MLB Power Rankings at the Start of 2017 Spring Training

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2017

MLB Power Rankings at the Start of 2017 Spring Training

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    Expectations are high for Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox.
    Expectations are high for Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox.Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Spring training is finally underway, and among other things, that means it's time for an updated version of our MLB power rankings.

    These rankings were last updated Jan. 18, so any transactions or injuries that have taken place between then and now factored into any changes in the rankings this time around. 

    Notable additions and re-signings during that time include: 2B Logan Forsythe (LAD), 2B Brandon Phillips (ATL), RF Mark Trumbo (BAL), OF Michael Saunders (PHI), OF Colby Rasmus (TB) DH Brandon Moss (KC), SP Jason Hammel (KC), SP Travis Wood (KC), SP Dan Straily (MIA), SP Brett Anderson (CHC), SP Trevor Cahill (SD), SP Tyson Ross (TEX), RP Greg Holland (COL), RP Neftali Feliz (MIL), RP Boone Logan (CLE), RP Santiago Casilla (OAK), RP J.P. Howell (TOR), RP Joe Smith (TOR), RP Fernando Salas (NYM) and RP Jerry Blevins (NYM).

    As with any offseason power rankings, these are not simply meant to be predictions for the year ahead, but instead a look at how teams would stack up with the rosters they currently have if the season were to start today.

    Keep that in mind, as a lot can still change between now and Opening Day.

     

    Note: Players listed in bold on projected rosters indicate newcomers. An (R) next to a player indicates his rookie status is intact.

30. San Diego Padres (Previous: 30)

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    Manuel Margot /
    Manuel Margot /Andy Hayt/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    Just how many rookies will break camp with the San Diego Padres?

    Top prospects Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe are both slated for starting outfield jobs, a trio of Rule 5 picks are in camp and several other young arms will be vying for spots in the pen as the youth movement will be in full swing.

    Meanwhile, the team could still add another low-cost starter before the start of the season after already inking Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard and Trevor Cahill to one-year deals.

    Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the team remains interested in Jered Weaver, while former Padres standout Jake Peavy is a less likely candidate.

    That rotation should speak for itself; it's a rebuilding year, and player development will trump win-loss record in 2017.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    LF Travis Jankowski RHP Jhoulys Chacin
    CF Manuel Margot (R)LHP Clayton Richard
    1B Wil MyersRHP Trevor Cahill
    3B Yangervis Solarte LHP Christian Friedrich
    RF Hunter Renfroe (R) RHP Paul Clemens
    2B Ryan Schimpf Bullpen
    C Austin Hedges RHP Jarred Cosart
    SS Luis Sardinas RHP Miguel Diaz (R)
    Bench RHP Phil Maton (R)
    C Luis Torrens (R) RHP Kevin Quackenbush
    C/OF Christian Bethancourt LHP Ryan Buchter
    1B/OF Alex Dickerson LHP Brad Hand
    IF Erick Aybar RHP Brandon Maurer
    IF Cory Spangenberg  

     

    Projected DL: RP Carter Capps (Tommy John surgery), SP Colin Rea (TJ surgery), SP Robbie Erlin (TJ surgery)

29. Minnesota Twins (Previous: 29)

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    Byron Buxton /
    Byron Buxton /Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The Minnesota Twins looked like a team on the rise when Baseball America awarded them the No. 4 spot in its organizational talent rankings heading into the 2015 season.

    Now it's time for the top three prospects from that group—Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jose Berrios—to live up to the hype, and they could play a big role in helping the team rebound from a 103-loss campaign.

    Pitch-framing whiz Jason Castro and well-traveled reliever Matt Belisle were the only notable additions, and the team is still without a traditional lockdown ninth-inning option.

    Still, there's enough young talent on the roster for the Twins to take a step forward, and the starting rotation couldn't possibly be any worse than the group that posted an MLB-worst 5.39 ERA a year ago.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    2B Brian Dozier RHP Ervin Santana
    SS Jorge Polanco RHP Kyle Gibson
    1B Joe Mauer LHP Hector Santiago
    3B Miguel Sano RHP Phil Hughes
    RF Max Kepler RHP Jose Berrios
    DH Kennys VargasBullpen
    C Jason CastroRHP Justin Haley (R)
    LF Eddie RosarioLHP Taylor Rogers
    CF Byron Buxton RHP Michael Tonkin
    BenchRHP Matt Belisle
    C John Ryan Murphy RHP Ryan Pressly
    IF Eduardo Escobar RHP Trevor May
    IF/OF Danny Santana RHP Brandon Kintzler
    OF Robbie Grossman 

     

    Projected DL: RP Glen Perkins (shoulder)

28. Cincinnati Reds (Previous: 25)

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    Jose Peraza /
    Jose Peraza /Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    Earlier this offseason I wrote how the Cincinnati Reds had a starting rotation that could surprise some people in 2017.

    A late offseason trade of Dan Straily and another elbow surgery for Homer Bailey leaves it looking more like a question mark.

    Top prospects Robert Stephenson and Amir Garrett will both get a long look for the final two spots in the rotation along with Tim Adleman, Cody Reed and a potentially healthy Bronson Arroyo.

    "I think I learned a lot about myself, confidence-wise," Stephenson told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. "I just need to be more relaxed and stay positive. There were times I tried to do too much and impress everyone. That's when I really struggled. I pitched tight. I wasn't relaxed and loose. I pitched a lot better when I was more free."

    Meanwhile, unloading Brandon Phillips on the Atlanta Braves saved the team $1 million, but more importantly, it opened up an everyday gig for 22-year-old Jose Peraza.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF Billy HamiltonRHP Anthony DeSclafani
    SS Zack Cozart LHP Brandon Finnegan
    1B Joey Votto RHP Scott Feldman
    LF Adam Duvall RHP Tim Adleman
    RF Scott Schebler RHP Robert Stephenson (R)
    C Devin Mesoraco Bullpen
    3B Eugenio SuarezRHP Louis Coleman
    2B Jose Peraza RHP Blake Wood
    Bench RHP Jumbo Diaz
    C Tucker Barnhart RHP Drew Storen
    IF/OF Arismendy Alcantara LHP Tony Cingrani
    IF/OF Patrick Kivlehan (R) RHP Michael Lorenzen
    IF/OF Tony Renda RHP Raisel Iglesias
    OF Desmond Jennings 

     

    Projected DL: SP Homer Bailey (elbow surgery, bone spurs)

27. Milwaukee Brewers (Previous: 28)

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    Zach Davies /
    Zach Davies /Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The Milwaukee Brewers are not short on starting rotation options, that's for sure.

