RF Nick Markakis, SP Wei-Yin Chen, SP Chris Tillman, SP Miguel Gonzalez, RP Pedro Strop

    The Orioles have finally begun to reap the rewards of developing and holding onto their in-house talent this season, as they were a surprise playoff team with mostly homegrown talent.

    Their pitching staff was in a constant state of flux all season, but Tillman showed down the stretch that he is capable of stepping into the role of staff ace. Jim Johnson has been fantastic as the closer this season, but Strop could move into that role down the road.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    2B Jonathan Schoop, SS/3B Manny Machado, SP Dylan Bundy

    The Orioles have two of the top prospects in baseball in Machado and Bundy, and fans got a chance to see both of them in action (albeit a small sampling in Bundy's case) at the big league level this past season.

    Schoop could fill the team's hole at second base by next season, while Machado (.262 BA, 7 HR, 26 RBI) proved capable as a 19-year-old and held his own defensively at third base. Bundy, still only 19 himself, has a real shot at a rotation spot next season and will be a fun one to watch for a long time.


    Overall Expectations

    It is safe to say the Orioles exceeded expectations this season, but they have stuck to their plans of building from within, and as a result they have a terrific core of young talent. Ironing out the starting rotation will go a long way toward determining their future success, but the pieces are there for them to maintain their 2012 level of play.

Detroit Tigers

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Alex Avila, 1B Prince Fielder, 3B Miguel Cabrera, CF Austin Jackson, DH Victor Martinez, SP Justin Verlander, SP Doug Fister, SP Max Scherzer, SP Rick Porcello, RP Phil Coke

    The Tigers trio of superstars Verlander, Cabrera and Fielder are all signed through 2014, though Verlander will be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season, and the bulk of their second-tier talent is locked up moving forward as well.

    Their rotation should be a constant in the years to come, and getting Victor Martinez back should be a big boost for the offense.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    3B Nick Castellanos, RF Avisail Garcia, SP Casey Crosby, RP Bruce Rondon

    The four players listed above all figure to fill significant holes on the Tigers roster once they arrive, as Castellanos and Garcia have a chance to win everyday roles out of camp this coming season.

    Crosby will be in the running for the No. 5 starter spot, while Rondon has all the makings of a suitable replacement for Jose Valverde in the ninth-inning role.


    Overall Expectations

    The Tigers roster should only get better in the years ahead, with top-tier prospects filling key holes and impact bat Victor Martinez returning to an already potent lineup. Finding a legitimate No. 2 starter behind Verlander is a need, but Scherzer or Fister could step up and seize that role very easily. Expect them to be favorites in the AL Central and title contenders the next two years at least.

San Francisco Giants

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Buster Posey, 1B Brandon Belt, 3B Pablo Sandoval, SP Matt Cain, SP Madison Bumgarner, SP Ryan Vogelsong (2014 option), RP Sergio Romo

    The Giants locked up Cain on a five-year, $112.5 million contract extension in April, and he'll front the rotation along with Bumgarner for the foreseeable future.

    Posey is arbitration eligible for the first time this coming season, and the team will also need to decide what to do with former ace Tim Lincecum, who is a free agent after the 2013 season.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    SS Joe Panik, 3B Conor Gillaspie, CF Gary Brown, OF Francisco Peguero, SP Chris Heston, SP Eric Surkamp, RP Heath Hembree

    The Giants have a number of prospects on the cusp of big-league contribution, but Brown is the only player who really ranks as a potential future star.

    Panik, the team's 2011 first-round pick, fills a major need if he can step in as the starting shortstop, and after hitting .297 BA, 7 HR and 76 RBI last season at High Single-A, he could be on the fast track if he continues to produce.


    Overall Expectations

    As long as the Giants have the trio of Cain, Bumgarner and Posey, they should be in the thick of things in the NL West. They'll likely look to spend this offseason to fill out their outfield and could add another impact player in someone like Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher. They're the team to beat in the NL West for the next two years in my mind.

