MLB Tier Rankings: How Do All 30 MLB Teams Stack Up?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2021

MLB Tier Rankings: How Do All 30 MLB Teams Stack Up?

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    With spring training underway and Opening Day fast approaching, media outlets have begun releasing power rankings for the new season.

    That article format sets the stage for the upcoming season and shows how all 30 teams stack up based on roster talent and expectations.

    However, we're going to try something different.

    Rather than arranging teams from No. 1 through No. 30, we've sorted them into six different tiers: non-contenders, dark horses, fringe contenders, playoff contenders, World Series contenders and World Series favorites.

    Where does your favorite team fall in our tier rankings?

Tier 6: NL Non-Contenders

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    Ke'Bryan Hayes
    Ke'Bryan HayesGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Arizona Diamondbacks

    The D-backs didn't view themselves as non-contenders last offseason when they acquired Starling Marte and signed Madison Bumgarner, but things didn't work out as hoped. They never seem willing to blow things up, so expect another year of semi-competitive retooling while they wait on the farm system.


    Colorado Rockies

    It's almost impossible to believe the Rockies were a playoff team in 2017 and 2018, as they have tumbled to the NL West cellar and the bottom of the baseball world. The Nolan Arenado trade was the latest example of their gross mismanagement, and shortstop Trevor Story would be wise to abandon the sinking ship when free agency arrives next winter.


    Pittsburgh Pirates

    There is nothing controversial about calling the Pirates a non-contender. They could make a serious run at being the third team in MLB history to pile up 120 losses in a season. Ke'Bryan Hayes is a rising star at third base, and they should be busy on the trade market, but it's going to be a long year.

Tier 6: AL Non-Contenders

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    Casey Mize
    Casey MizePaul Sancya/Associated Press

    Baltimore Orioles

    The Orioles are playing the long game, and it should pay dividends as top prospects Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall draw closer to the big leagues. For now, they will continue to search for long-term pieces on the current roster. Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander and Keegan Akin are among the names to know.


    Detroit Tigers

    The youth movement began in Detroit last season as Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Isaac Paredes, Daz Cameron and others made their MLB debuts. A sneaky good offseason that saw the Tigers add Robbie Grossman, Wilson Ramos, Nomar Mazara, Renato Nunez, Jose Urena and Julio Teheran on the cheap could add a few wins to their total, but they're not ready to contend.


    Texas Rangers

    The Rangers didn't go as far as trading Joey Gallo, but the deal that sent Lance Lynn to the Chicago White Sox was a clear indication they don't view themselves as contenders in 2021. They have a lot of good young talent on both sides of the ball, so they should be fun to watch, even if they wind up in the AL West basement.

Tier 5: NL Dark Horses

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    Mike Yastrzemski
    Mike YastrzemskiDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Cincinnati Reds

    Losing Trevor Bauer is a big blow, but Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray still form one of the better one-two punches in baseball. If Tyler Mahle and Michael Lorenzen can pick up the slack at the back of the rotation and some of the team's proven veteran hitters can play up to their potential, the Reds could make noise in what will again be a wide-open NL Central.


    Miami Marlins

    The Marlins are an exciting young team that will only get better, and the trio of Sandy Alcantara, Sixto Sanchez and Pablo Lopez atop the starting rotation is a strength. That said, let's not pretend they weren't a .500 team with a minus-41 run differential last year. A last-place finish in the NL East is more likely than another playoff berth, but never say never.


    San Francisco Giants

    The Giants are biding their time until nearly $100 million comes off the books and several declining veterans depart next winter, but don't rule them out as relevant in 2021. They've put together an interesting collection of buy-low arms in Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Aaron Sanchez, Nick Tropeano and Scott Kazmir. If a couple of those signings hit, they could wind up on the other side of .500.

Tier 5: AL Dark Horses

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    Marco Gonzales
    Marco GonzalesJeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Boston Red Sox

    In the last nine years, the Red Sox have four division titles and four last-place finishes, so wild swings up and down the standings are nothing new. The health of Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez, effectiveness of the bullpen and productivity of hitters not named Alex Verdugo, Rafael Devers or Xander Bogaerts will determine if they can make another significant climb.