    Wily Peralta, Junior Guerra, Zach Davies, Matt Garza, Chase Anderson, Taylor Jungmann, Tommy Milone and prospects Josh Hader, Jorge Lopez and Brandon Woodruff all appear to be potential candidates to break camp as part of the starting staff.

    "We’ve kind of purposely gone into spring with some depth and that’s a really comfortable place to be for the organization," manager Craig Counsell told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "At some point, we’re going to have some decisions (to make) there."

    The group will be backed by a new-look bullpen after Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress were jettisoned at the trade deadline and Tyler Thornburg was traded this offseason. Former AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz will get an opportunity to close games once again.

    The Brewers are still in the early stages of rebuilding, but with one of the best farm systems in baseball, there should be a steady stream of exciting young talent arriving over the next few years.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    2B Jonathan Villar RHP Junior Guerra
    CF Keon Broxton RHP Jimmy Nelson
    LF Ryan Braun RHP Matt Garza
    1B Eric Thames RHP Zach Davies
    3B Travis Shaw RHP Chase Anderson
    RF Domingo SantanaBullpen
    SS Orlando Arcia RHP Wily Peralta
    C Andrew Susac LHP Tommy Milone
    BenchRHP Jacob Barnes
    C Jett BandyRHP Jhan Marinez
    1B Jesus AguilarRHP Carlos Torres
    IF Scooter GennettRHP Corey Knebel
    IF/OF Hernan PerezRHP Neftali Feliz
    OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis  

26. Oakland Athletics (Previous: 27)

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    Sonny Gray /
    Sonny Gray /Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The $33.25 million that the Oakland Athletics spent to sign Trevor Plouffe, Rajai Davis, Matt Joyce and Santiago Casilla this offseason qualifies as a spending spree for the perennially thrifty front office.

    Will it be enough to start heading back in the right direction after a 93-loss season?

    Sonny Gray will be under a microscope this spring as he looks to return to ace form, and the final two spots in the rotation will be up for grabs.

    "There's a lot for the starters to accomplish this year, and it's going to be one of the most important, if not the most important, aspects of the team," Gray told Jane Lee of MLB.com. "The starting rotation really needs to get deep in games, and if we can consistently hand the ball over to our bullpen tied or with the lead, then we're going to win a lot of games."

    Unfortunately, the Astros, Mariners and Rangers all look like legitimate contenders this season, and the Angels are undoubtedly better, so even with an improved staff, the A's could have a tough time climbing out of the cellar.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF Rajai Davis RHP Sonny Gray
    C Stephen Vogt RHP Kendall Graveman
    DH Ryon Healy LHP Sean Manaea
    LF Khris Davis RHP Jharel Cotton (R)
    RF Matt Joyce RHP Andrew Triggs
    SS Marcus Semien Bullpen
    3B Trevor Plouffe RHP Raul Alcantara
    1B Yonder Alonso RHP Liam Hendriks
    2B Jed Lowrie RHP John Axford
    Bench RHP Ryan Dull
    C Bruce MaxwellRHP Santiago Casilla
    1B/OF Mark Canha LHP Sean Doolittle
    IF Adam Rosales RHP Ryan Madson
    OF Jake Smolinski  

        

    Projected DL: SP Chris Bassitt (TJ surgery)

25. Chicago White Sox (Previous: 26)

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    Todd Frazier /
    Todd Frazier /Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    There's no stopping the rebuild now.

    After shipping out Chris Sale and Adam Eaton earlier this offseason, it's only a matter of time before Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and others are also headed elsewhere as well.

    General manager Rick Hahn discussed the Chicago White Sox' current trade talks with Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune:

    "We expect them to continue. We are going to keep an open mind and where there's conversations to be had, we will pursue them. At this point, we have had extensive conversations on various fronts and as we sit here today there's nothing that's gnawing at us or appealing enough to make us move. We are certainly going to keep an open mind, but now the focus tends to shift a little bit to getting ready for the season as opposed to any potential trades."

    One of the more interesting decisions to make this spring will be who the next man up in the rotation is among a trio of top prospectsLucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer.

    All three will be part of the first wave of prospect talent to arrive.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    SS Tim Anderson LHP Jose Quintana
    2B Brett Lawrie RHP Miguel Gonzalez
    LF Melky Cabrera LHP Carlos Rodon
    1B Jose Abreu RHP James Shields
    3B Todd FrazierLHP Derek Holland
    RF Avisail GarciaBullpen
    DH Cody AscheRHP Dylan Covey (R)
    C Geovany Soto RHP Michael Ynoa
      RHP Jake Petricka
    Bench RHP Zach Putnam
    C Omar Narvaez (R) LHP Dan Jennings
    IF Carlos Sanchez RHP Nate Jones
    IF/OF Tyler Saladino RHP David Robertson
    OF Peter Bourjos 

24. Atlanta Braves (Previous: 23)

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    Matt Kemp /
    Matt Kemp /Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The Atlanta Braves might not be ready to contend in 2017, but an improvement over last year's 68-93 record seems like money in the bank.

    Adding Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia and R.A. Dickey to the rotation should help take some pressure off of a young bullpen and will also allow the up-and-coming young starters further time to develop.

    As for the offense, full seasons of deadline-addition Matt Kemp and rookie Dansby Swanson along with the addition of Brandon Phillips will help the club improve on the 4.03 runs per game (29th in MLB) it put up a year ago.

    There's no question this team is still a work in progress as the rebuilding efforts continue.

    The Braves will usher in their new stadium with a considerably more competitive squad, though, and could make a run at a .500 record if everything breaks right.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF Ender Inciarte RHP Julio Teheran
    SS Dansby Swanson (R)RHP Bartolo Colon
    1B Freddie FreemanLHP Jaime Garcia
    LF Matt KempRHP R.A. Dickey
    RF Nick Markakis RHP Mike Foltynewicz
    2B Brandon PhillipsBullpen
    3B Adonis Garcia RHP Josh Collmenter
    C Tyler FlowersRHP Armando Rivero (R)
    Bench RHP Dan Winkler (R)
    C Kurt SuzukiRHP Jose Ramirez
    IF Jace PetersonLHP Ian Krol
    IF/OF Chase d'ArnaudRHP Mauricio Cabrera
    OF Adam Brett Walker (R)RHP Arodys Vizcaino
      RHP Jim Johnson

     

    Projected DL: IF Sean Rodriguez (shoulder surgery), RP Paco Rodriguez (TJ surgery), RP Jacob Lindgren (TJ surgery)

23. Philadelphia Phillies (Previous: 22)

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    Hector Neris /
    Hector Neris /Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    Philadelphia sports fans are well acquainted with cries of "Trust the Process" on the NBA side of things, and the same applies to the MLB squad.