Oakland Athletics

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Derek Norris, 1B Brandon Moss, 3B Josh Donaldson, LF Yoenis Cespedes, RF Josh Reddick, DH Seth Smith, SP Jarrod Parker, SP Tommy Milone, SP A.J. Griffin, RP Ryan Cook

    The A's entered the season lacking a truly established player anywhere on their roster and ended the season with what appears to be as solid a young core as any team in baseball.

    Moss (.291 BA, 21 HR, 52 RBI) is the elder statesman of the group at 29, and he enjoyed a breakout year this past year. Cespedes is the only one under contract of this group, as all the rest will still be arbitration eligible through 2014.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    1B Miles Head, CF Michael Choice, OF Grant Green, SP Daniel Straily, SP A.J. Cole, SP Brad Peacock, SP Sonny Gray

    The A's have gotten where they are this season with a bevy of young talent, and there is plenty more on the way. Next season, they'll have seven legitimate starters vying for five rotation spots who are all 25 years old or younger.

    They've stockpiled young talent, and while they have issues in the middle infield and Addison Russell can't reach the majors soon enough, they should have the pieces to be a perennial contender moving forward.


    Overall Expectations

    The A's were undoubtedly one of the surprise teams of 2012, but no is shocked by the performance of their young players, as they entered the season with one of the deepest and most talented farm systems in baseball. They should be able to maintain a low payroll and keep their current core in place for the next several seasons.

Atlanta Braves

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    1B Freddie Freeman, 2B Dan Uggla, SS Andrelton Simmons, RF Jason Heyward, SP Tommy Hanson, SP Kris Medlen, SP Brandon Beachy, SP Mike Minor, RP Craig Kimbrel, RP Jonny Venters

    The Braves have ushered in a number of young players over the past few years, and it looks as though Heyward and Freeman have what it takes to anchor the lineup for years to come.

    Beachy was off to a phenomenal start before he was injured, and Medlen took over from there with a brilliant second half. A full season of both of those guys, alongside Hanson and Minor and with Kimbrel slamming the door in the ninth, should put the Braves in a great position both short term and long term.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    C Christian Bethancourt, SP Julio Teheran, SP J.R. Graham, SP Sean Gilmartin

    Much of the Braves young talent is on the pitching end of things, and while he suffered through a down year, Teheran remains a frontline pitching prospect. Graham had a breakout season and Gilmartin performed well in Triple-A last season.

    Bethancourt has emerged as one of the game's top catching prospects and could be the heir to Brian McCann who is set to hit free agency at the end of next season.


    Overall Expectations

    The Braves will lose more than a third baseman with the retirement of Chipper Jones, as they will also be losing their veteran leader. However, they have a talented enough core that they should be able to overcome it and while the Nationals are built to win, moving forward those two should compete for the NL East title the next several years.

Texas Rangers

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    2B Ian Kinsler, 3B Adrian Beltre, SS Elvis Andrus, SP Yu Darvish, SP Derek Holland, SP Matt Harrison, P Neftali Feliz, RP Joe Nathan (2014 option)

    The Rangers are set to undergo some turnover this offseason, with Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Scott Feldman potentially on their way out.

    Their infield is more or less set, though they'll need to figure out what to do with uber-prospect Jurickson Profar. They'll have Darvish and Holland to anchor the rotation and Feliz in whatever role he winds up in long term as well.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    SS Jurickson Profar, 1B/3B Mike Olt, OF Leonys Martin, SP Martin Perez

    All four of the above mentioned players saw time at the big-league level this past season, and should factor into the team's plans in some way in 2013.

    Perez closed out the season with a rotation spot, and there will be two spots up for grabs this coming season behind Darvish, Holland and Harrison. 

    The team will need to decide if they will look to trade Andrus or move Kinsler to the outfield to open up a spot for Profar, but he's close to ready for an everyday role and won't be held back once he is.


