MLB Power Rankings: Yu Darvish, Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols Shake Things Up

Timothy Howell@@tmurrayhowellCorrespondent IIDecember 28, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: Yu Darvish, Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols Shake Things Up

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    The 2011 Major League Baseball offseason has seen some interesting moves.  There have been big trades—Mat Latos to the Reds, Trevor Cahill to the D-Backs, to name a few.

    There's definitely been some huge signings.  Albert Pujols for more than a quarter of a billion dollars, anyone?

    Jose Reyes and his injury-prone wheels to Miami, for north of $100 million...C.J. Wilson signed with the Angels, a move that was basically ignored due to his new teammate's signing with the same team—just hours before.

    The Texas Rangers secured the winning bid (some say by a large margin, others say by a small one) to work out a contract for Japanese-league stud Yu Darvish.

    Obviously, when it comes to free-agent signings, trades and everything else under the big league sun, nothing is guaranteed.

    Just ask the Seattle Mariners about Chone Figgins, the New York Yankees about Kei Isagawa or the Texas Rangers about Chan Ho-what's-his-name.

    You get the idea.  Uncertainty rears its ugly head—well, at least until that glorious day in late March/early April when the 2012 major league season gets underway...

    Then the questions will begin to get answered.

    Until then, it's time we look at each major league team and hypothesize about how each signing/trade might impact the team's overall strength...

    It's time for my 2012 MLB power rankings.


No. 30: Houston Astros

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    2011 Record: 56-106


    Key Offseason Moves

    Michael Bourn (Atlanta Braves) and Hunter Pence (Phillies)—easily the two best players left on a very bad team last year—have moved on to greener pastures.  They also lost their closer when Mark Melancon moved to the Boston Red Sox.

    Perhaps the Astros' biggest move thus far in the offseason is a non-move.  Wandy Rodriguez should be back in Houston to anchor a decent staff, highlighted by Bud Norris and Brett Myers—both of which will be looking to rebound from off seasons in '11.


    2012 Outlook

    The Houston Astros probably won't lose 100-plus games this year, but they'll most likely finish in the bottom of the NL Central once again.  

    They're clearly a team in "rebuilding" mode.  The Astros hope they can can get some help from a relatively thin farm system sooner rather than later.  A move to the AL West in 2013 is looming and unless this team gets better rapidly, they might not be too far from another triple-digit-loss season.

No. 29: Oakland Athletics

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    2011 Record: 74-88


    Key Offseason Moves/Prospects

    If you're an Oakland Athletics fan, all of the team's key moves have been going in the wrong direction. Trevor Cahill (Arizona), Gio Gonzalez (Washington), Josh Willingham (Minnesota) and Brett Anderson (Tommy John surgery) are all permanently gone or temporarily lost.

    UPDATE: Once again, the Athletics have unloaded another premier arm.  This time it was the right arm of Andrew Bailey, the team's former closer (no word on if his left arm will make the trip to Boston as well.)

    The Athletics are well on their way to building one of the best farm systems in the major leagues, as they procured a bevy of talent from the BoSox for Bailey (that's a lot of b's).  

    The A's received youngsters Miles Head, Paul Alcantara, and Josh Reddick.  Reddick is a versatile athlete that can play in any spot of the A's outfield and is an upgrade over the departed Josh Willingham.  

    The Red Sox also received Ryan Sweeney, who could be considered Josh Reddick's slightly-older (and taller) doppelganger.   

    2012 Outlook

    If you're an A's fan bent on immediate gratification, 2012 won't be your year.  After all, they've lost three starters from a year ago that all have front-of-the-rotation potential.  It's hard to believe that a mere 12 months ago, the A's were the sexy pick to win the AL West.

    The A's are going to be very bad in 2012.  They don't hit well, and now they won't pitch very well either. However, in a few years from now, the A's have a chance of being back in the AL West picture as they have fortified their farm system once again by getting a nice return in prospects for Cahill and Gonzalez.

