Spring Training 2020: Power-Ranking Every MLB Division from Worst to Best

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2020

Spring Training 2020: Power-Ranking Every MLB Division from Worst to Best

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Spring training is here. Hooray!

    As players limber up their baseball muscles in Florida and Arizona, let's take a moment to power-rank all six MLB divisions from worst to best.

    In compiling these rankings, we looked primarily at depth. How many teams within a division have a reasonable shot at making the playoffs, and how many could make a credible World Series run as currently constructed?

    Every squad is technically a contender in February. Injuries and trades will change the calculus. But this is about realistically assessing everyone's chances right now, division by division, with an eye on October.

No. 6: American League Central

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    After adding third baseman Josh Donaldson to an already powerful offense, the Minnesota Twins are clear favorites to repeat as American League Central champions, though they could use more pitching, especially with right-hander Michael Pineda out until May as he serves the remainder of his 60-game performance-enhancing drug suspension.

    The Cleveland Indians traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers but held on to shortstop Francisco Lindor (for now) and seem stuck between a rebuild and a retool after missing the playoffs with 93 wins last season.

    The Chicago White Sox made some notable offseason additions (catcher Yasmani Grandal, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and left-handers Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez) to bolster a promising young core. Are they ready to take the jump after a 72-89 finish in 2019? Maybe. But they're counting on a number of unproven players, including hard-throwing righty Michael Kopech, who is coming off Tommy John surgery and has made a scant four big league starts.

    After that, it's the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals, who are both rebuilding, made no notable moves and should each lose 90-plus games.

No. 5: American League East

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The New York Yankees are a juggernaut after signing ace Gerrit Cole to front the starting rotation. They have a stout bullpen, a potent lineup and all of the ingredients to claim the 28th championship in franchise history.

    Their only real competition within the AL East is the Tampa Bay Rays, who added some interesting bats in Jose Martinez (via a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals), Hunter Renfroe (via the San Diego Padres) and Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and led the AL with a 3.65 ERA in 2019.

    The Toronto Blue Jays boast rising stars such as third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and shortstop Bo Bichette. They signed 2019 MLB ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.32), intriguing Japanese righty Shun Yamaguchi and veteran hurler Tanner Roark. Still, the Jays are fringe contenders at best after losing 95 games in 2019.

    The Boston Red Sox shipped franchise outfielder Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with lefty David Price and don't seem intent on contending in 2020. And the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles will struggle to stay under the 100-loss mark.

No. 4: National League West

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    By adding Mookie Betts and David Price from the Red Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers gilded a roster that won 106 games in 2019 and was already a top title contender.

    The Arizona Diamondbacks won 85 games last season and proved their commitment to winning in 2020 by signing left-hander and postseason legend Madison Bumgarner and acquiring center fielder Starling Marte from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    The San Diego Padres have tons of young talent, headlined by budding superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., but they may still be a year or so away from a serious playoff run.

    The Colorado Rockies did little to improve a roster that lost 91 games in 2019 and might end up trading franchise third baseman Nolan Arenado at or before the July trade deadline.

    Then there are the San Francisco Giants, who have brought back fan favorites such as Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence but are saddled with untradable veteran contracts and are clearly headed for a rebuild.

No. 3: American League West

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Houston Astros will be the bad boys of MLB, possibly for the duration of the season, after the sign-stealing scandal that rocked the franchise and the sport. But despite losing ace Gerrit Cole to free agency, they retain a strong core that won the pennant in 2019 and will compete for one in 2020, like it or not.

    Don't count out the small-market Oakland Athletics, who won 97 in 2019. They haven't been very active this offseason and there are holes, including at second base. But corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman anchor the offense, and the A's have enough pitching to remain competitive.

    The Los Angeles Angels might need to do more than adding Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran to bolster a pitching staff that ranked 25th in baseball with a 5.12 ERA. But they inked third baseman Anthony Rendon, who will join reigning AL MVP Mike Trout to form a dynamic offensive duo.

    The Texas Rangers signed veteran third baseman Todd Frazier, 34, and acquired two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, 33, from the Indians. If both can crank back the clock to some degree, Texas could make noise. Frazier swatted 21 homers with a .329 on-base percentage in 2019 and Kluber put up a 2.89 ERA in 215 innings as recently as 2018, so there's hope for both.

    Meanwhile, after a 68-win season in 2019 and no major offseason moves, don't expect anything better from the Seattle Mariners.

No. 2: National League Central

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    This might be the most wide-open division in baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals won it last season and could repeat, though losing outfielder Marcell Ozuna to free agency hurts.

    The Milwaukee Brewers lost catcher Yasmani Grandal and infielder Mike Moustakas via free agency, but they added outfielder Avisail Garcia, first baseman Justin Smoak and infielder Ryon Healy. They lack a proven ace, but they're coming off an 89-win season and are in the mix with 2019 NL MVP runner-up Christian Yelich returning from injury.

    The Chicago Cubs are in a state of flux. Trade rumors are swirling around star third baseman Kris Bryant, who told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times he'd "like to be in the loop" about the team's plans for him. The Cubbies went 84-78 in 2019 and missed the playoffs. That said, they cannot be discounted, depending on what they do with Bryant and other top-tier pieces.

    The Cincinnati Reds signed Moustakas away from the Brewers and inked versatile veteran Nick Castellanos and Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama. They also added Pedro Strop to help the bullpen and netted Wade Miley to boost the back end of the rotation. They're a sneaky contender.

    In fact, the only team in the division with virtually no hope of contending is the Pittsburgh Pirates, who sent Starling Marte to Arizona, did little else and seem destined for the division basement.

No. 1: National League East

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Braves lost third baseman Josh Donaldson but added outfielder Marcell Ozuna. They also signed closer Will Smith, as well as veterans Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez to add experience to the starting rotation. They have tons of young talent on the roster and marinating in the minors, and they are the favorites to win a third straight NL East crown.

    The additions of infielder Didi Gregorius and right-hander Zack Wheeler (signed away from the division rival New York Mets) increase the Philadelphia Phillies' chances of taking Bryce Harper back to the postseason after a disappointing 81-81 finish in 2019.

    The New York Mets lost Wheeler but added a formidable late-inning arm by signing free agent Dellin Betances away from the New York Yankees and took a flier on 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, who posted a 5.52 ERA in 2019 with the Red Sox and will compete for a spot in a loaded rotation fronted by reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

    The defending champion Washington Nationals lost Anthony Rendon, but they extended righty Stephen Strasburg, employ ace Max Scherzer and have ample young stars, including 21-year-old outfielder Juan Soto.

    That's four teams with a reasonable chance at winning the division or at least grabbing a wild-card slot. And they'll all get to feast on the Miami Marlins. Then again, the Fish have some interesting young talent and signed semi-notable players such as Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson and Matt Kemp, who should help them improve (at least slightly) on last season's 105-loss campaign.