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MLB Power Rankings at the Start of the 2018 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2018

The Houston Astros celebrate with the trophy after their win against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Astros won 5-1 to win the series 4-3. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

Opening Day is finally here!

Among other things, that means it's time to finalize our MLB power rankings for the start of the 2018 season Thursday.

There hasn't been much movement since the last time these rankings were updated on March 15

However, there was some shifting in the middle of the pack to account for Alex Cobb's four-year, $57 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles and Madison Bumgarner's fractured pinkie finger in his pitching hand.

Below, we've broken all 30 teams into five tiers for the upcoming season to provide a clearer overview of the MLB landscape.

First, an updated look at the rankings:

 Updated Rankings 
1img Houston Astrosimg
2img Chicago Cubsimg
3img Los Angeles Dodgersimg
4img Washington Nationalsimg
5img New York Yankeesimg
6img Cleveland Indians
img
7img Boston Red Soximg
8img Arizona Diamondbacksimg
9img St. Louis Cardinalsimg
10img Los Angeles Angelsimg
11img Colorado Rockiesimg
12img Minnesota Twinsimg
13img Milwaukee Brewersimg
14img Texas Rangersimg
15img Toronto Blue Jaysimg
16img New York Metsimg
17img Seattle Marinersimg
18img Baltimore Oriolesimg2
19img Philadelphia Philliesimg
20img Oakland Athleticsimg2
21img Tampa Bay Raysimg
22img Atlanta Bravesimg1
23img San Francisco Giantsimg5
24img San Diego Padresimg
25img Cincinnati Redsimg
26img Pittsburgh Piratesimg
27img Kansas City Royalsimg
28img Chicago White Soximg
29img Detroit Tigersimg
30img Miami Marlinsimg

           

The Clear-Cut Contenders

Can Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve help the Houston Astros become the first team since the 2000 New York Yankees to repeat as World Series winners?
Can Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve help the Houston Astros become the first team since the 2000 New York Yankees to repeat as World Series winners?David J. Phillip/Associated Press

According to FanGraphs' playoff odds, seven teams have a better than 75 percent chance to reach the 2018 postseason, and those clubs make up the game's elite.

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In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers (93.7%), Chicago Cubs (95.5%) and Washington Nationals (88.8%) are head and shoulders above the rest.

The Dodgers and Nationals skated to division titles last season, and it was a quiet offseason for both clubs. Los Angeles has a new-look bullpen that could be an X-factor, while the Nationals welcome back a healthy Adam Eaton after he suffered a torn ACL in 2017.

On the other hand, the Cubs had a busy winter, adding Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to the starting rotation and rebuilding the bullpen with Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek at the back end.

Meanwhile, on the American League side, the Houston Astros (98.5%), Cleveland Indians (95.6%), New York Yankees (89.8%) and Boston Red Sox (84.2%) are the cream of the crop.

The Astros didn't need to do much to remain among the World Series favorites, but that didn't stop them from swinging a blockbuster January deal to acquire Gerrit Cole to round out one of the league's best rotations.

For the Indians, losing Bryan Shaw to free agency leaves the middle of the bullpen as something of a question mark, while Yonder Alonso was added to replace Carlos Santana at first base. There's still a wealth of talent on the roster, though.

The Yankees swung a December trade to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, and the Red Sox countered by signing J.D. Martinez in February. Those two sluggers will take aim at the AL East's homer-friendly ballparks.

There's an 89.7 percent chance that one of those seven teams will win the World Series, according to FanGraphs.

     

Playoff Hopefuls

The St. Louis Cardinals have not missed the playoffs for three years in a row since 1999. Will the addition of Marcell Ozuna help them avoid sitting at home for a third straight October?
The St. Louis Cardinals have not missed the playoffs for three years in a row since 1999. Will the addition of Marcell Ozuna help them avoid sitting at home for a third straight October?Jeff Roberson/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

At a notch below, a handful of clubs will be strong playoff contenders.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are both on the rise, and it's not out of the question to think they could meet in the NL Wild Card Game once again.

Last year's improved pitching staff is the real deal for the Rockies, while the D-backs could get better with Archie Bradley's move into the closer's role and Steven Souza Jr. in a corner outfield spot.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers look like contenders as well.

The Cardinals added Marcell Ozuna to the middle of the lineup, and the pitching staff should get a boost from the young trio of Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes (who could be ready around May 1 after 2017 Tommy John surgery). The bullpen is a question mark, though.

Adding outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain is a big boost for the Brewers, but the team failed to acquire an impact starting pitcher and will again lean on the duo of Chase Anderson and Zach Davies. Ace Jimmy Nelson is still recovering from shoulder surgery and isn't expected back until roughly the All-Star break in July.