    Although he doesn't usually pull the trigger on potential salary dumps quite this quickly, this is how Billy Beane rolls.  And I feel that Oakland fans might be growing weary of his approach.

No. 28: Chicago Cubs

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    2011 Record: 71-91


    Key Offseason Moves

    The Chicago Cubs were reportedly in the mix for Albert Pujols.  Obviously, that didn't work out.  Same with their reported attempts in bidding for Yu Darvish.  The Cubs' biggest move (if they make one) probably hasn't happened yet.  Matt Garza is likely to pitch for someone else in 2012—either for the entire season, or half of it.


    2012 Outlook

    With Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee all now former Cubs, it's going to be quite difficult for the Cubs to score runs, or win many games.

    The Chicago Cubs will probably miss the Houston Astros in 2013—it's the only team in their division that essentially guarantees they won't be in the basement.

    However, Theo Epstein is a gifted GM.  He has a plan, and I have no doubt that he won't have the Cubs back in the playoff chase by 2014, or maybe even sooner.  But it might just get worse before it gets any better.

    Prince Fielder would an amazing addition to the Cubbies.  I doubt that Epstein will pony up the cash that Fielder will demand, though.

No. 27: New York Mets

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    2011 Record: 77-85


    Key Offseason Moves

    Jose Reyes has taken his talents to South Beach.  Carlos Beltran is gone as well, with the grossly overrated Andres Torres signed to take his place. Promising young starter Jon Niese is rumored to be on the trading block...    


    2012 Outlook

    If Niese is traded, then it's a knuckleballer sans an elbow ligament (R.A. Dickey) and young Texan Dillon Gee as the one-two "punch" for the Mets staff at their lovely newish stadium that is having its fences moved in.


No. 26: San Diego Padres

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    2011 Record: 71-91


    Key Offseason Moves

    Free-agent closer Heath Bell has flown the coup for Miami, and incumbent ace Mat Latos is now with the Cincinnati Reds.

    The Latos trade greatly enhances their farm system as they scored a bevy of former Cincinnati first-rounders, one of which, Yonder Alonso, might be able to fill their need at first base this upcoming season.

    Edinson Volquez, should he regain his pre-Tommy John injury form, could end up being a better fit for their rotation than Latos was.   


    2012 Outlook

    Since the 2011 trade deadline the San Diego Padres have broken up one of the league's best bullpens.  Mike Adams (their key eighth-inning man) was shipped to Texas for two young pitching prospects (Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland).

    And the aforementioned Mat Latos' departure leaves question marks in their starting rotation.  PETCO Park is a pitcher's paradise, though, and the Padres should benefit greatly from their acquisitions in the not-too-distant future (particularly in Voquez and Boxberger).  

    Chances are they'll miss out on the playoffs in 2012.

No. 25: Minnesota Twins

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    2011 Record: 63-99


    Key Offseason Moves

    Perennial Twin and underrated slugger Michael Cuddyer has left via free agency to play in the cool confines of Colorado.  Josh Willingham, formerly of the A's, has been signed as a quasi-replacement for the departed Cuddyer.  

    Willingham is a nice addition, but look for his power numbers to decline as he plays in overly spacious Target Field. 


    2012 Outlook

    Although their importance was never in doubt, 2011 illustrated a grave example of just how important Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are to the Minnesota Twins offense (and defense.)

    For the Twins to rebound from a horrendous, injury-plagued 2011 campaign, Mauer and Morneau have to be available for at least 80 percent of the team's games.

    If the "M&M" boys are back, the Twins could possibly be in the hunt (for at least a few months) in the AL Central.  If not, then it could be a long season, once again.

    Should they start off slow, look for potential-ace Francisco Liriano to be shopped around heavily, as the Twins might decide to blow up their team and attempt a rebuild.  

No. 24: Baltimore Orioles

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    2011 Record: 69-93


    Key Offseason Moves

    Since last year's trade deadline, the Baltimore Orioles have added six former Texas Rangers—all of whom were part of the Rangers' World Series runs, either in 2010 or 2011.

