MLB Power Rankings: How Bryce Harper to the Phillies Shakes Up Baseball

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2019

MLB Power Rankings: How Bryce Harper to the Phillies Shakes Up Baseball

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    All 30 teams will take the field for the earliest Opening Day in MLB history on March 28, and the regular season begins even earlier with the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners kicking off a two-game series in Japan on March 20.

    After a long, rumor-filled offseason, Bryce Harper finally chose his next team, signing a massive 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday, according to Jeff Passan of

    How high will the Phillies climb?


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    Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
    Vladimir Guerrero Jr.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    30. Baltimore Orioles

    The Orioles lost 115 games last year, and that was with Manny Machado, Kevin Gausman, Zack Britton and Jonathan Schoop on the roster for a good chunk of the season.

    It's difficult to lose that many games, and doubly so to do it two years in a row. But if any team is up to the task, it's this O's squad.

    Mountain of negatives aside, signing Nate Karns to a one-year, $800,000 contract has a chance to be one of the offseason's better under-the-radar pitching additions, provided he's healthy.


    29. Miami Marlins

    Who is the best player on the Marlins now that J.T. Realmuto is gone?

    Brian Anderson? Starlin Castro? Jose Urena? Drew Steckenrider?

    That list of choices should tell you all you need to know about what figures to be another long season in Miami.


    28. Detroit Tigers

    After hitting on Mike Fiers and Leonys Martin as buy-low veteran additions last offseason, the Tigers have gone short-term bargain shopping again while they continue to rebuild.

    They signed Tyson Ross and Matt Moore to bolster the starting rotation, while Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer will form the new middle infield tandem. All four could become summer trade chips.

    That stopgap approach to filling out the roster indicates this is a club with its sights set firmly on the future. It'll be a battle with the Royals to avoid the AL Central cellar.


    27. Kansas City Royals

    The Royals' win total plummeted by 22 games last year after an offseason free-agency exodus and more midseason trades.

    After targeting MLB-ready talent in the Kelvin Herrera trade last summer and then extending Whit Merrifield through at least 2022, the front office looks like it's trying to avoid a lengthy rebuild.

    Guys like Adalberto Mondesi, Jakob Junis, Brad Keller and Ryan O'Hearn provide hope, but the Royals are still years away from another upswing toward relevancy.


    26. Toronto Blue Jays

    The gap between the Blue Jays and contention in the AL East widened last season, and they've entered a retooling period of sorts.

    Veterans Matt Shoemaker and Clayton Richard joined the team to stabilize the rotation, and free-agent signing Freddy Galvis should provide a defensive upgrade at shortstop. Still, this team has a ways to go before it can contend.

    If nothing else, the imminent arrival of uber-prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and others from baseball's No. 3 farm system will provide plenty of excitement in 2019.


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    Yusei Kikuchi
    Yusei KikuchiMasterpress/Getty Images

    25. Texas Rangers

    With a projected starting rotation of Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, and the oft-injured trio of Drew Smyly, Edinson Volquez and Shelby Miller, the Rangers should finish in the AL West cellar.

    Best-case scenario, one of those injury-returnees will pitch well enough to generate interest on the trade market. Worst-case scenario, they'll be left relying on young arms such as Ariel Jurado and Yohander Mendez to pitch significant innings—or scouring the scrap heap for serviceable veterans.

    They may consider trading some of their controllable bats like Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor at some point in the next year, as well as lights-out reliever Jose Leclerc.


    24. San Francisco Giants

    Will the Giants rally around manager Bruce Bochy in the final season of his storied career?

    Probably not to the point of contention.

    Veteran non-roster invitees Gerardo Parra, Cameron Maybin, Yangervis Solarte and Rene Rivera are all projected for an Opening Day roster spot, which would make an aging club even older. A midseason trade of ace Madison Bumgarner seems inevitable, which should kick off a long-overdue rebuild.


    23. Chicago White Sox

    After whiffing on Manny Machado and removing themselves from the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, the White Sox will walk away from the offseason without landing one of the big fish. That said, they've made some solid smaller-scale additions.

    Ivan Nova and Ervin Santana will add a veteran presence to the rotation, Kelvin Herrera and Alex Colome will anchor the back of the bullpen, and Jon Jay, Yonder Alonso, James McCann and Brandon Guyer can be productive big leaguers.

    Contention is unlikely, but they should avoid another 100-loss season.


