MLB Power Rankings at the Start of 2021 Spring Training
With pitchers and catchers officially arriving at spring training sites earlier this week, it's time for an updated version of our MLB power rankings to set the stage for spring training.
These rankings were last updated on Dec. 10 immediately following the winter meetings, at a time when the offseason market was moving at a glacial pace and most of the market's top dominoes had yet to even start wobbling.
Two months later, we now have a clear picture of how all the major pieces fit into the 2021 puzzle, with just a few notable unsigned players led by Jake Odorizzi and Jackie Bradley Jr.
There is still plenty to be sorted out before Opening Day, and the inevitable injury or late blockbuster trade could still shake things up. But as things stand, this should give an idea of how all 30 teams stack up for the 2021 season.
Off we go!
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
Only two teams in MLB history have lost 120 games in a season. That's the level of bad we might be talking about with the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates. With Joe Musgrove, Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon all traded, what was already baseball's worst team has gotten even worse. At least rising star Ke'Bryan Hayes will be fun to watch at third base.
29. Colorado Rockies
Most teams hold press conferences during the offseason to introduce their newest additions to the public and get the fan base excited. The Rockies held one to try to justify trading away face of the franchise Nolan Arenado for pennies on the dollar. It was the perfect embodiment of the staggering ineptitude that is Jeff Bridich, Dick Monfort and the current Colorado front office.
28. Baltimore Orioles
With shortstop Freddy Galvis and aging star Felix Hernandez headlining their new additions, it's been a quiet offseason for the Orioles as the rebuild continues. While they continue to wait on the arrival of Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez and other top prospects, young players like Ryan Mountcastle, Keegan Akin, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander will look to cement their place in the club's long-term plans.
27. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are headed in the right direction, but they are still a few years away from making a climb up the standings. In the meantime, the front office again made a series of shrewd under-the-radar moves, re-signing Jonathan Schoop and adding Robbie Grossman, Wilson Ramos, Nomar Mazara, Renato Nunez and Jose Urena on low-risk, short-term deals.
26. Texas Rangers
The Lance Lynn trade in December signaled a shift in direction for the Rangers after they were clear buyers a year ago. They made some nice buy-low moves in adding David Dahl, Nate Lowe and Mike Foltynewicz, and flipping Elvis Andrus to Oakland will free up the shortstop job for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. There's some intriguing young talent on the roster, but a lot will have to go right for them to avoid the AL West cellar.
25. Arizona Diamondbacks
A year after making a splash by trading for Starling Marte and signing Madison Bumgarner to a five-year, $85 million deal, the D-backs have taken a sharp 180 following a disappointing 25-35 season. Veterans Joakim Soria and Asdrubal Cabrera are the most notable additions this offseason. The Diamondbacks will bank on some in-house improvement from guys like Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver and Daulton Varsho while waiting on the development of a deep and talented farm system.
24. Kansas City Royals
Props to the Royals for striving to improve at a time when a lot of teams were content to sit on their hands and tread water. Carlos Santana will slot nicely between Salvador Perez and Jorge Soler in the middle of the lineup, Andrew Benintendi should benefit from a change of scenery, Michael A. Taylor still has some upside, and Hanser Alberto on a minor league deal was highway robbery. With a step forward from the young pitching staff, this team could quietly push toward a .500 record.
23. Seattle Mariners
Jerry Dipoto has shown a previously absent level of restraint while he waits on the development of one of baseball's best farm systems, and it should pay dividends soon. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert could debut in 2021, while Julio Rodriguez won't be far behind. That trio will join Kyle Lewis, Evan White and Marco Gonzales in forming the foundation of the push to contend. A healthy Mitch Haniger would serve as a huge in-house addition as he was a 6.2-WAR player in 2018.
22. Cincinnati Reds
While the loss of Trevor Bauer is front and center, a decimated relief corps could be a much bigger issue for the Reds. Raisel Iglesias was traded, Archie Bradley was non-tendered, and Michael Lorenzen is expected to move into the rotation, leaving Amir Garrett and a host of question marks in the bullpen. Are they really going to start the season with Kyle Farmer as the everyday shortstop?