    RHP Pedro Strop, 1B/3B Chris Davis, RHP Tommy Hunter, C Taylor Teagarden, OF Endy Chavez, RHP Darren O'day—all are names that are near and dear to Rangers fans.  Aside from Endy Chavez (who experienced a career renaissance in '11), all are younger than 29.

    Should these former Rangers reach their potential in Baltimore, the Orioles will be far better than merely "sneaky" good.


    2012 Outlook

    The Baltimore Orioles, in many ways, resemble the Texas Rangers of 2009—a prospect-heavy roster filled with talent that hasn't quite met their potential just yet.

    Look for Brian Matusz (1-9, 10.69 ERA) to rebound with a solid 2012.  Youngsters Jake Arrieta (25), Zach Britton (23) and Chris Tillman (23) are all solid impact arms.  If two of the three have a solid '12, the Orioles could certainly be in the mix for a playoff berth in the near future.

No. 23: Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2011 Record: 82-79


    Key Offseason Moves

    Jonathan Broxton, formerly an elite closer, is gone.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, as he was expensive and ineffective recently.  Plus, the Dodgers have a young closer in Javy Guerra, who is cheap and could be a future star.


    2012 Outlook

    In young left-hander Clayton Kershaw (2011 NL Cy Young Award winner), the Dodgers have not only an ace, but arguably the best starting pitcher in the league not named Justin Verlander.

    He's a cornerstone of the franchise-type player, and one that the Dodgers will try to build around in the future.  Matt Kemp, who probably should have been the NL MVP—even before Braun's alleged drug-test failure—provides the Dodgers with one of the best pitcher/hitter combos in all of baseball.

    Aside from Kershaw and Kemp, the Dodgers have an injury-riddled Andre Ethier and the underperforming James Loney.  Super-prospect Dee Gordon could steal 80 bases for the Dodgers in 2012, but their offense might not be solid enough for contention.

    Unfortunately, Don Mattingly's Dodgers are cash-strapped in the increasingly tough NL West and might not have enough big league-ready talent to stay close enough to the Diamondbacks and Giants for a postseason chance.  

No. 22: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    2011 Record: 72-90


    Key Offseason Moves

    LHP Erik Bedard was signed away from the Boston Red Sox, who probably had no desire to retain his services.

    Bedard will be an improvement, in name value at least, to a Bucs rotation that features pitchers that are less known than any of the team's super-prospects.  

    Close your eyes, and see how many Pirates pitchers from 2011 you can name.  How'd you do?  Check your guesses here. 


    2012 Outlook

    The Pirates haven't finished with a .500 record since 1992, which, not coincidentally, was the last time the Bucs made the playoffs.

    With one of the best farm systems in the big leagues, the Pirates will be a much better team soon. Consider them the NL equivalent to the Kansas City Royals.

    In RHP Gerrit Cole, RHP Jameson Taillon and RHP Luis Heredia, the Pirates have three pitchers that all have front-of-the-rotation possibilities.  Look for former UCLA and No. 1 pick Cole to be up and on the Pirates by midseason 2012.

    2012 might be too soon for their talent-laden prospects to help much at the big league level.  I'm willing to bet that the Pirates will finish over .500 this year, and will be in the mix for at least a wild-card playoff berth by 2013.

No. 21: Seattle Mariners

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    2011 Record: 67-95


    Key Offseason Moves

    Enough already, are they going to sign Prince Fielder or what?  My guess is that they won't.


    2012 Outlook

    The AL West is a division that is going to be dominated by the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for several years to come.  Both the Rangers and Angels have nice, new and overly lucrative television deals that will keep them in the financial mix for quite sometime.

    The Mariners will be better than the Athletics in 2012.  The Mariners are much better than they showed last season.  You take away their losing streak, and they were right there for a little while.  

    They have a nice group of young players that will be good for year to come (Ackley, Seager, Smoak, etc.).  Pineda and King Felix are an excellent one-two punch.  