    It's now been five years since the last time the Phillies posted a winning record, and the departure of Ryan Howard this offseason wiped away the last remnant of the 2008 World Series-winning roster.

    The future looks bright, though.

    Aaron Nola, Vincent Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff give the team a trio of starting pitchers to build around, while Rule 5 success story Odubel Herrea and slugger Maikel Franco look like keepers on the position-player side.

    The youth movement will continue this season as J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson and others look to push their way into significant roles.

    Just keep trusting the process, Philly.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    2B Cesar Hernandez RHP Jeremy Hellickson
    LF Howie Kendrick RHP Jerad Eickhoff
    CF Odubel Herrera RHP Aaron Nola
    3B Maikel Franco RHP Vincent Velasquez
    RF Michael SaundersRHP Clay Buchholz
    1B Tommy JosephBullpen
    C Cameron RuppRHP Cesar Ramos
    SS Freddy Galvis RHP Edubray Ramos
    Bench LHP Joely Rodriguez (R)
    C Ryan HaniganRHP Pat Neshek
    1B/OF Daniel Nava RHP Hector Neris
    IF Andres Blanco RHP Jeanmar Gomez
    IF/OF Chris CoghlanRHP Joaquin Benoit
    OF Aaron Altherr 

22. Los Angeles Angels (Previous: 24)

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    Garrett Richards /
    Garrett Richards /Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The Los Angeles Angels went to work this offseason shoring up an offense that was lacking any real punch beyond the trio of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun.

    Luis Valbuena, Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere and Danny Espinosa are not exactly marquee additions, but they'll be welcome additions, and there are no longer black holes at second base and in left field.

    That said, it's the trio of Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker and Tyler Skaggs atop the rotation that could ultimately determine if this team has a chance to contend.

    Richards underwent stem cell treatment on a partially torn UCL last season, avoiding Tommy John surgery, at least for the time being.

    "When I take the mound now, I'm going to take the mound just like I did even if I didn't get hurt," Richards told Maria Guardado of MLB.com. "Mentally and physically, I feel like I'm just ready to go. I don't have doubts in my mind or anything."

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    3B Yunel Escobar RHP Garrett Richards
    RF Kole CalhounRHP Matt Shoemaker
    CF Mike TroutLHP Tyler Skaggs
    DH Albert Pujols RHP Ricky Nolasco
    1B Luis ValbuenaRHP Jesse Chavez
    LF Cameron MaybinBullpen
    2B Danny EspinosaRHP Yusmeiro Petit
    SS Andrelton SimmonsRHP J.C. Ramirez
    C Martin MaldonadoRHP Kirby Yates
    Bench LHP Jose Alvarez
    C Carlos Perez RHP Andrew Bailey
    1B C.J. Cron RHP Cam Bedrosian
    IF Cliff Pennington RHP Huston Street
    OF Ben Revere 

     

    Projected DL: SP Andrew Heaney (TJ surgery), SP Nick Tropeano (TJ surgery)

21. Tampa Bay Rays (Previous: 20)

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    Matt Andriese /
    Matt Andriese /Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The 68-94 record the Tampa Bay Rays posted last season was the franchise's worst showing since the 2007 season, and it's first last-place finish since the same year.

    The AL East figures to be tough once again, but there is some reason for optimism.

    When the Rays are good, it's because their starting rotation is shouldering the load, and if Chris Archer can return to ace form and Blake Snell can take another step forward, there's reason to believe the rotation can be a strength once again.

    Offensively, the additions of Wilson Ramos and Colby Rasmus on the cheap will add some pop to the lineup, and a full season of Matt Duffy should help as well.

    This organization has a knack for squeezing the most out of the talent it has, and a nice uptick in win total seems very possible.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF Kevin Kiermaier RHP Chris Archer
    SS Matt Duffy RHP Jake Odorizzi
    3B Evan Longoria RHP Alex Cobb
    2B Brad MillerLHP Blake Snell
    DH Corey DickersonRHP Matt Andriese
    LF Colby RasmusBullpen
    RF Steven Souza RHP Erasmo Ramirez
    1B Logan MorrisonRHP Kevin Gadea (R)
    C Curt Casali RHP Shawn Tolleson
    Bench RHP Danny Farquhar
    C Luke Maile LHP Xavier Cedeno
    IF Tim Beckham RHP Brad Boxberger
    IF/OF Nick Franklin RHP Alex Colome
    OF Rickie Weeks Jr. 

     

    Projected DL: C Wilson Ramos (knee surgery), SP Nathan Eovaldi (TJ surgery)

20. Arizona Diamondbacks (Previous: 19)

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    Brandon Drury /
    Brandon Drury /Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    A top prospect who develops more slowly than expected but eventually turns into the player he was expected to become is often referred to as a "post-hype sleeper" when speaking in fantasy baseball terms.

    The Arizona Diamondbacks could be the "post-hype sleeper" team of 2017.

    After adding Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller last offseason, there were legitimate postseason hopes heading into 2016, but instead, the team went 69-93, which represented a 10-win decline over the previous year.

    So what's the cause for optimism?

    Healthy seasons from A.J. Pollock and David Peralta and a deep crop of starting pitchers that includes newcomer Taijuan Walker and breakout candidate Robbie Ray could give be enough for this team to push for a wild-card spot.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF A.J. Pollock RHP Zack Greinke
    SS Chris Owings LHP Robbie Ray
    1B Paul Goldschmidt RHP Taijuan Walker
    RF David Peralta RHP Shelby Miller
    LF Yasmany Tomas LHP Patrick Corbin
    3B Jake LambBullpen
    2B Brandon DruryRHP Tyler Jones (R)
    C Chris IannettaRHP Kevin Jepsen
    BenchRHP Tom Wilhelmsen
    C Jeff Mathis LHP Andrew Chafin
    C/OF Chris Herrmann RHP Randall Delgado
    IF Nick Ahmed RHP Jake Barrett
    IF/OF Daniel DescalsoRHP Fernando Rodney
    OF Gregor Blanco 

19. Baltimore Orioles (Previous: 18)

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    Dylan Bundy /
    Dylan Bundy /Matthew Hazlett/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    For better or worse, it looks like the Baltimore Orioles are finished making moves this offseason.

