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MLB Power Rankings: Are Limping Phillies Still on Top Entering Opening Day?

Anthony LifrieriContributor IMarch 31, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: Are Limping Phillies Still on Top Entering Opening Day?

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Spring training is over, and Opening Day is here.  For the next few hours, everyone has a statistically equal shot at winning the World Series, but that's not going to stop us from debating who is the best team. 

    The Phillies seemed unstoppable, but a spring training that hasn't gone to plan has marred what should have been a season-long triumph.

    Here is the first power ranking for the 2011 regular season:

30. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Ok, so there’s Andrew McCutchen, and that’s about it.   The franchise is cheap, and there are no signs of a bright future for this franchise or its fans.  At least they have the Steelers.

29. Kansas City Royals

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Much like the Bucs, the Royals have a cheap ownership that refuses to spend money on talent.  They have a great farm system, but continuing to build for tomorrow ensures that today never comes.

    Outside of Billy Butler and Joakim Soria, this team has little to offer in 2011 besides a near guarantee of 100 losses.

28. Cleveland Indians

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    There isn’t much going for the Indians in 2011, but they should get back a healthy Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner.  This should keep them from an all-out disaster in 2011, but they are a 70-win team at best.

    On the bright side, Carlos Santana is a fine young catcher, who is an All-Star in the making.  He's also one incredible guitar player...

27. Houston Astros

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Astros are a team with few assets.  Wandy Rodriguez finally made it to ace status, but he will likely be traded in July.  They are easily definitely going to be the cellar-dwellers of the NL Central.

26. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    The Vernon Wells trade ruled out respectability in 2011, but their farm system looks awfully good because of it.  Look for the Jays to contend in 2013 due to the farm system and the added payroll flexibility of Wells' cash dump.

25. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    The Diamondbacks have Justin Upton, and that’s it.  If the roster consisted of 24 more of him, they’d win the World Series.  Unfortunately, they don’t, so they will have to settle for being the worst team in the NL West.

24. Seattle Mariners

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    This team clearly needs to rebuild.  Ichiro is getting long in the tooth, and their high payroll doesn’t justify the team’s performance.  They have King Felix, but they’re an 80-win team at best, and he will win a quarter of their games.

23. San Diego Padres

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    The Padres could probably use Bell's bat in the lineup because of their poor offense.Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    The Padres gave up a chance of contending in 2011 when they traded Adrian Gonzalez.   They still have Heath Bell, and a park that enables success through mediocrity, but that’s about it. 

    The Padres are a 75-win team at best, and less than 70, if they trade Bell at the trade deadline.

22. Chicago Cubs

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Matt Garza and Carlos Pena make the Cubs better, but not enough to contend in a division that already has the Reds and Cardinals.  This is a .500 team at absolute best, because they only have two good pitchers and an inconsistent offense. 

21. Oakland Athletics

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    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Moneyball has lost its touch.  The once never-ending Billy Beane pipeline has been reduced to signing over-the-hill free agents well past their prime. 

    They’ll win about 75 games, but that’s about it.  They have no shot of beating out the Angels or Rangers for the AL West crown.

20. Florida Marlins

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    The Omar Infante deal was genius.  It allowed them to get a better second baseman while clearing out Dan Uggla, one of the most overrated players in baseball. 

    If the Marlins would just sign a few free agents, they could actually contend going forward.  Until then, it’s a four-man show featuring H-Ram, Josh Johnson, Mike Stanton and Infante.

19. New York Mets

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    They did nothing in the offseason, their ownership is in chaos and the team is overpaid.  In short, the Mets are going to be a horror show this year, but what else is new? 

    If they are wise, the Mets’ brass will trade Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, along with their underproduction and expiring contracts at the trade deadline for some elite prospects.

18. Washington Nationals

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    Bryce Harper is the future in Washington...Al Bello/Getty Images

    No Strasburg, no contention.  Jayson Werth was a good signing, because it showed the Nationals are serious about contending, but they needed some pitching to help sure up a rotation.  Still, I like them going forward with a returning Strasburg and the rise of Bryce Harper in 2012.

17. Batltimore Orioles

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    I happen to like the Orioles this year, and I think they improved more than any other team this offseason.  If they weren’t in the AL East, they’d probably be a favorite to win a division title. 

    Unfortunately, Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds and Justin Duchsherer will not be enough to leapfrog both New York and Boston.

16. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The Dodgers didn’t do much this offseason to get better, so it will take some luck to overtake the defending champion Giants for a division crown.  They could benefit from a fully healthy season from Andre Ethier, who should contend for the MVP if he can produce like he did before he got hurt in 2010.

    Matt Kemp should also have a bounce-back season and revert to his 2009 form that made him an emerging superstar.

15. Chicago White Sox

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Kenny Williams needs to put in a tape of his 2005 World Series winning team.  That squad boasted a rotation of Mark Buerhle, Freddy Garcia, El Duque and Jose Contreras.  In short, pitching wins championships, not a slugger-loaded lineup with mediocre pitching. 

    Adam Dunn is a super guy, but he doesn’t bring anything new to the South Sider's table going forward.  The money would have been better spent on Carl Pavano or Brandon Webb.