    Will Felix stay in Seattle?  Will Ichiro?  One thing for certain is that the Mariners probably won't get close enough to Texas or Los Angeles for a playoff berth in 2012.  

    2013 could be their year, least they'll have future AL West basement-dwellers Houston Astros to stomp on starting in '13.

No. 20: Cincinnati Reds

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    2011 Record: 79-83


    Key Offseason Moves

    The Reds made arguably the offseason's biggest trade.  

    The Reds unloaded first-round picks from the 2008, 2009 and 2010 draft in Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal, to grab the San Diego Padres' ace Mat Latos.  

    He's young (just turned 24 two weeks ago), and not arbitration-eligible until after the 2013 season.

    All cliches aside, this truly is a trade that benefits both teams—for now, at least.  Time will tell if Volquez regains his '08 form, and if Latos can build off his wildly successful '10 season.  Yonder Alonso might just win the Padres' first base job out of spring training, and although he might be a future All-Star, he was blocked by present-day All-Star and '10 NL MVP Joey Votto in Cincinnati.


    2012 Outlook

    If Mat Latos can transfer his PETCO Park success to Great American Ball Park, the Reds might just make the postseason, as they did in 2010.  If Latos' numbers are due solely to his pitching in the pitcher's haven (and heaven) of San Diego (Jake Peavy, anyone?) then the Reds might miss Volquez. 

    Regardless, they'll be more competitive and later into the year than they were a year ago in the NL Central...especially if Milwaukee's Ryan Braun ends up missing 50 games in '12.  

No. 19: Colorado Rockies

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    2011 Record: 73-89


    Key Offseason Moves

    OF/UT/RHP Michael Cuddyer has taken his underrated skill set to Colorado.  Look for him to put up career-best offensive numbers as he takes advantage of Denver's lofty altitude.


    2012 Outlook

    The Rockies have three players that could hit 30 or more home runs next year with Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer (four if Todd Helton gets back in his power groove).

    Aside from youngster Jhoulys Chacin (23) and games-started leader Jason Hammel, the Rockies are awfully thin pitching-wise.  Although Ubaldo Jimenez hasn't exactly pitched up to expectations in Cleveland, had he stayed in Colorado, the future would look a tad brighter for the Rockies in 2012.

No. 18: Cleveland Indians

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    2011 Record: 80-82


    Key Offseason Moves

    Aside from their reported interest in Nick Swisher, their incentive-laden re-signing of Grady Sizemore is their biggest offseason "acquisition."  


    2012 Outlook

    The Indians were in the mix, it appeared, for the first few months of the 2011 season.  Just as they were starting to fade from the Detroit Tigers' rearview mirror, they made a huge trade for RHP Ubaldo Jimenez.

    And that didn't help much.

    If the Indians can acquire another bat similar to Swisher, Sizemore has a Jacoby Ellsbury-like return to form, and Ubaldo Jimenez channels his 2010 performance, the Indians could win the AL Central.

    One of those three is probably all that will happen, and that won't be enough to catch a very talented Detroit Tigers team.

No. 17: Kansas City Royals

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    2011 Record: 71-91 

    Key Offseason Moves

    The Royals acquired former elite-level closer Jonathan Broxton.  Chances are he'll be a setup man for closer Joakim Soria.  They also picked up LHP Jonathan Sanchez.  Sanchez is a good addition to their staff, and he might just thrive in the low-pressure confines of Kansas City.  

    2012 Outlook

    The Royals have had what was widely regarded as the deepest farm system in the major leagues for the past several seasons.  Many of those key prospects, such as Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, are now up on the big league squad for good.  

    2011 first-rounder Bubba Starling will keep the farm system in the top 10 for some time to come, as Hosmer and Moustakas do their best to get the Royals into contention.

    For 2012, the Royals won't be quite ready to make a case for playoff contention.  Watch out come 2014 though...