    They've essentially swapped out Pedro Alvarez and Matt Wieters for Seth Smith and Welington Castillo on the offensive side of things, while swingman Logan Verrett has been the most notable addition on the pitching side.

    Is that going to be enough to keep pace in the AL East and push for a return trip to the postseason?

    An already weak starting rotation could be without Chris Tillman to start the season after he had a platelet-rich-plasma injection in his shoulder in December.

    That will put the team's lack of starting pitching depth to the test right away as Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, Gabriel Ynoa and Verrett are the leading candidates to step in for Tillman.

    The bullpen figures to be a clear strength once again, and it will have to be if the Orioles are going to have any chance of contending.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF Adam JonesRHP Kevin Gausman
    RF Seth SmithRHP Dylan Bundy
    3B Manny Machado RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
    1B Chris DavisLHP Wade Miley
    DH Mark Trumbo RHP Mike Wright
    2B Jonathan Schoop Bullpen
    C Welington Castillo LHP T.J. McFarland
    SS J.J. Hardy RHP Oliver Drake
    LF Hyun Soo Kim LHP Donnie Hart
    Bench RHP Mychal Givens
    C Caleb Joseph RHP Darren O'Day
    1B/OF Christian Walker RHP Brad Brach
    IF/OF Ryan Flaherty LHP Zach Britton
    OF Joey Rickard 

     

    Projected DL: Chris Tillman (PRP injection in shoulder)

18. Kansas City Royals (Previous: 21)

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    Matt Strahm /
    Matt Strahm /Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The Kansas City Royals have taken a cautiously optimistic approach to the offseason, shoring up roster holes with mid-level, short-term signings in an effort to make one final run at contention with the current core.

    Change is coming, though.

    Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar are all headed for free agency next winter, and the money simply isn't there to keep that group intact. 

    In fact, a midseason fire sale isn't out of the question if they slip too far back in the AL Central standings by the time the deadline rolls around.

    All of that said, the additions of Jason Hammel and Travis Wood shore up a starting rotation that previously looked like the most glaring weakness, and this is still a team capable of winning games with speed, defense and quality relief pitching.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    SS Alcides Escobar LHP Danny Duffy
    3B Mike Moustakas RHP Ian Kennedy
    CF Lorenzo CainLHP Jason Vargas
    1B Eric Hosmer RHP Jason Hammel
    C Salvador PerezLHP Travis Wood
    LF Alex GordonBullpen
    RF Jorge Soler LHP Mike Minor
    DH Brandon MossRHP Chris Young
    2B Raul Mondesi LHP Scott Alexander
    BenchRHP Chris Withrow
    C Drew Butera LHP Matt Strahm (R)
    IF Christian Colon RHP Joakim Soria
    IF Cheslor Cuthbert RHP Kelvin Herrera
    OF Paulo Orlando 

     

    Projected DL: RP Brian Flynn (fractured rib)

17. Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous: 17)

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    Andrew McCutchen /
    Andrew McCutchen /Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    It's not often you see a team that isn't in the process of rebuilding suffer a 20-win drop-off from one year to the next.

    That's what the Pittsburgh Pirates dealt with in 2016 as they went from 98-64 to 78-83 with essentially the same core group of players.

    So what now?

    The starting rotation will be banking on a return to form from Gerrit Cole and continued progression from young arms like Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl and others.

    As for the offense, expecting Andrew McCutchen to return to MVP form might be asking too much, but he should be able to improve on what was easily the worst season of his career in what may very well be his final season in Pittsburgh.

    If the young arms progress as hoped and the offensive core can stay healthy and productive, a vast improvement over last season and another trip to the Wild Card Round is not out of the question.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    2B Josh Harrison RHP Gerrit Cole
    1B Josh Bell (R) RHP Ivan Nova
    RF Andrew McCutchen RHP Jameson Taillon
    CF Starling MarteRHP Chad Kuhl
    LF Gregory Polanco RHP Drew Hutchison
    3B Jung Ho KangBullpen
    C Francisco Cervelli LHP Wade LeBlanc
    SS Jordy Mercer RHP Juan Nicasio
    BenchLHP Antonio Bastardo
    C Chris StewartRHP Jared Hughes
    1B John Jaso LHP Felipe Rivero
    1B/3B David Freese RHP Daniel Hudson
    IF Alen Hanson (R) LHP Tony Watson
    IF/OF Adam Frazier 

16. Miami Marlins (Previous: 15)

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    Adam Conley /
    Adam Conley /Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    They may have missed out on signing Kenley Jansen, but the Miami Marlins still have the makings of a "super bullpen" after adding Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa to an already stacked relief corps.

    "The main thing to me is we took a strength and made it even better," manager Don Mattingly told Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. "We've given it some different looks. Brad gives us a guy who gives us some different angles, and he's also pitched late in games. He's closed. He's been a setup guy. Although he is better against righties, he's pretty good against lefties, also."

    He continued: "Junichi gives us a guy who really is a different look, also, with the split. He's had a lot of success against left-handed hitters. We've got some different looks."

    Those two will join A.J. Ramos, Kyle Barraclough and David Phelps—whom Mattingly called a "weapon" thanks to his multi-inning abilities.

    A healthy Giancarlo Stanton and another step forward from left-hander Adam Conley appear to be the biggest X-factors for the lineup and rotation, respectively.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    2B Dee Gordon LHP Wei-Yin Chen
    3B Martin PradoRHP Edinson Volquez
    CF Christian Yelich LHP Adam Conley
    RF Giancarlo StantonRHP Dan Straily
    LF Marcell Ozuna RHP Tom Koehler
    1B Justin Bour Bullpen
    C J.T. Realmuto LHP Jeff Locke
    SS Adeiny Hechavarria RHP David Phelps
    Bench RHP Jose Urena
    C A.J. EllisRHP Dustin McGowan
    IF Miguel RojasRHP Junichi Tazawa
    IF/OF Derek DietrichRHP Brad Ziegler
    OF Ichiro SuzukiRHP Kyle Barraclough
      RHP A.J. Ramos

15. Colorado Rockies (Previous: 16)

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    Jeff Hoffman /
    Jeff Hoffman /Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    Do the Colorado Rockies have enough pitching to contend?