21. Boston Red Sox
There's still a chance Jackie Bradley Jr. could find his way back to Boston, but for now, it will be Franchy Cordero, Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe in the Boston outfield. Don't sleep on Renfroe as one of the under-the-radar signings of the winter. The starting rotation will be without Chris Sale until at least midseason, which means some combination of Garrett Richards, Martin Perez, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck and Connor Seabold will be asked to hold down three spots.
20. San Francisco Giants
With roughly $75 million coming off the books next winter and a stacked farm system, the Giants are on the cusp of something big. After hitting on a buy-low deal with Kevin Gausman last year, they have taken a similar approach to fill out the rotation this winter by adding Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Aaron Sanchez. They're still a year away, but a push toward contention is right around the corner.
19. Milwaukee Brewers
Minor league deals with Travis Shaw and Brad Boxberger don't exactly move the needle, but the Brewers are still fringe contenders in a wide-open National League Central. With Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes fronting the rotation and Devin Williams and Josh Hader shortening games in the bullpen, the pitching staff has a chance to be a clear strength if a few others can step up. Bounce-back seasons from Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura, along with the return of Lorenzo Cain, could go a long way offensively.
18. Miami Marlins
The Marlins have an exciting young rotation led by Sixto Sanchez, Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez, and hard-throwing Edward Cabrera could join the mix in 2021. However, a completely rebuilt bullpen anchored by Anthony Bass and Yimi Garcia and a middling offense make it hard to fully buy into the idea of them contending again in a stacked NL East. They're good, but they also played over their heads in 2020.
17. Philadelphia Phillies
While others in the NL East improved, the Phillies spent the offseason trying not to get worse, eventually coming to terms on new deals with catcher J.T. Realmuto and shortstop Didi Gregorius. The impact of adding Archie Bradley, Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson and Jose Alvarado to a bullpen that staggered along to a 7.06 ERA in 2020 can't be understated. But does it move the needle enough after nine straight seasons without a winning record?
Losing Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco is going to be felt both on the field and in the Cleveland clubhouse, but this team still has the pitching to contend. Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale and Triston McKenzie will determine whether Cleveland starts to fade in an American League Central filled with teams on the rise or maintains its relevance for another year.
15. Los Angeles Angels
Once again, the Angels failed to reel in the market's top starting pitcher, but they did add Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb to an incumbent group of Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and Shohei Ohtani. There's no clear-cut ace in that group, but it might be a good enough collection of arms for the Angels to push toward a wild-card berth. A full season of Jared Walsh and an improved bullpen could also add a few wins to the tally.
14. Chicago Cubs
The fire sale many were expecting from the Cubs began and ended with the trade that sent Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres. Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras are all still around, though Bryant and Baez are both staring down free agency next offseason. The performance of Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, Trevor Williams, Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay behind ace Kyle Hendricks will ultimately determine if this team can still contend.
13. Houston Astros
A healthy Yordan Alvarez and the emerging trio of Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier in the starting rotation provide some reason for optimism that the Astros can regain AL West supremacy. Losing George Springer is going to hurt, though, as he was a dynamic catalyst atop the lineup. Adding Jackie Bradley Jr. as an upgrade over Myles Straw in center field would be a nice way to close out the offseason, but for now, they are still positioned to give Oakland a run.
12. Toronto Blue Jays
It's easy to get excited about George Springer and Marcus Semien joining a dynamic young core of position-player talent in Toronto. It's a bit harder to see how all the pieces fit together on the pitching side of things. The front office seems to be hoping quantity will lead to quality with Robbie Ray, Nate Pearson, Tanner Roark, Steven Matz, Tyler Chatwood, Ross Stripling, Thomas Hatch, Trent Thornton and Anthony Kay all in the mix to fill out the rotation behind Hyun Jin Ryu.
11. Oakland Athletics
In the middle of writing this, news broke that the Athletics had signed Trevor Rosenthal to a one-year, $11 million contract and Mitch Moreland to a one-year, $2.25 million deal. Did they find a box of cash tucked away somewhere they had forgotten about? Regardless, replacing Liam Hendriks at the back of the bullpen and Khris Davis in the DH role plugs two significant holes at the 11th hour. If Chris Bassitt is for real and Jesus Luzardo can take another step forward, the rotation will be a major strength.