No. 16: Chicago White Sox

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    2011 Record: 79-83

    Key Offseason Moves

    It's going to be interesting to see how the White Sox rotation stacks up without the innings-eating Mark Buehrle.  By agreeing to an extension with LHP John Danks, it's obvious they view him as a potential ace, and expect him to fill Buehrle's vacant shoes.

    2012 Outlook

    Danks took a step backward in 2011, going 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA after a breakout '10 than saw him go 15-11 with a 3.72 ERA.  Chances are good that if the real Danks returns, he's much closer to the 2010 version than last year's...the White Sox are counting on it.

    Gavin Floyd is a nice middle-of-the-rotation piece, and if Jake Peavy can channel his previous PETCO years, the White Sox have a nice one-two-three punch in their rotation.

    Adam Dunn needs to produce.  His 2011 slash line is laughably ludicrous: .159/.292/.277.  You don't want to know what the White Sox are paying for Dunn's services...cough...$14 million next year.

    Put it another way, if John Danks can put up as many strikeouts as Dunn's 177 of a year ago and Dunn can walk the Mendoza line, then the White Sox might just be in the playoff hunt in 2012.  

    I'm rooting for Dunn.  He's a class guy, and last year's production either signals a precipitous decline or just plain bad luck.  Here's hoping it's the latter.

    It will have to be, or Dunn's nickname will go from "Big Donkey" to "Big fu$%#$# waste of money..." in the Windy City.

No. 15: Milwaukee Brewers

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    2011 Record: 96-66

    Key offseason moves

    Ryan Braun has fond himself in the middle of a PED controversy that might take longer to resolve than anticipated.  If he ends up being found guilty, he could miss 50 games next year.  That, plus the imminent departure of Prince Fielder aren't the kind of offseason moves that Brewers fans want to hear about.

    2012 Outlook

    Ryan Braun is the difference between this Brew Crew being a 96-win team or a 96-loss club.  

    That's a gross exaggeration.  The Brewers have an excellent starting rotation, anchored by two of the better right-handers in the game with Zach Greinke and Yovanni Gallardo.

    Here's the deal with last year's NL MVP.  If he does get popped for a 50-game suspension, the Fielder-less Brewers are closer to not making the playoffs than getting in.

    If Braun is deemed "clear of the cream" and does not face suspension, he'll have to prove that he can hit without Fielder's added protection in that lineup.  I think he can.

    Regardless, the Brewers are a team that might win 90 games, but most likely will be in the mid- to high-80s in wins.

    They've certainly still got a chance at another playoff berth, but they really don't stand much of a chance of catching the St. Louis Cardinals a second consecutive NL Central title.  Not in 2012 at least.

    But hey, wild-card teams have fared pretty well in terms of winning it all.

No. 14: Washington Nationals

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    2011 Record: 80-81

    Key Offseason Moves

    Picked up Gio Gonzalez from the A's, but it took a king's ransom in prospects to do so.  If anything, this shows the world that the Nationals fancy themselves as possible playoff contenders at some point in the near future. 

    2012 Outlook

    A very solid rotation highlighted by a (presumably) healthy Stephen Strasburg, and fortified by Gio Gonzalez.  

    Bryce Harper in the big leagues (potentially).  

    If Strasburg and Harper produce at a level that is half of their lofty expectations, the Nationals might just make the playoffs for their first time.

    It's not Jayson Werth's fault that the Nationals gave him a seven-year, $126 million deal in the 2010 offseason.  But the dude needs to do better than .232/.330/.389.  

    If you're a fan of WAR he dropped from 5.3 in '10 to 2.3 in '11. Even if you're not a fan of WAR, his WAR still needs to improve for his mega-deal to be "Werth" the dough.  


No. 13: San Francisco Giants

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    2011 Record: 86-76

    Key Offseason Moves

    Nothing really jumps out.  Jonathan Sanchez has gone on to Kansas City—not exactly "earth-shattering" news.

    Los Gigantes are probably saving as much dough as they can to extend Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner.