A retooled Los Angeles Angels team looks like the top candidate for the second AL wild-card spot. Shohei Ohtani is capable of being a game-changing addition, Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart are both significant infield upgrades, and healthy seasons from Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney could do wonders for the starting staff.

The Minnesota Twins added Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi to the starting rotation, and there's plenty of room for improvement from the young position-player core. It's clear they've taken the step from building to contending and have some intriguing prospects who could make an impact by midseason.

     

On the Fence

Will the addition of Alex Cobb push the Baltimore Orioles over the top? We shall see.
Will the addition of Alex Cobb push the Baltimore Orioles over the top? We shall see.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The Angels and Twins look like clear wild-card contenders.

However, there are a number of others who enter the season on the fringe.

The Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays all approached the winter with an eye on contending.

The Orioles added Cobb late in the offseason and signed Andrew Cashner in February in an effort to shore up what was baseball's worst starting rotation. The staff is still far from a strength, though, and if Baltimore slips out of contention by midseason, it has Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Adam Jones all headed for free agency as potential trade chips.

The Blue Jays are also trying to contend in a tough AL East, opting against trading Josh Donaldson ahead of his final year of team control. Healthy seasons from Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ would be a boon to the rotation, and the front office did well to add Curtis Granderson, Randal Grichuk, Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz on the position-player side.

As for the Mariners and Rangers, both teams have a starting rotation that might not be good enough to make a playoff push.

  • Seattle: Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez
  • Texas: Cole Hamels, Doug Fister, Matt Moore, Mike Minor, Martin Perez

That they have to chase the Astros and Angels in the AL West doesn't help their cause, but both teams could grab a wild-card spot if the rotations exceed expectations.

As for the NL side, only the New York Mets reside in that gray area of contention.

Injuries decimated the roster last season, so better health would provide a major boost. If Noah Syndergaard can return to his pre-torn-lat form, and the oft-injured duo of Matt Harvey and Steven Matz can hold down rotation spots, they could make noise, especially after adding Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce to the middle of the lineup.

                  

Dark Horses

Jonathan Lucroy's veteran leadership could prove to be a huge addition for an Oakland Athletics team that could surprise some people.
Jonathan Lucroy's veteran leadership could prove to be a huge addition for an Oakland Athletics team that could surprise some people.Matt York/Associated Press/Associated Press

The Rockies and Twins both went from sub-.500 records to wild-card spots last year after emerging as dark-horse contenders.

So which teams could make a surprise run this season?

The Oakland Athletics went 17-7 with a plus-33 run differential to close out 2017—tied for baseball's second-best record during that span.

Veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy should have a significant impact on the young pitching staff after signing a one-year, $6.5 million deal, and Stephen Piscotty could prove to be an excellent buy-low addition.

Matt Olson and Matt Chapman give the lineup a pair of budding stars, and there's more help on the way. Prospects Franklin Barreto, Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, Grant Holmes and A.J. Puk could all carve out a significant 2018 role.

Over in the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies look ready to take a step forward.

The front office shelled out a combined $169.25 million to sign Jake Arrieta, Carlos Santana, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter in free agency.

They'll join a solid core of Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, Nick Williams and Hector Neris, while rookies J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery look poised to make an impact.

A second-place NL East finish and a winning record seem within reach.

          

Rebuilding Teams

Ronald Acuna is ready to help the Atlanta Braves push contendership.
Ronald Acuna is ready to help the Atlanta Braves push contendership.B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images

There are two different types of clubs in this category: those on the upswing that've been rebuilding for a few years, and those on the downswing that are starting the rebuilding process.

The Atlanta BravesChicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres look poised to improve on last year's records, thanks in large part to continued development from young players.

Top prospects Ronald Acuna, Luiz Gohara, Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard (ATL), Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech (CWS), Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker and Tyler Mahle (CIN), and Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias (SD) are all ready to burst onto the scene.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City RoyalsMiami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates entering their first full rebuilding seasons.

The Tigers started the process around last year's July 31 trade deadline, while the Marlins and Pirates kicked things into gear on the winter trade scene. The small-market Royals saw a changing of the guard with Cain and Eric Hosmer's free-agent departures and have a lot of work to do in building up the farm system.

And then there's the San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays.

The Giants treated the offseason like they were serious contenders with the additions of Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen and Tony Watson. Really, they're prolonging the inevitable. This team will have to start rebuilding soon with an aging core and thin farm system, and Bumgarner's broken finger is a huge blow to their 2018 hopes.

As for the Rays, they shipped out Longoria, Souza, Odorizzi and Corey Dickerson in offseason trades. That's what this team does, though. Payroll constraints leave it in a constant state of roster turnover, and it's won with less.

The 2018 season might be a small step backward, but they have the young talent to make a quick return to relevance.

So there you have it, a full preview of the upcoming season. Be sure to check back here each Monday morning for an updated look at Bleacher Report's MLB power rankings.

      

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.

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