    That's the million-dollar question, and for the first time in years, the answer is not a resounding no.

    Jon Gray showed flashes of emerging as a legitimate front line last season, while Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson and Tyler Chatwood all posted an ERA+ north of 100.

    With a pair of good young arms in Jeff Hoffman (No. 36 prospect, per Baseball America) and German Marquez (No. 53 prospect) knocking on the door for the first time in a long time, the rotation actually has a chance to be a strength.

    Adding Mike Dunn and Greg Holland to the bullpen should also go a long way toward improving a relief corps that finished last in the majors with a 5.13 ERA a year ago.

    The rest of the NL West and the baseball world in general would be wise not to underestimate the Rockies.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF Charlie Blackmon RHP Jon Gray
    2B DJ LeMahieu RHP Chad Bettis
    3B Nolan Arenado LHP Tyler Anderson
    RF Carlos Gonzalez RHP Tyler Chatwood
    1B Ian Desmond RHP Jeff Hoffman (R)
    LF David Dahl Bullpen
    SS Trevor Story RHP Jordan Lyles
    C Tony Wolters LHP Chris Rusin
    Bench RHP Chad Qualls
    C Tom Murphy (R)LHP Mike Dunn
    1B/3B Mark Reynolds RHP Jason Motte
    IF/OF Alexi Amarista LHP Jake McGee
    OF Gerardo ParraRHP Greg Holland
      RHP Adam Ottavino

     

    Projected DL: RP Jairo Diaz (TJ surgery)

14. Detroit Tigers (Previous: 14)

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    Nick Castellanos /
    Nick Castellanos /G Fiume/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The Detroit Tigers were 40-32 with a plus-30 run differential after the All-Star break last season.

    That was apparently enough to convince the front office to put off rebuilding for another year in favor of pushing for a postseason spot once again in 2017.

    If J.D. Martinez stays healthy (120 G) and Justin Upton hits anything like he did in September (1.132 OPS, 13 HR, 28 RBI) the offense could be among the best in baseball.

    Meanwhile, the emergence of Michael Fulmer and strong late-season performances from young lefties Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd mean the rotation will be less reliant on the high-priced duo of Jordan Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez this season.

    Still, the gap between the Tigers and Indians in the AL Central looks awfully wide, and the wild-card picture is always a crapshoot. They might regret not getting the ball rolling on that inevitable rebuild.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    2B Ian Kinsler RHP Justin Verlander
    RF J.D. Martinez RHP Michael Fulmer
    1B Miguel Cabrera RHP Jordan Zimmermann
    DH Victor Martinez RHP Anibal Sanchez
    LF Justin Upton LHP Daniel Norris
    3B Nick Castellanos Bullpen
    C James McCann RHP Mike Pelfrey
    CF Tyler CollinsLHP Daniel Stumpf (R)
    SS Jose Iglesias RHP Mark Lowe
    Bench RHP Bruce Rondon
    C Alex Avila LHP Justin Wilson
    IF/OF Andrew Romine RHP Alex Wilson
    OF Mikie Mahtook RHP Francisco Rodriguez
    OF Steven Moya  

13. New York Yankees (Previous: 13)

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    Aaron Judge /
    Aaron Judge /Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The New York Yankees' chances of contending in 2017 hinge on the success of the starting rotation.

    Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda are locks for the first three spots on the staff, leaving a handful of inexperienced arms with varying levels of upside to round out the staff.

    Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa and Chad Green are the four leading candidates, while Triple-A standout Jordan Montgomery might be the dark horse to break camp with a rotation job if he has a strong spring.

    With eight of the team's top-10 prospectsper Baseball America—invited to big league camp this spring, the future will be on full display in Tampa.

    The one to watch with regards to the Opening Day roster will be slugger Aaron Judge, who is vying for the starting right field job. After striking out 42 times in 95 plate appearances last season, more time in Triple-A will do him good.

    This is going to be a competitive Yankees team, but it might still be a couple of years away from making a serious push.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    LF Brett Gardner RHP Masahiro Tanaka
    CF Jacoby Ellsbury LHP CC Sabathia
    C Gary Sanchez RHP Michael Pineda
    DH Matt Holliday RHP Luis Severino
    1B Greg BirdRHP Bryan Mitchell
    2B Starlin CastroBullpen
    SS Didi Gregorius RHP Luis Cessa
    3B Chase Headley LHP Chasen Shreve
    RF Aaron Hicks RHP Adam Warren
    Bench LHP Tommy Layne
    C Austin Romine RHP Tyler Clippard
    1B Chris Carter RHP Dellin Betances
    1B/OF Tyler Austin (R)LHP Aroldis Chapman
    IF Ronald Torreyes 

12. Seattle Mariners (Previous: 12)

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    Felix Hernandez /
    Felix Hernandez /Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    At last tally, the Seattle Mariners had 17 newcomers on the 40-man roster, including 10 players projected for Opening Day roster spots, per Roster Resource.

    Maybe GM Jerry Dipoto will sleep next offseason.

    Adding Jean Segura and Jarrod Dyson ahead of a trio of 30-homer sluggers in the lineup and shoring up the back of the rotation with veterans Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly leaves the club without any glaring holes heading into the year.

    If Felix Hernandez can return to top-tier form and James Paxton can take the next step, the pitching staff has a chance to be improved even after Taijuan Walker was shipped to Arizona.

    The AL West is going to be a battle this season, but the Mariners look to have as good a chance as ever to reach the postseason for the first time since 2001.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    RF Jarrod Dyson RHP Felix Hernandez
    SS Jean Segura RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
    2B Robinson Cano LHP James Paxton
    DH Nelson CruzRHP Yovani Gallardo
    3B Kyle Seager LHP Drew Smyly
    C Mike Zunino Bullpen
    1B Dan Vogelbach (R)RHP Chris Heston
    LF Mitch Haniger (R) RHP Dan Altavilla (R)
    CF Leonys Martin RHP Evan Scribner
    BenchRHP Casey Fien
    C Carlos RuizLHP Marc Rzepczynski
    IF/OF Shawn O'Malley RHP Nick Vincent
    IF/OF Danny Valencia RHP Edwin Diaz
    OF Guillermo Heredia (R) 

     

    Projected DL: RP Steve Cishek (hip surgery)

11. New York Mets (Previous: 11)

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    Zack Wheeler /
    Zack Wheeler /Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    On paper, the New York Mets have a pitching staff that stacks up to any in baseball.