    2012 Outlook

    The San Francisco Giants can be compared to the Seattle Mariners.  The Giants have a better overall starting rotation, and the Mariners probably hit a little bit better...

    Either way, both teams prove the importance of having quality pitching and the need to alter the old adage of "great pitching beats great hitting" into "great pitching beats great hitting but often gets no decisions unless their own hitting can score more than one run every once in a while..."

    The Giants don't hit well.  They didn't hit well last year, and still finished 10 games over .500 and just eight games behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West.

    They didn't hit well in 2010 either, and won the freaking World Series.  

    Moral: Their staff is strong enough to keep them in the playoff hunt, especially with that additional wild-card playoff spot looming ahead.

No. 12: Toronto Blue Jays

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    2011 Record: 81-81

    Key Offseason Moves

    The Toronto Blue Jays won the bidding to negotiate a contract with future-ace Yu Darvish of the Japanese League's Nippon Ham-Fighters...oh wait...

    2012 Outlook

    Being in the AL East is essentially the baseball equivalent of the "David vs. Goliath" fable, with this version featuring the three-headed monster consisting of the Rays, Yanks and Red Sox.  In the role of David are the Orioles and Blue Jays, represented as Bautista's beard with the left arm of Nick Markakis.

    Sure, David did eventually defeat the giant, but do the Blue Jays have enough ammunition to take down the East's "big three"?

    I think they do.  2012 might just be the year they reclaim their early 90s greatness.   

No. 11: Miami Marlins

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    2011 Record: 72-90

    Key Offseason Moves

    For a minute there, the Marlins seemingly snarled Albert Pujols.  It didn't work out, as we are all aware. They did significantly improve, however, with the additions of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle. 

    2012 Outlook

    The key word for the Marlins' success is "health."  

    If Josh Johnson is healthy, Jose Reyes plays as much as he did last year with the Mets, and Hanley Ramirez is better at third base than he was at shortstop, then 2012 will be a great year for the Marlins.

    That's a lot of "ifs."  Regardless, the Marlins won't finish in last place in the NL East this year, that'll be the NY Mets.  

    The Marlins might not be done throwing around cash just yet either...Prince Fielder is still available.

No. 10: Tampa Bay Rays

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    2011 Record: 91-71

    Key Offseason Moves

    In a move that the Tampa Bay Rays have cornered the market on, they extended yet another young prospect in Matt Moore. For five years and just $14 million, the Rays control Moore until the 2016 offseason.

    That's a great signing if you ask me.  Moore's going to be great.  David Price might be a No. 2 starter as soon as 2012.  And that's insane, because Price is a bad man. 

    Only injury can prevent Moore from turning into a superstar for the Rays.  

    2012 Outlook

    The Rays are an interesting team.  Kelly Shoppach kind of epitomizes their philosophy (offensively at least).

    Shoppach, now a member of the Red Sox, was a Ray last year.  When you see him and notice that he's listed at 6'0" and 220 lbs, it's hard to figure out which of those numbers is a bigger lie.

    There are rides at Six Flags that Shoppach wouldn't be allowed to ride for two reasons:

    1. Not tall enough.

    2. Wouldn't fit even if he was tall enough.

    I'm not one to hate on a brother because he has a slow metabolism, or is a little vertically challenged. Heck, he's from Forth Worth, so what's not to love? 

    Regardless, there are more than a few Triple-A teams that wouldn't waste a roster spot on the rotund backstop.

    But he produced, and at just the right time too.   

    During Game 1 of the '11 ALDS I clearly remember watching in slack-jawed amazement as he jiggled around the bases after hitting two home runs off of the Rangers' No. 1 starter C.J. Wilson. 

    Yeah, the Rays do stuff like that.  Plus they have the makings of an outstanding staff, and Evan Longoria.

    The Rays are nearly impossible to count out of contention.  They can flat-out play baseball, and never shy away from teams that should thump them—in fact, they rise to the occasion.