    22. Seattle Mariners

    The Mariners have spent the past several seasons hovering on the outskirts of contention, trying their hardest to snap a postseason drought that stretches to 2001.

    They're done treading water, as a blockbuster deal to send Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets kicked off a busy offseason of retooling.

    The current projected 25-man roster features 12 newcomers, and more trades could be forthcoming as the season progresses. There's enough talent left for the M's to potentially hover around .500, but the big positive is a vastly improved farm system.


    21. Arizona Diamondbacks

    It looked like the Diamondbacks were headed for a fire sale when they traded superstar Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis at the beginning of December ahead of the final year of his contract.

    Instead, they stopped there, and even in that trade they targeted MLB talent with catcher Carson Kelly and right-hander Luke Weaver both expected to step into prominent roles this season.

    The Goldschmidt swap now looks like one step backward with the hope of taking two forward in the near future—an unavoidable move for a team that had no real hope of signing its homegrown star long term. A rocky start could put Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, David Peralta and others on the trade block. For now, they're still looking to contend.


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    Manny Machado
    Manny MachadoJennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    20. Pittsburgh Pirates

    The Pirates traded for Chris Archer and Keone Kela last summer with an eye on contending in 2019.

    However, their relative inactivity this offseason belies that sentiment, as they face an uphill battle in a stacked NL Central.

    Piecing together the middle infield with some combination of Adam Frazier, Erik Gonzalez, Kevin Kramer and Kevin Newman could prove treacherous, while a middle-of-the-order of Corey Dickerson, Francisco Cervelli, Josh Bell and Colin Moran doesn't exactly rival the '27 Yankees.


    19. Los Angeles Angels

    Will the fragile duo of Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill be enough to bolster an Angels rotation that finished 19th in starters ERA (4.34) and 18th in quality starts (79)?

    The Halos also added Justin Bour and Jonathan Lucroy to the lineup and proven closer Cody Allen to the back of the bullpen, and rookie Ty Buttrey should also be a weapon in the late innings. Still, there's an awful lot riding on a starting staff that has injury questions from top to bottom.

    On paper, this looks like an improved team over the one that won 80 games in 2018. However, the difference between improvement and playoff contention are different things.


    18. Minnesota Twins

    After a surprise postseason berth in 2017, the Twins took a step backward with a 78-84 record and a distant second-place finish in the AL Central.

    Their offseason moves didn't exactly put the Cleveland Indians on notice, but guys such as Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron, Martin Perez and Blake Parker can all be impactful additions.

    More than anything, it will be up to the team's in-house talent to meet expectations. That means bounce-back seasons from Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, among other things. A wild-card run is not out of the question if a few things break right.


    17. San Diego Padres

    The Manny Machado signing should be enough for the baseball world to take notice of the Padres. That said, he can't pitch, and the team has a sketchy projected starting rotation of Joey Lucchesi, Robbie Erlin, Bryan Mitchell, Eric Lauer and Luis Perdomo.

    Prospects Chris Paddack, Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill will eventually arrive to provide some support to the staff, and top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. will also provide a major in-season boost whenever he gets the call to take over as the everyday shortstop.

    The future is incredibly bright in San Diego, and the present improved significantly with the addition of Machado. After the Padres lost 96 games last season, a reasonable expectation would be a run at a winning record before moving toward playoff contention in 2020.


    16. Oakland Athletics

    A lot went right for the A's to win 97 games last season.

    That's not to say this isn't a talented roster—as it's led by breakout star Matt Chapman and sluggers Khris Davis and Matt Olson—it's just hard to imagine Oakland will find the same luck in cobbling together a pitching staff and navigating injuries.

    The starting rotation looks like a concern, with Fiers, Marco Estrada and Brett Anderson fronting the staff. That makes prospects Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk the team's biggest X-factors. Relying on rookie starters is generally not a recipe for success, but that duo is supremely talented.


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    Yasiel Puig
    Yasiel PuigMasterpress/Getty Images

    15. Cincinnati Reds

    At a time when more and more teams are either sitting on their hands during the offseason or blowing up the roster to rebuild, the Reds are going for it.

    After Cincinnati finished 25th in the majors with a 5.02 starters ERA, veteran additions Sonny Gray, Alex Wood and Tanner Roark will now flank breakout candidate Luis Castillo. An improved starting staff alone could be enough to vault them into the wild-card picture.