14. Detroit Tigers

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    See previous post.  Great offense, but outside of Justin Verlander, they have no pitching.  They might be able to slug their way to 80 wins, but they will need to trade for a pitcher if they have any hope of taking the Twins.

    I give the Tigers a slight edge over the White Sox because Jim Leyland is a better manager than Ozzie Guillen.

13. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The Cards were devastated by the loss of Adam Wainwright during spring training, and now, they are a mid-tier team. 

    They’re average defensively, but their bats should provide enough pop to keep them in contention long enough for Dave Duncan to work his magic on another scrap-heap starting pitcher.

    The Cards may yet contend in 2011, but they’ll need greater production from Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter than ever before.

12. Atlanta Braves

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    Is the Atlanta bubble about to pop?Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Braves will miss Bobby Cox, but they should be ok for 2011 without him.  Dan Uggla will be a poor move, but Chipper and Co. have one last run at a pennant left in them before they have to completely retool the team. 

    Martin Prado remains one of the most underrated players in baseball, as he hits for a high average, steals bases and can play anywhere on the field.  He is undisputedly the best utility man in baseball.

11. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Getting Vernon Wells moved the Angels up a couple of slots on his list.  The Angels now boast the best outfield in baseball and should have enough pitching to give the Rangers a run for their money. 

    The Halos are a scary team going forward, especially if Jered Weaver takes another step forward to ace status ion 2011.

10. Tampa Bay Rays

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Signing Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez is a crazy move, but it’s just crazy enough to work for the Rays in 2011.  Damon and Manny should provide enough production to make up for the loss of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, while their rotation is still one of the deepest in baseball. 

    David Price is my pick for the AL Cy Young this year.  If the Yankees have rotation or injury problems this season, the Rays will overtake them for a playoff spot.

9. Colorado Rockies

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    I love the extension to CarGo and Tulo, but they didn’t do anything to get better over the offseason.  There’s a lot to love about their lineup going forward, especially if they trade for Michael Young.
     
    They are probably second best in the NL West, but they need some pitching in order to play with the big boys in the NL.

8. Milwaukee Brewers

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    Greinke and co. are coming for you...Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The Brewers would break the top five if not for the injuries to Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in spring training.  Both will be fine going forward, but the staff lost valuable time to gel during spring training. 

    Still the Brew Crew boasts an impressive lineup featuring Ryan Braun and Prince Fiedler, as well as a staff showcasing three potential Cy Young candidates with the aforementioned pitchers along with incumbent ace Yovani Gallardo.  This team is best built to beat the Phillies for the pennant.

7. Cincinnati Reds

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The Reds added World Series MVP Edgar Renteria, and another season of experience should do this young team a world of good. 

    Joey Votto will win the MVP if Albert Pujols slips at all this year, and the Reds rotation should finally pay some major dividends this year if they can stay healthy.

6. Texas Rangers

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    All the bad vibes of the Michael Young fiasco and the offseason feud with the Yankees will ruin the Rangers’ already fragile karma going into the 2011 season.  Losing Cliff Lee forced them to gamble on Brandon Webb, who is a favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year if he can regain his pre-injury form. 

    The Beltre signing was good, but they need to put out the Michael Young fires and get him and the team sold on Young at first base for continuing success.

5. Minnesota Twins

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    A mainstay of the top five.  The Twins always contend for a pennant and breeze to a division title only to be stopped by the Yankees in the playoffs. 

    The Twins still have a ton of talent, and if Justin Morneau can manage to stay healthy over the course of the season, they should be a lock to win the division title and may even get past a weakened Yankee team in October.

4. New York Yankees

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Horrible offseason but good spring, as Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes will take huge strides this season.  They need another veteran pitcher to step up and be the No. 2 starter, but that pitcher is probably not on the roster at this time.

    Look for the Yanks to make an aggressive play for King Felix, Chris Carpenter or Francisco Liriano at the trade deadline.

3. San Francisco Giants

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Champs are back with a solid lineup and the same rotation that won them the World Series in 2010.  Tim Lincecum should have a bounce-back year in 2011, and along with Matt Cain, should lead the Giants back to the NLCS with relative ease.  This team is a near-lock to win 90 games.

    Brian Wilson's injury complicates things, but he should be back to save the day soon enough.

2. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Something is not right in Philadelphia.  It’s an early hiccup, but they are not at the top spot of this list.  There are too many injured players to feel perfect about this team going forward. 

    Still, they shouldn’t have to gel, and it shouldn’t take long for them to get healthy, so expect the Phillies and their fearsome foursome to take back the top slot within the next couple of weeks.

1. Boston Red Sox

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    This team’s only weakness is its closer.  Jonathan Papelbon is baseball’s most overrated player and hasn’t been the same since his horrible outing in the 2008 All-Star Game.  Their rotation should bounce back, and their lineup is loaded with the additions of Killer Carl Crawford and Gonzo the Great. 

    The Sawx should be close to an AL Pennant, and the only things that can stop them from winning the World Series are the Phillies or a resurgent Curse of the Bambino.

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