    The only question about the Rays this year, is who will be 2012's Kelly Shoppach? 

No. 9: Boston Red Sox

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    2011 Record: 90-72

    Key Offseason Moves

    Yeah, nothing really.  John Lackey won't pitch for them in 2012, which might be the 2012 offseason's best example of addition by subtraction.

    UPDATE: A few days ago, the Red Sox acquired former A's closer Andrew Bailey.  This is a big deal for the Sox.  In all likelihood, it means that Daniel Bard will get a shot in their rotation.  Should he succeed their, the Sox easily become the cream of the AL East crop. 

    2012 Outlook

    The Boston Red Sox are an excellent baseball team—it's true.  Carl Crawford will be just fine in 2012, A-Gon is just getting warmed up and Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Bucholz will each win 14 or more games this season.

    Most importantly, John Lackey will not be there to unleash his unique brand of "suck."  The Red Sox will win the AL East in 2012.  


No. 8: New York Yankees

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    2011 Record: 97-65

    Key Offseason Moves

    They effectively took C.C. Sabathia off the market, as they showed him even more money. 

    2012 Outlook

    I'm going to get hammered for this one on many counts.  First of all, even though I ranked the Yankees in the top eight in my power rankings, Yankees fans are going to hammer-slam me because this just isn't good enough.  

    To them, the Yankees are always No. 1.  They're the best—even though they are not (nor shouldn't be) ranked No. 1 on anyone's rankings, save for their own.

    The Yankees are old.  A-Rod is falling apart, Teixeira is regressing, Jeter needs a cutoff man during soft-tosses and roller blades for some semblance of fielding range.  

    Curtis Granderson is fantastic.  Nick Swisher is underrated, but might be leaving the Big Apple.  It makes my stomach hurt to say good things about the Yankees, but Robinson Cano is absolutely phenomenal and Brett Gardner is one of the best leadoff hitters in the league (it's time to move Jeter permanently from the leadoff spot).

    Oh yeah, Jesus Montero is going to be the rookie of the year in 2012.    

    I don't think the 2012 New York Yankees are a lock to make the postseason in 2012.  There—I said it. And if feels great.

No. 7: Arizona Diamondbacks

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    2011 Record: 94-68


    Key Offseason Moves

    The D-Backs non-tendered Micah Owings and Joe Saunders, and signed former Minnesota Twin outfielder Jason Kubel.  They also traded for former A's ace Trevor Cahill.  


    2012 Outlook

    Ian Kennedy won 21 games in 2011.  It's doubtful he'll win that many again, but you can put him down for 14-17 in 2012.  

    Kennedy is going to be a solid producer for quite some time.  The biggest question for Kirk Gibson's surprising Diamondbacks is will Daniel Hudson continue to improve over last year's success?

    If Hudson's 2011 wasn't just a mere illusion, the Diamondbacks will have an excellent one-two punch for years to come.  And that's before considering how great Cahill can become in the National League. 

    If Cahill can rekindle his 2010 season, you've got three pitchers in one rotation that have ace-type ceilings. 

    Their offense is a stout one too.  Ryan "not Reynolds" Roberts (the alter-ego to slugging third baseman "Tattoo Man") had a career year and is still in his prime.

    Slugging rookie and former Texas State University all-everything Paul Goldschmidt provided glimpses of the prodigious power he hinted at during his three years in the minor leagues

    Sure, the Diamondbacks lost Joe Saunders, but the addition of Cahill more than makes up for it. 

No. 6: Atlanta Braves

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    2011 Record: 89-73


    Key Offseason Moves

    Plenty of rumors, including a supposed Jair Jurrjens-for-Adam Jones deal, but nothing of any real substance. 


    2012 Outlook

    The Atlanta Braves, famously, came up a bit short for a postseason berth in 2011.  They'll make it in 2012.

    Jason Heyward will have a huge 2012, and Freddie Freeman will prove to be immune to the dreaded "sophomore slump."