    However, with Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet surgery), Jacob deGrom (ulnar nerve surgery) and Steven Matz (elbow bone spur removal) all undergoing offseason operations and Zack Wheeler already dealing with some "elbow tenderness" this spring, it's a staff lacking in stability.

    That begs the question: Does this team have enough offense to pick up the slack?

    After ranking 25th in the majors at 4.14 runs per game last season, the Mets re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, and Neil Walker accepted his qualifying offer, but not a single addition was made to the lineup.

    Instead, the team will hope a healthy Lucas Duda and a full season of Jay Bruce can make the difference.

    For a team whose window to win is open right now, it just doesn't seem like the Mets did nearly enough to seize that opportunity this winter.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF Curtis Granderson RHP Noah Syndergaard
    SS Asdrubal Cabrera RHP Jacob deGrom
    LF Yoenis Cespedes RHP Matt Harvey
    RF Jay Bruce LHP Steven Matz
    2B Neil WalkerRHP Zack Wheeler
    3B David WrightBullpen
    1B Lucas Duda RHP Erik Goeddel
    C Travis d'Arnaud LHP Josh Edgin
    Bench RHP Fernando Salas
    C Rene Rivera LHP Jerry Blevins
    IF Wilmer Flores RHP Hansel Robles
    IF Jose Reyes RHP Addison Reed
    IF/OF T.J. Rivera (R) RHP Jeurys Familia
    OF Juan Lagares  

10. Texas Rangers (Previous: 10)

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    Nomar Mazara /
    Nomar Mazara /John Williamson/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The Texas Rangers are on the hot seat in the AL West.

    After a 95-win season last year, they've had a somewhat understated offseason, while the Astros, Mariners and even Angels have all made sweeping changes to their respective rosters.

    Bringing back Mike Napoli for a third tour of duty was a smart move to help replace Carlos Beltran and Mitch Moreland in the lineup, and the offense should be dangerous once again.

    The big question mark is the starting rotation.

    Can Martin Perez, A.J. Griffin and newcomers Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Dillon Gee provide enough support to co-aces Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish for this team to hold onto its division supremacy?

    Otherwise, it could be another busy trade deadline for the front office.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF Carlos Gomez LHP Cole Hamels
    RF Shin-Soo Choo RHP Yu Darvish
    3B Adrian BeltreRHP Andrew Cashner
    DH Mike Napoli LHP Martin Perez
    2B Rougned Odor RHP A.J. Griffin
    C Jonathan LucroyBullpen
    LF Nomar MazaraRHP Dillon Gee
    SS Elvis Andrus LHP Alex Claudio
    1B James Loney RHP Keone Kela
    BenchRHP Tony Barnette
    C Robinson Chirinos RHP Matt Bush
    IF Jurickson Profar RHP Jeremy Jeffress
    IF/OF Ryan Rua RHP Sam Dyson
    OF Delino DeShields Jr. 

     

    Projected DL: SP Tyson Ross (thoracic outlet surgery), RP Jake Diekman (ulcerative colitis surgery)

9. St. Louis Cardinals (Previous: 8)

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    Alex Reyes /
    Alex Reyes /Justin Berl/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    As a baseball fan in general, the news that electric young starter Alex Reyes will be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery was a kick in the gut.

    The St. Louis Cardinals still have plenty of starting pitching depth, as Reyes was expected to compete with Michael Wacha and Luke Weaver for the No. 5 starter job.

    There's a reason the 22-year-old is widely regarded as the game's top pitching prospect, though.

    That being said, this still looks like a dangerous Cardinals team, as the additions of Dexter Fowler and Brett Cecil addressed the two most glaring needs on the roster.

    With improved defense and a bit more stability in the bullpen from the onsetremember Trevor Rosenthal struggled early last year and the coaching staff was forced to shuffle the relief corps—a return trip to the postseason looks well within reach.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF Dexter Fowler RHP Carlos Martinez
    SS Aledmys Diaz RHP Adam Wainwright
    1B Matt Carpenter RHP Lance Lynn
    RF Stephen Piscotty RHP Mike Leake
    LF Randal Grichuk RHP Michael Wacha
    C Yadier MolinaBullpen
    3B Jedd Gyorko RHP Matt Bowman
    2B Kolten Wong RHP Miguel Socolovich
    Bench RHP Jonathan Broxton
    C Eric FryerLHP Brett Cecil
    1B Matt Adams RHP Trevor Rosenthal
    IF Greg Garcia LHP Kevin Siegrist
    IF Jhonny Peralta RHP Seung Hwan Oh
    OF Tommy Pham  

     

    Projected DL: SP Alex Reyes (partially torn UCL), RP Zach Duke (TJ surgery), RP Tyler Lyons (knee surgery)

8. San Francisco Giants (Previous: 6)

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    Jarrett Parker /
    Jarrett Parker /Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The San Francisco Giants used up the bulk of their payroll flexibility to sign closer Mark Melancon, addressing what was easily the most glaring weakness on the roster.

    However, that hasn't stopped them from continuing to hunt for bargains on the free-agent market.

    Along with signing veteran catcher Nick Hundley to a one-year, $2 million deal, they've also added the likes of Tim Federowicz, Josmil Pinto, Michael Morse, Gordon Beckham, Jimmy Rollins, Justin Ruggiano, Michael Roth, David Hernandez, Bryan Morris, Neil Ramirez, Jose Dominguez and KBO standout Jae-gyun Hwan on minor league deals.

    That's an awful lot of MLB experience and depth on the cheap.

    The left field position battle and the health of Matt Cain are the biggest stories to follow, though the presence of Ty Blach and Tyler Beede gives the team some intriguing rotation depth.