    Yasiel Puig is also an impact addition to the lineup, while top prospect Nick Senzel could take over as the starting center fielder before the All-Star break. They're still facing a tough battle, but the arrow is pointing straight up in Cincinnati.


    14. Colorado Rockies

    The Rockies reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history the last two years, and it's largely thanks to a vastly improved starting rotationled by Kyle Freeland and German Marquez.

    While the starting staff returns intact, the bullpen lost its most consistent late-inning arm in Adam Ottavino. The underperforming trio of Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw will need to turn things around, or the relief corps could be a real issue.

    What they won't have an issue with is scoring runs. Outfielder David Dahl is a major breakout candidate, rookie Garrett Hampson is ready to make his mark, and Daniel Murphy could be the steal of the offseason on a two-year, $24 million deal if he returns to form.


    13. Tampa Bay Rays

    A 19-9 September led the Rays to a surprise 90-win season, and there's reason to believe they can improve on that in 2019.

    Charlie Morton will be a major addition to the starting rotation and slot in behind AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, while a full season of Tyler Glasnow and a healthy Brent Honeywell (Tommy John surgery) could further bolster the staff. The unheralded relief corps remained intact—aside from veteran Sergio Romo (Miami Marlins)—and the "opener" approach will be utilized once again.

    The big question is whether they have enough offensive firepower. Catcher Mike Zunino is a major upgrade behind the plate from the group that was left after the team dealt Wilson Ramos last July. And Avisail Garcia was a nice buy-low pickup after the White Sox non-tendered him. Still, they'll only go as far as the pitching staff can carry them.


    12. Milwaukee Brewers

    Brewers fans are no doubt tired of hearing how their team overperformed last season, how several players are destined to regress after career years and how an over-reliance on the bullpen could lead to real issues. The thing is, all those points have merit.

    Past success doesn't guarantee future results. Ask the 2018 Twins. The addition of Yasmani Grandal is nice, but the starting rotation is still weak, and they're one injury to someone like Josh Hader or Corbin Burnes away from being in serious trouble.

    They're not the most talented team in the NL Central, and a lot will need to go right again for them to repeat as division champs. Wild-card contention seems more realistic.


    11. New York Mets

    Over the past several offseasons, the Mets have sat on their hands and hoped for the best.

    Not this year. They've added Cano, Diaz, Jed Lowrie, Ramos, Jeurys Familia, Keon Broxton, Justin Wilson and J.D. Davis, and they'll receive an in-house boost from slugger Pete Alonso when he gets the call.

    Once again, it will all boil down to the health of the starting rotation. They're lacking in depth behind Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz and Jason Vargas, but if that group can stay healthy, it's as good a rotation as any.


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    J.T. Realmuto
    J.T. RealmutoBrian Blanco/Getty Images

    10. Cleveland Indians

    The Indians did some house-cleaning this offseason, shipping out catcher Yan Gomes, first baseman Yonder Alonso and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion in an effort to quell some budgetary concerns.

    That's the wrong mindset to have when your window of contention is open, and there's no way to argue they haven't gotten worse this offseason. The catcher position and all three outfield spots have a chance to be real issues as things currently stand.

    And yet, here they are at No. 9 in the rankings. Why? They have the best starting rotation in baseball, a solid bullpen and an offense led by two legitimate MVP candidates, and they play in the worst division in baseball. The roster may have gotten a bit worse, but they're in just as good of a position as ever.


    9. Washington Nationals

    Letting Bryce Harper walk was the right move for the Nationals.

    Not only did that open the door for them to add Patrick Corbin to an already excellent starting rotation, but it also significantly improves their chances of locking up a more valuable homegrown player—third baseman Anthony Rendon—and clears a path for top prospect Victor Robles.

    Looking up and down the roster, it's hard to find a clear weakness. The catcher position has been upgraded, the bullpen is in good shape, Brian Dozier is a terrific bounce-back addition, and Jeremy Hellickson and Anibal Sanchez provide useful depth to the rotation.

    History tells us to temper our expectations with this team, and that's exactly what we're doing here by placing them at No. 8, but the Nats could wind up being the class of the NL.


    8. Atlanta Braves

    Ronald Acuna Jr. was just the tip of the iceberg for the Braves.

    The farm system is absolutely loaded, especially on the pitching side of things, and several of their best young arms are on the cusp. Touki Toussaint, Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, Kolby Allard and Luiz Gohara all saw time at the MLB level last season, and it's reasonable to think one or two of those guys will take a step forward and make a real impact in 2019.