No. 5: Detroit Tigers

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    2011 Record: 95-67


    Key Offseason Moves

    The Tigers have been quiet this offseason.  They've got a solid team, there really isn't much of a need to improve via free agency.  Sure, like everyone else they'd like some bullpen/starting rotation depth, but they're playing it safe thus far.


    2012 Outlook

    Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in the major leagues.  It's ridiculous to think that he'll repeat his numbers from a year ago, but he might win 20 games again.  I'm sure no one would be shocked if he did so.

    Also, Miguel Cabrera is never talked about in the same breath as Albert Pujols.  It's time he should be. Dude can flat-out rake, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.  

No. 4: St. Louis Cardinals

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    2011 Record: 90-72


    Key Offseason Moves

    Unburdened themselves from Albert Pujols' monetary demands.


    2012 Outlook

    Many people will think that I have the St. Louis Cardinals ranked far too high in my rankings, at fourth.  

    This line of thinking is produced by people that exaggerate the importance of Albert Pujols.  

    Yes, he's good—great actually.  Blah blah blah.

    He's also 31-years-old.  Maybe.  I'm not saying that he isn't 31, but if he isn't, you'd better believe he's not younger.

    Cardinals fans, be glad he's gone.  I'm serious about that.  Ten years at eleventy-billion dollars (or whatever obscene number the Angels threw his way) is mind-numbingly stupid.

    Look at it this way, St. Louis: Albert Pujols helped (he didn't do it single-handedly) bring your fine city two World Series Championships.  

    His 10 years in St. Louis will be much better than his next 10 years in Anaheim.  Or Los Angeles. 

    Sure, Pujols will be just fine for the next three years or so.  And then, his decline will kick it into high gear.  Just watch.  And laugh a little.  

    Check out these stats of this famous player, from his age-32 season until his final season.  I don't think Pujols will do quite this well in terms of power, but it's an apt comparison.

    And oh yeah, you're getting Adam Wainwright back.  Pujols' 2011 WAR was 5.1.  Wainwright's 2010 WAR was 6.1.

    Feel better?

No. 3: Texas Rangers

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    2011 Record: 96-66


    Key Offseason Moves

    Solidified their bullpen by signing former Twins closer Joe Nathan.  This signing allowed the Rangers to move Neftali Feliz to the rotation where he belongs.  

    Won the bidding rights to negotiate with Yu Darvish.  In all likelihood the Rangers will sign him to a five-year deal worth about $75 million.  If he flashes the same stuff and consistency in the big leagues that he did during his Japanese-league tenure, C.J. Wilson will be not just gone, but quickly forgotten.


    2012 Outlook

    Sure, it's an increasingly digital world, but on paper right now, the 2012 Texas Rangers look much better than their back-to-back American League champion predecessors.  

No. 2: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2011 Record: 86-76


    Key Offseason Moves

    Albert Pujols.  C.J. Wilson.  Ad nauseam.   


    2012 Outlook

    The Angels improved an old, underproducing offense with an old, yet still awesome Albert Pujols.  In the grand scheme of things, Pujols won't matter as much to this team as C.J. Wilson does.  Wilson might just win 20 games with the Angels this year.  

    I sure hope he doesn't.

    Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana...that's one of the best rotations in the American League, if not all of baseball.  

No. 1: Philadelphia Phillies

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    2011 Record: 102-60


    Key Offseason Moves

    Let Roy Oswalt walk.  Re-signed shortstop Jimmy Rollins.  They'll probably extend Cole Hamels before their offseason is over.  That would be a great call, since he's their only ace with a World Series ring.  


    2012 Outlook

    The Philadelphia Phillies couldn't pull it off with "four aces."  Perhaps three is their lucky number?

    It's a boring pick, because it's such an often-chosen one, but the Phillies are my choice as the National League's representative in the World Series in 2012.

    I refuse to divulge my American League pick in this article.  But ask me, and I'll probably tell you.

    Hint: It's not my second-ranked team.

    Or hit Tim him up on Facebook—you know you have an account.