10. Washington Nationals
Juan Soto (fifth) and Trea Turner (seventh) finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting, but the rest of the Nationals lineup was a mess in 2020. The additions of Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber should go a long way, and there's still plenty of room for Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom to make a bigger impact. A healthy Stephen Strasburg could wind up being the biggest addition of all.
9. Minnesota Twins
With Nelson Cruz back in the fold, the Twins lineup should once again be among the best in baseball, especially if, as expected, Alex Kirilloff can provide a more well-rounded offensive profile than Eddie Rosario. Veterans J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker will need to pull their weight at the back of the rotation, but this team should push the Chicago White Sox for the top spot in the AL Central.
8. Tampa Bay Rays
A lot of teams would be in real trouble after losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton from the starting rotation, but the Rays know how to cobble together a top-tier pitching staff. Free agents Rich Hill, Chris Archer, Michael Wacha and Collin McHugh were brought aboard to add depth to the staff, but top prospects Luis Patino, Shane McClanahan and Brendan McKay are the X-factors in the rotation. Who's ready for a full year of Randy Arozarena?
7. St. Louis Cardinals
The Nolan Arenado-Paul Goldschmidt-Dylan Carlson trio has a chance to be the most impactful middle-of-the-order St. Louis has seen since Albert Pujols-Jim Edmonds-Scott Rolen was at its peak. Jack Flaherty needs to return to ace form, and Carlos Martinez must pitch up to his potential. But with more offensive punch, there should be less pressure on the pitching staff. This is now the team to beat in the NL Central.
6. New York Mets
There is no question the Mets have improved dramatically, and it goes beyond the Francisco Lindor trade. Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker and Joey Lucchesi solidify a starting rotation that will get even better once Noah Syndergaard returns, James McCann stops a revolving door at the catcher position, Trevor May will be a key setup reliever, and even the bench got better with Jonathan Villar and Kevin Pillar signed for cheap. They are still chasing the Atlanta Braves, but the Mets are legitimate contenders.
5. Chicago White Sox
The biggest hole for the White Sox last season was the lack of a third reliable starter behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. That was addressed with the Lance Lynn trade, and if Dylan Cease can take another step forward, the South Siders could have one of the best rotations in baseball. The lineup is set beyond sorting out the DH role, though that job will eventually go to Jose Abreu once top prospect Andrew Vaughn is promoted to man first base. The pieces are in place; now it's time to deliver on the hype.
4. Atlanta Braves
Losing Mark Melancon, Shane Greene and Darren O'Day at the back of the bullpen without any significant additions to replace them is the only minor red flag for the defending NL East champs. The starting rotation of Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson, Drew Smyly and Kyle Wright has a chance to be elite, and it will only get better once Mike Soroka returns to action. Re-signing Marcell Ozuna while turning center field over to Cristian Pache is the perfect example of how this front office has blended experience and youth.
3. New York Yankees
The Yankees starting rotation is the biggest X-factor of the 2021 season. If Corey Kluber returns to something close to his pre-injury form, Jameson Taillon stays healthy and Luis Severino doesn't suffer any setbacks, this is the team to beat in the American League. That's a laundry list of "ifs" for one staff, but with Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt waiting in the wings, a deep bullpen and a juggernaut offense, the Yankees have the potential to be great.
2. San Diego Padres
With a starting rotation of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Dinelson Lamet, Joe Musgrove and Chris Paddack, an offense anchored by Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and underrated Trent Grisham, and a deep bullpen that added Mark Melancon and Keone Kela, it's hard to find a hole on the San Diego roster. The only real knock against them is the fact that they play in the same division as the Dodgers. Will there be two 100-win teams in the NL West this year?
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Some teams win a World Series title, rest on their laurels and suffer a hangover the following season. Others go out and sign the defending NL Cy Young winner to make an already great roster even scarier. With Justin Turner and Blake Treinen re-signed and David Price back in action after opting out of the 2020 season, this is quite simply the deepest, most talented team we've seen in years. It's the Dodgers vs. the field in 2021.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.