    Overall Expectations

    The Rangers' title window has undoubtedly been closed a bit, but they are still in a good position for the near future, and if they can stay healthy and figure out how to incorporate their young talent among their loaded veteran lineup, they should have no trouble contending for the AL West title.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    1B Joey Votto, 2B Brandon Phillips, SS Zack Cozart, 3B Todd Frazier, CF Drew Stubbs, RF Jay Bruce, SP Johnny Cueto, SP Mat Latos, SP Mike Leake, SP Homer Bailey, RP Aroldis Chapman, RP Sean Marshall, RP Logan Ondrusek, RP Jose Arredondo, RP Sam LeCure

    The Reds will lose Ryan Ludwick in left field after next season (or this winter if they don't pick up his option), Bronson Arroyo at the end of next season and Scott Rolen this offseason, but aside from that the team should remain intact through 2014.

    As good as their lineup is, bringing back all of the key pieces of their MLB-best bullpen may be the biggest chip in their favor for 2013 and beyond.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    1B Neftali Soto, SS Billy Hamilton, SP Tony Cingrani, SP Daniel Corcino

    There's no more electric prospect in baseball than Hamilton, as he swiped a record 155 bases this past season but also showed other skills with a .311/.410/.420 line. He'll push Cozart at shortstop this spring, and should take over at some point in 2013.

    Cingrani shot up prospect lists with a breakout 2012 and will likely fill a bullpen spot before taking over for Arroyo in 2014, while Corcino actually profiles better as a late-inning reliever despite good results as a starter.


    Overall Expectations

    The Reds were the class of the NL Central this past season, and with essentially the same roster plus prospect Billy Hamilton in place for at least the next two seasons, they should continue to be the team to beat in the division. They're legitimate title contenders for the foreseeable future.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Chris Iannetta, 1B Albert Pujols, 2B Howie Kendrick, SS Erick Aybar, LF Mike Trumbo, CF Mike Trout, SP Jered Weaver, SP C.J. Wilson, RP Ernesto Frieri

    What you see is what you'll get with the Angels for the most part moving forward, as there are not many lineup spots expected to change moving forward.

    They'll need to figure out what to do with Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos in the outfield and will have decisions to make on Dan Haren and Zack Greinke this offseason, but the core they have in place certainly looks good on paper.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    1B/DH C.J. Cron, 3B Kaleb Cowart, SP Garrett Richards, SP Nick Maronde

    Cron and Cowart may still be a couple of years away, as neither have seen action above High Single-A, but they should move into everyday roles at DH and third base once they are deemed ready, and after strong 2012 seasons, that may be sooner rather than later.

    Richards, with nine starts over 30 total appearances in the majors this past season, was better as a member of the rotation in going 3-2 with a 4.42 ERA, and with at least one rotation spot open, he should get a shot at a full year as a starter in 2013.


    Overall Expectations

    The Angels spent big last offseason to contend for a title immediately, and while they fell short in season one, they still have the pieces to make a World Series run.

    Whether they pick up their option on Haren and are able to re-sign Greinke will be the story of their offseason, and who fills the rotation spots after Weaver and Wilson will be significant.

Washington Nationals

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    Core Players Under Contract Through 2014

    C Wilson Ramos, 2B Danny Espinosa, SS Ian Desmond, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, CF Bryce Harper, RF Jayson Werth, SP Stephen Strasburg, SP Gio Gonzalez, SP Jordan Zimmermann, SP Ross Detwiler, RP Drew Storen, RP Tyler Clippard

    Aside from first base, left field and catcher the Nationals are more or less set long term, and while many expected them to be serious contenders in a few years, they have emerged as legitimate title contenders sooner than expected.

    The team could opt to retain Michael Morse or Adam LaRoche beyond 2013 to fill the first base hole, and getting Wilson Ramos back from a torn ACL should fill the catcher void.


    Incoming Impact Prospects

    1B Chris Marrero, 3B Anthony Rendon, OF Eury Perez, SP Daniel Rosenbaum

    The Nationals' answer long term at first base could be Marrero, and Rendon should play his way into a job either at second base or in the outfield once his bat is ready.

    The team will likely sign a starter to fill their fifth rotation spot, and 24-year-old Rosenbaum may fill that spot this coming season, though he doesn't have the highest ceiling.


    Overall Expectations

    The Nationals are nothing short of legitimate title contenders for the foreseeable future, led by their deep pitching staff and the continued progression of Bryce Harper alongside $100 million man Zimmerman. They have some areas to address, but they're as well set up for the next two years as any team in baseball.