Every Sunday night/Monday morning of the 2011 baseball season, I will be doing Power Rankings. This is the 1st look into those rankings. This list factors in offseason moves, combined with success from last year. I don't really take spring training success into account because as we all know, spring training usually has little meaning on how a player actually produces.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
I actually like the Pirates to move out of the NL Central Cellar this year, with the Astros earning that title. Until they prove otherwise, however, the perennial bottom dwellers earn the bottom spot on these rankings. They didn't do much this offseason; their biggest moves were acquiring a pitcher with an ERA over 5.00 last year (Kevin Correia) and a part time outfielder (Matt Diaz).
29. Houston Astros
Like I just said, I have the Astros finishing last in the NL Central this year, so they have to be down towards the bottom of this list. They have some decent players (Pence, Lee), and some promising arms (Rodriguez, Norris), but I just don't see them being able to put together even 75 wins this year. Baseball prospectus has them finishing with 69 wins and I could see that as a definite possibility.
28. Arizona Diamondbacks
It was only a couple years ago that the D-Backs had some serious young talent and everyone had them pegged to be the next young team to make a lot of noise. My, how things have changed. Chris Young and Justin Upton have serious talent, but they haven't been able to quite figure it out yet. Daniel Hudson looks like he could be a future Ace, but other than that, there's not much to speak of with the D-Backs. After a promising 2008, Stephen Drew hasn't lived up to expectations, like the D-Backs in recent years.
27. Kansas City Royals
Hopes are bright for the Royals future. They have the best farm system in baseball, by a wide margin, but it isn't ready to help them just yet. They have 3 top 20 prospects that could have an impact as early as 2012. Royals fans just have to suffer through one more year of bad baseball until the have a shot to start making some noise.
26. Seattle Mariners
How do you get the best pitcher in baseball a 13-12 record? That's something that astonishes me to this day. There's no way the Mariners can be that bad again, right? I mean, you almost have to try to be that bad. I think they'll have a better year this year, but then again, that's not saying a whole lot.
25. Cleveland Indians
After the departure of LeBron, it looks like hard times are just gonna keep falling upon Cleveland sports fans. They don't really have a competitive team in any sport to root for right now and I don't see the Indians changing that any time soon. Shin-Soo Choo has been a great story and Matt LaPorta has 30 home run potential (if he can figure it out), but other than that, not much to root for this year with the Indians.
24. Washington Nationals
The Nationals made a big splash this offseason, giving out over $120 million to Jasyon Werth. The question is, will it be Werth it? (terrible pun, I know). Werth could struggle early in the year, having to go against the pitching of the Phillies and Braves, but in the long run, I think he'll have a good year for the Nats. I don't think he was worth the money they gave him, but we'll see what happens.
23. San Diego Padres
This might seem very low to a lot of people, especially after how competitive the Padres were until the very end last year, but their whole offense is gone. It's hard to say that when you're talking about one guy, but who is going to drive in runs for them? You can't win if you don't score. I expect Matt Latos to experience a slight drop in numbers, although I still think he'll have a good year. I just don't see pitching alone being able to carry the Padres through the season.
22. Toronto Blue Jays
I actually think that the Blue Jays have a decent team and would probably be ranked higher than this if it weren't for the division they play in. My God. The AL East is like walking into a buzz saw this year. The Red Sox got A LOT better, the Yankees are always around 90 wins, the Rays look like they are going to stay competitive and the Orioles have a brand spankin' new team that has a lot of people turning their heads. This section ended up not even really being about the Blue Jays, but that's also how the AL East is going to be this year.
21. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are another team that has talent and definitely has potential, but people have been saying that about the Cubs for a while now. If they can put everything together, they have a legitimate shot at 85-87 wins, but as of now, that's a big "if."
20. Florida Marlins
The Marlins have a lot of young talent and have a chance to be competitive for the Wild Card this year. The problem is that they tend to fade late. They have one of the best pitchers in baseball, in Josh Johnson, but they don't have a ton after him. They have arms with potential, but they haven't produced at a high quality yet.
19. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles probably had the busiest offseason of any team. Their new additions include Derrek Lee, Vlad Guerrero, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds and Kevin Gregg. They have a very solid outfield and people tend to underrate Luke Scott. He could get over the 30 HR hump this year. If Matt Wieters lives up to his potential, that would be huge for the Orioles. The O's lineup will be pretty scary at times this year.
18. New York Mets
Injuries have been the story of the Mets for the past 2 years. People forget that the Mets were only a 1/2 game out of 1st place in the NL East and a game up in the Wild Card as far into the season as early July last year. But then injuries hit once again. If the Mets can stay healthy, they have a lot of talent. One through six in their lineup has a lot of pop and can produce some runs. The Mets will need Mike Pelfrey and R.A. Dickey to repeat their success from last year in order to make any kind of run this year. Also, Jon Niese looks like he's on the brink of a breakout year.
17. Oakland Athletics
The Athletics are basically out of the same mold that the Padres are, they just seem to be a little better with it. The A's have a very underrated pitching staff, but the hitting just isn't there. If they can put any kind of offense behind the staff of Cahill, Anderson and Gonzalez, they might be able to make a run at the division. Watch for Gio Gonzalez to have a huge year this year.
16. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers looked like they were on their way up. They had good hitting, talented arms, but they just haven't played great baseball. The still have talented arms with Verlander and Scherzer and decent hitting. After a good rookie season, Rick Porcello hasn't had the same fastball he did in high school, when he showcased it at 100 MPH. However, nobody is stepping up as the clear favorite in the NL Central, so don't rule the Tigers out yet.
15. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels had an interesting offseason, mostly from acquiring the huge contract of the disappointing Vernon Wells. Things are looking a little bleak at the beginning of the season for the Angels as Kendry Morales is not fully healthy, just yet. I don't expect Jered Weaver to have as good of a year as he did last year, but I am predicting that Dan Haren posts a sub-3 ERA for the 1st time in his career.
14. Tampa Bays Rays
The Rays lost a lot of people in the offseason, including a huge loss to a division rival in Carl Crawford. They made some splashes, however, acquiring savvy veterans Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. The Rays can make some noise this year, but the AL East looks like it's going to be one tough division.
13. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have one of the better rotations in the NL, if not all of baseball. They have probably the most underrated pitcher in baseball, in Clayton Kershaw. This kid has an outstanding arm and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if his 1st half matches what Jimenez did last year (maybe not with wins, but the other stats). If the Dodgers can get decent offense this year, they can make a run at the NL West and/or wild card.
12. St. Louis Cardinals
It's hard to put Albert Pujols and the Cardinals down this low, but losing Wainwright for the year was a huge, huge loss. The Cardinals went from being a definite NL Central contender to, well maybe if A LOT goes their way, they can make a run at it. I'm not going to rule out any team led by Albert Pujols but the Cardinals season is now going to be a battle.
11. Chicago White Sox
I did a fantasy baseball draft the other day, and before I realized it, I had 3 White Sox position players on my team (Rios, Konerko, Ramirez). The White Sox lineup is definitely going to pack a punch this year, the question is, will they get enough pitching? If former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy can re-right the ship and the other pitchers can produce solid years, there's a good chance the White Sox can win the wide-open AL Central.
10. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies didn't do much this offseason, but they really didn't have to. They have one of the best hitters in the game from last year (Carlos Gonzalez), and a good pitching staff. Jhoulys Chacin is going to surprise a lot of people this year and have a real breakout year. The Rockies offense is usually solid every year and they should be expected to compete for the whole year.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers made some big moves in the offseason, acquiring former Cy Young winner Zach Grienke and a very underrated pitcher in Shaun Marcum. The problem so far with the Brewers has been injuries to those two guys. Grienke fractured a rib playing pick-up basketball before Spring Training really even started and Marcum has had some problems this spring. The offensive question will be, is Rickie Weeks going to have the same kind of production? If the Brewers can stay healthy, they have to be the favorite to battle Cincy for the NL Central crown.
8. Cincinnati Reds
Coming off an NL Central Crown, the Reds have a lot of question marks this year for a division winner. The rotation is banged up and has some young arms and the bullpen can be questionable at times. The hitting looks like it'll pick up right where it left off last year, however, with some serious pop in that lineup. The battle for the NL Central between the Reds and Brewers should go down to the last few days, but the Reds have to feel good about their chances, having won it last year.
7. Minnesota Twins
I learned a few years ago to never count the Twins out, even if it doesn't look like they have the best team on paper. Somehow, the Twins just find ways to win. Their pitchers are noted for barely walking any hitters and their offense just finds ways to score runs. The Twins are my favorite to win the AL Central this year, but it should be a good fight between them and the White Sox.
6. Atlanta Braves
The Braves made a good run of it last year, losing the division title to the Phillies late in the year. They have promising pitching and some good hitting. They also have a good amount of young talent. Jason Heyward should follow his promising rookie season with a good year and the Braves should follow suit. I doubt they'll be able to knock the Phillies off, but they will definitely compete for the Wild Card.
5. New York Yankees
I know a lot of Yankee fans are probably going to get mad at me for this ranking, but with that rotation, I wouldn't feel comfortable putting them any higher. Yes, they have one of the better lineups in baseball, but they also play in a little league park. If they don't have good pitching, other teams are going to be able to take advantage of the size of that mini-field. I don't see them being able to beat Boston out for the division, but I would give them the edge in the Wild Card. A fair warning Yankee fans: With that rotation, don't be surprised if, come the end of September, your team is fighting to win 90 games.
4. Texas Rangers
The Rangers had a quiet but effective offseason, acquiring Adrian Beltre. They have some question marks in the rotation, but it's not a secret that the Rangers are going to try to winning by slugging the ball around the ballpark. If the rotation can collectively put together a solid season, the Rangers should be able to win the relatively weak AL West.
3. San Francisco Giants
Again, there will probably be some Giants fans yelling, "We won the World Series and you have us third?!" The fact is, the Phillies and Red Sox got A LOT better in the offseason and the Giants just kind of stayed put. Now, staying put after winning the World Series is obviously not a bad thing, but I just think the Phillies and Red Sox passed them. I still think they'll win the NL West and make some noise in the playoffs.
2. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies had a great offseason, adding Cliff Lee. They have one of the best pitching rotations in recent memory. There's not much more that needs to be said about the Phillies, they should win the NL East by 6 or 7 games this year.
1. Boston Red Sox
Like the Phillies, not much needs to be said about the Red Sox. With the additions of Crawford and Gonzalez, they have one of the most potent offenses in baseball. The pitching staff should hold up well and they should be able to make a run at 100 wins in September.
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