         

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF Denard Span LHP Madison Bumgarner
    2B Joe Panik RHP Johnny Cueto
    C Buster Posey RHP Jeff Samardzija
    RF Hunter Pence LHP Matt Moore
    1B Brandon Belt RHP Matt Cain
    SS Brandon CrawfordBullpen
    3B Eduardo Nunez RHP Cory Gearrin
    LF Jarrett Parker RHP George Kontos
    Bench LHP Steven Okert (R)
    C Nick Hundley RHP Hunter Strickland
    1B/3B Conor Gillaspie LHP Will Smith
    IF Jae-gyun Hwang (R) RHP Derek Law
    OF Gorkys HernandezRHP Mark Melancon
    OF Mac Williamson 

7. Toronto Blue Jays (Previous: 7)

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    Devon Travis /
    Devon Travis /Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The Toronto Blue Jays finally addressed their need for more bullpen help.

    Despite a late dive into the reliever market, they still walked away with a pair of quality veteran arms in Joe Smith and J.P. Howell on matching one-year, $3 million deals.

    Meanwhile, it sounds like the days of treating Aaron Sanchez with kid gloves are over.

    "I don't see any limitations," manager John Gibbons told Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. "He ended up throwing a full year last year, because some good things happened, he pitched later. But, yeah, he's a big, strong kid, he worked really hard this winter ... he's good to go, no concerns."

    He'll once again front a rotation that paced the AL with a 3.64 ERA last season and tied for the MLB lead with 100 quality starts.

    That pitching staff should be able to offset any downturn in offensive production that might come with the departure of Edwin Encarnacion.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    2B Devon Travis RHP Aaron Sanchez
    3B Josh Donaldson LHP J.A. Happ
    RF Jose Bautista RHP Marco Estrada
    DH Kendrys Morales RHP Marcus Stroman
    SS Troy Tulowitzki LHP Francisco Liriano
    1B Justin Smoak Bullpen
    C Russell Martin RHP Mike Bolsinger
    CF Kevin PillarLHP Aaron Loup
    LF Ezequiel Carrera RHP Joe Smith
    BenchLHP J.P. Howell
    C Jarrod Saltalamacchia RHP Joe Biagini
    IF/OF Darwin Barney RHP Jason Grilli
    IF/OF Steve Pearce RHP Roberto Osuna
    OF Melvin Upton Jr. 

6. Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous: 9)

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    Rich Hill /
    Rich Hill /Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    Since these rankings were last updated, the Los Angeles Dodgers have found their second baseman (Logan Forsythe) and made a significant addition to the bullpen (Sergio Romo).

    That's enough for them to climb several spots in the rankings and once again pull into the role of favorite in the NL Westa division they've won four years running.

    That's not to say there are not still questions that need answering, though.

    The back of the starting rotation and both corner outfield spots are wide open heading into camp, and a return to health from guys like Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Trayce Thompson and Andre Ethier gives the team plenty of options in both areas.

    Keep an eye on top prospect Cody Bellinger this spring. He's long been viewed as the heir to Adrian Gonzalez at first base but could break in as a corner outfielder if the opportunity presents itself.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    2B Logan Forsythe LHP Clayton Kershaw
    SS Corey Seager LHP Rich Hill
    3B Justin Turner RHP Kenta Maeda
    1B Adrian Gonzalez LHP Scott Kazmir
    C Yasmani Grandal LHP Julio Urias
    CF Joc Pederson Bullpen
    RF Yasiel Puig RHP Brandon McCarthy
    LF Andrew Toles LHP Alex Wood
    Bench LHP Luis Avilan
    C/IF Austin Barnes (R)RHP Sergio Romo
    1B/OF Darin Ruf LHP Grant Dayton
    IF Chase UtleyRHP Pedro Baez
    OF Andre Ethier RHP Kenley Jansen
    OF Franklin Gutierrez 

     

    Projected DL: SP Hyun-Jin Ryu (elbow surgery), RP Yimi Garcia (TJ surgery)

5. Houston Astros (Previous: 5)

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    Yulieski Gurriel /
    Yulieski Gurriel /Brad Mangin/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    Some teams wait around on the free-agent market in hopes of finding a bargain. The Baltimore Orioles come to mind as a club that has enjoyed some success with that approach.

    The Houston Astros represent the opposite end of the spectrum.

    It's been a busy offseason for the 'Stros, but the last notable move came all the way back on Dec. 5 when Carlos Beltran joined Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, Charlie Morton and Nori Aoki as newcomers to the roster.

    Just shows there's no wrong way to approach the offseason.

    The big question now is whether they've done enough to be legitimate title contenders or if that move to acquire a front-line starter will still come at some point in the near future.

    The continued development of young arms like Lance McCullers, Joe Musgrove, David Paulino and No. 1 prospect Francis Martes could go a long way in making that a moot point.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    CF George Springer LHP Dallas Keuchel
    2B Jose Altuve RHP Lance McCullers
    SS Carlos Correa RHP Collin McHugh
    DH Carlos Beltran RHP Mike Fiers
    C Brian McCannRHP Charlie Morton
    3B Alex Bregman Bullpen
    RF Josh Reddick RHP Chris Devenski
    1B Yulieski Gurriel (R) RHP Brad Peacock
    LF Nori Aoki RHP Michael Feliz
    Bench LHP Tony Sipp
    C Evan Gattis RHP Luke Gregerson
    1B/OF Preston Tucker RHP Will Harris
    OF Teoscar Hernandez (R) RHP Ken Giles
    OF Jake Marisnick  

4. Washington Nationals (Previous: 4)

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    Stephen Strasburg /
    Stephen Strasburg /Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    Manager Dusty Baker is going to get awfully sick of answering questions about the closer spot this spring.

    After failing to add an outside replacement for the departing Mark Melancon, the team will rely on its in-house talent to fill the void.

    Standout setup man Shawn Kelley and ground-ball machine Blake Treinen are the leading candidates.

    "Somebody is going to be pitching the ninth inning," right-hander Shawn Kelley told Jamal Collier of MLB.com. "We aren't closer-less, because somebody in here is going to close."

    Both pitchers enjoyed strong 2016 seasons:

    • Kelley: 67 G, 7 SV, 13 HLD, 2.64 ERA, 0.90 ERA, 12.4 K/9
    • Treinen: 73 G, 1 SV, 22 HLD, 2.28 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.5 K/9

    Kelley has a long track record of missing bats, while Treinen ranked second among qualified relievers with a 65.9 percent ground-ball rate.