    Meanwhile, a healthy Josh Donaldson was added to an already potent lineup, while prospect Austin Riley waits in the wings as a potential middle-of-the-order bat in his own right. There are teams with more proven rosters, but few with the short- and long-term upside of the group in Atlanta.


    7. St. Louis Cardinals

    The Cardinals have now missed the postseason three years in a row. The last time that happened, Mark McGwire was still launching balls into the upper deck and Kent Bottenfield was the ace of the staff.

    So how did they respond? They added a McGwire-esque presence to the middle of the lineup by acquiring Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks.

    Andrew Miller was also signed to bolster the relief corps, though the hope is that hard-throwing Jordan Hicks will take the closer job and run with it. With a ton of starting pitching depth and a dangerous lineup top-to-bottom, there's a good chance they'll stop the drought from reaching four years.


    6. Philadelphia Phillies

    The Phillies won 80 games last season and finished third in the NL East.

    Then they added the best catcher in baseball (J.T. Realmuto), a dynamic table-setter (Jean Segura), a former MVP with plenty left in the tank (Andrew McCutchen), a proven closer (David Robertson) and a quality lefty reliever (Jose Alvarez).

    That was enough to make them serious postseason contenders.

    Then came the long-awaited splash to sign Bryce Harper, which vaults them to the top of the NL East heap and makes them one of the NL favorites.


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    James Paxton
    James PaxtonLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    5. Chicago Cubs

    Yu Darvish made just eight starts after signing for $126 million. Former NL MVP Kris Bryant played hurt for much of the year and was limited to 102 games. Free-agent signing Tyler Chatwood was an absolute disaster. The bullpen struggled to find stability and had 14 different pitchers make at least 10 appearances.

    And the Cubs still won 95 games.

    As easy as it is to say a lot went right for the Brewers last season, it's just as easy to say a lot went wrong for the Cubs. Yes, their "financial limitations" this offseason have been maddening, but they're capable of enough in-house improvement to make up for that inactivity. This is still the team to beat in the NL Central.


    4. Houston Astros

    Even without Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr., the Astros still have a potentially dominant starting staff.

    Wade Miley was signed to fill one of the spots behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, while Collin McHugh will move back into the rotation to fill another, leaving one spot available for some combination of Josh James, Framber Valdez and eventually Forrest Whitley.

    On the offensive side, outfielder Michael Brantley was added to the mix, and a healthy Carlos Correa looks like a prime candidate for a bounce-back season. There's a lot to like in Houston.


    3. Los Angeles Dodgers

    Corey Seager is back after playing just 26 games in 2018. Justin Turner is healthy as well after being limited to 103 games. Walker Buehler looks poised to continue his emergence as a legitimate Cy Young contender. Unclogging the outfield logjam could open the door for the next standout rookie, Alex Verdugo.

    Even without any major outside additions, the Dodgers look like an improved team. And they did make some notable signings, adding A.J. Pollock to man center field and Joe Kelly to help bridge the gap to Kenley Jansen at the back of the bullpen.

    The Dodgers have won the NL West title six years running, and this doesn't look like the year that streak will be snapped. Can they finally get over the hump in October and win a title?


    2. New York Yankees

    A full season of J.A. Happ and the addition of James Paxton could potentially turn what was the Yankees' biggest weakness—the starting rotation—into a legitimate strength.

    They also bolstered the infield with the additions of DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki, while adding lights-out reliever Adam Ottavino to an already talented relief corps.

    A bounce-back season from Gary Sanchez, another step forward from Gleyber Torres, a healthy season from Aaron Judge and a productive season as the everyday first baseman by Luke Voit all seem like reasonable expectations. Look out, Red Sox.


    1. Boston Red Sox

    Let's just get this out of the way right off the bat: The high-profile departures of Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly have not left the Red Sox with a gaping hole at the back of their bullpen.

    Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier were both excellent last season and are more than capable of closing games, Steven Wright and Hector Velazquez excelled in multi-inning roles, Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman are quality middle relievers, and a healthy Tyler Thornburg could be the X-factor. There's a very real chance the bullpen is just as good in 2019, if not better.

    That's the one knock on the Red Sox in their quest to repeat as World Series champs, and it's unfounded. Until another team makes an extremely convincing case, they're the team to beat.


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