    With a deep starting rotation and potentially dangerous lineup if Bryce Harper can return to form, the bullpen looks like the big X-factor in the Nationals' hopes of contending for a title.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    SS Trea Turner RHP Max Scherzer
    CF Adam Eaton RHP Stephen Strasburg
    2B Daniel Murphy RHP Tanner Roark
    RF Bryce Harper LHP Gio Gonzalez
    3B Anthony Rendon RHP Joe Ross
    LF Jayson Werth Bullpen
    1B Ryan Zimmerman LHP Enny Romero
    C Derek NorrisRHP A.J. Cole
    Bench LHP Oliver Perez
    C Jose Lobaton RHP Trevor Gott
    1B Adam Lind LHP Sammy Solis
    1B/OF Clint Robinson RHP Blake Treinen
    IF Stephen Drew RHP Shawn Kelley
    OF Chris Heisey 

3. Boston Red Sox (Previous: 3)

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    Andrew Benintendi /
    Andrew Benintendi /Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The Boston Red Sox might have the two most compelling position battles in all of baseball.

    The most talked about will be Drew Pomeranz, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez duking it out for the final two spots in the starting rotation.

    That's two 2016 All-Stars and an exciting young starter in E-Rod, who could wind up being a front-line quality arm if he puts it all together. It's a good problem to have.

    The other is deciding who will be handling those starters and the rest of the pitching staff as Sandy Leon tries to hold off Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart for the starting catcher job.

    Leon hit .310/.369/.476 in a breakout season last year, but it's impossible to ignore his .392 BABIP, which would be unsustainable even for someone with plus speed. Vazquez is a defensive standout and Swihart has the top prospect pedigree, so they'll get a long look.

    At any rate, this Red Sox team looks to stack up with any in baseball in terms of overall talent.

    A somewhat thin bullpenat least relative to the two teams ranked ahead of themand overcoming the loss of David Ortiz, both in the lineup and in the clubhouse, are what keeps them in the No. 3 spot.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    2B Dustin Pedroia LHP Chris Sale
    LF Andrew Benintendi (R) LHP David Price
    SS Xander Bogaerts RHP Rick Porcello
    RF Mookie Betts LHP Drew Pomeranz
    DH Hanley RamirezRHP Steven Wright
    CF Jackie Bradley Jr.Bullpen
    3B Pablo Sandoval RHP Heath Hembree
    1B Mitch Moreland LHP Fernando Abad
    C Sandy LeonRHP Matt Barnes
    Bench LHP Robbie Ross Jr.
    C Christian Vazquez RHP Joe Kelly
    IF Josh RutledgeRHP Tyler Thornburg
    IF/OF Brock Holt RHP Craig Kimbrel
    OF Chris Young 

     

    Projected DL: Carson Smith (TJ surgery)

2. Cleveland Indians (Previous: 2)

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    Andrew Miller /
    Andrew Miller /Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    As big as the signing of Edwin Encarnacion will be for the Cleveland Indians, a healthy Michael Brantley has a chance to make an even bigger impact on the lineup.

    It's understandable then that the Indians are being cautious with the former All-Star this spring, already ruling him out of the spring opener Feb. 25.

    "That's too quick," manager Terry Francona told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. "He's worked so hard and to have him back will be so nice. It's just, we're going to do it right, so he can have his best chance to be successful."

    Brantley played in just 11 games last season while battling a bum shoulder.

    The Indians have also added lefty reliever Boone Logan to the relief corps since these rankings were last updated, giving them even more flexibility to deploy Andrew Miller in any situation since they'll now have a second quality left-hander in the pen.

    Keep an eye on prospect Bradley Zimmer this spring. He hit .257/.421/.514 with 11 extra-base hits in the Arizona Fall League and could push Tyler Naquin for the center field job. Naquin had a bloated .411 BABIP last year and looks like a significant regression candidate.

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    DH Carlos Santana RHP Corey Kluber
    2B Jason Kipnis RHP Carlos Carrasco
    SS Francisco Lindor RHP Danny Salazar
    1B Edwin Encarnacion RHP Trevor Bauer
    LF Michael Brantley RHP Josh Tomlin
    3B Jose RamirezBullpen
    RF Lonnie ChisenhallRHP Hoby Milner (R)
    C Yan Gomes RHP Zach McAllister
    CF Tyler NaquinRHP Dan Otero
    BenchLHP Boone Logan
    C Roberto Perez RHP Bryan Shaw
    IF Michael Martinez LHP Andrew Miller
    OF Abraham Almonte RHP Cody Allen
    OF Brandon Guyer  

1. Chicago Cubs (Previous: 1)

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    Willson Contreras /
    Willson Contreras /Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Spring Outlook

    The Chicago Cubs have added an interesting wrinkle to the pitching staff since we last visited these rankings, signing oft-injured Brett Anderson to compete for the No. 5 starter job.

    Ideally, he'd run with the opportunity and stay healthy all season, allowing Mike Montgomery to be utilized as the primary left-hander out of the bullpen. That may be wishful thinking, though, considering Anderson has made 30 starts just twice in his eight-year career and pitched a grand total of 11.1 innings last season.

    Still, it's a nice low-risk move that could really pay off.

    The battles for the final bench spot between Tommy La Stella and Matt Szczur and the final bullpen spot between Brian Duensing, Rule 5 pick Caleb Smith and a handful of others look like the only major roster decisions.

    Meanwhile, a Jake Arrieta extension could still be in the works.

    "I owe a lot to this team and this organization," Arrieta told Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. "I don't want to see my time here come to an end. ... I think there's opportunity, and we can have conversations as far as an extension is concerned."

     

    Projected Opening Day Roster (as of Feb. 15)

    Starting LineupStarting Rotation
    LF Kyle Schwarber LHP Jon Lester
    3B Kris Bryant RHP Jake Arrieta
    1B Anthony Rizzo RHP Kyle Hendricks
    2B Ben Zobrist RHP John Lackey
    SS Addison RussellLHP Brett Anderson
    C Willson ContrerasBullpen
    RF Jason Heyward LHP Brian Duensing
    CF Jon Jay RHP Justin Grimm
    BenchLHP Mike Montgomery
    C Miguel Montero RHP Carl Edwards Jr.
    IF Javier BaezRHP Pedro Strop
    OF Albert Almora Jr.RHP Koji Uehara
    OF Matt SzczurRHP Hector Rondon
     RHP Wade Davis

     

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Contract information via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.