    Kansas City Royals

    This one may be a stretch, but the Royals had an excellent offseason. Carlos Santana is the type of veteran who can change the culture of a team, Andrew Benintendi and Michael A. Taylor were both great buy-low additions, and the young pitching staff has tremendous upside. Don't sleep on this team in 2021.


    Seattle Mariners

    Idiocy of Kevin Mather aside, the Mariners are on the cusp of something great. Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez should join Kyle Lewis to form a dynamic young outfield, Logan Gilbert is on his way to bolster the starting rotation behind Marco Gonzales, and a healthy Mitch Haniger could be a significant in-house addition. The tides are turning in the AL West, and this could be the team that seizes the opportunity.

Tier 4: NL Fringe Contenders

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    Kris Bryant
    Kris BryantTony Dejak/Associated Press

    Chicago Cubs

    The collection of arms behind Kyle Hendricks in the Cubs rotationJake Arrieta, Zach Davies, Alec Mills, Trevor Williams and Adbert Alzolaywill determine whether the North Siders remain competitive. There is ample room for in-house improvement from the offensive core. As Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo stare down free agency, all three look like prime bounce-back candidates.


    Milwaukee Brewers

    With Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes at the front of the rotation and Devin Williams and Josh Hader at the back of the bullpen, the Brewers have weapons. It's also easy to get behind the idea that Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura will both pick up where they left off in 2019, and the return of Lorenzo Cain will provide a spark. Still, it's difficult to differentiate between No. 2 and No. 4 in the NL Central.


    Philadelphia Phillies

    Is an improved bullpen enough for the Phillies to close the gap in the NL East? The bullpen was atrocious last year with a 7.06 ERA, so the impact of adding Archie Bradley, Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson and Jose Alvarado will be significant. There's plenty of talent on the roster, but they still look like the third- or fourth-best team in the NL East.

Tier 4: AL Fringe Contenders

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    Shane Bieber
    Shane BieberDavid Dermer/Associated Press


    With a strong starting rotation led by Shane Bieber and a deep bullpen that should benefit greatly from the return of Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland is capable of another postseason berth. That said, the Francisco Lindor trade made it a worse team in the short term. Cleveland looks like the clear No. 3 in the AL Central.


    Houston Astros

    The Astros' ability to contend hinges on the young trio of Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier in the starting rotation. While all three provided reason for optimism in 2020, they are far from established. The Astros will also feel the loss of George Springer as an offensive catalyst on multiple levels, though they could still plug the center field void with Jackie Bradley Jr.


    Los Angeles Angels

    Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Jose Quintana, Alex Cobb, Griffin Canning and Shohei Ohtani. Is that a good enough collection of starting pitching for the Angels to finally return to the postseason? The 2002 Angels are the last good example of a team that won a World Series title without a bona fide ace. Making the playoffs would be a welcome first step.


    Toronto Blue Jays

    It's not hard to get excited about what the Blue Jays are building, especially on offense where George Springer and Marcus Semien were added to the homegrown core. The starting rotation is the red flag with a wide range between floor and ceiling in terms of potential. They have eight to 10 viable rotation options to fill four spots behind Hyun Jin Ryu, but the quantity-over-quality approach is a tightrope walk.

Tier 3: NL Playoff Contenders

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    Juan Soto
    Juan SotoNick Wass/Associated Press

    New York Mets

    The Mets did not sign every available free agent, as many from that fanbase seemed to expect, but they are an exponentially better team. Francisco Lindor is a game-changer, James McCann is a huge upgrade behind the plate and there's more depth in the rotation and bullpen than in recent years. Until proven otherwise, the Atlanta Braves are the team to beat in the NL East, but the Mets are serious challengers for the division title and clear postseason contenders.


    St. Louis Cardinals

    It feels like the Cardinals were the only NL Central team that actively tried to improve this winter. Nolan Arenado is elite, and he'll join Paul Goldschmidt and Dylan Carlson to form a potent middle-of-the-order trio. This team could run away with the division title if the starting rotation returns to form. The Cardinals' inconsistency last year no doubt stemmed partly from the marathon schedule they were forced to play following a COVID-19 outbreak.


    Washington Nationals

    With a healthy Stephen Strasburg back in the starting rotation and sluggers Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber added to help protect Juan Soto, would it be surprising to see the Nationals win the NL East? If Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom can take a step forward offensively and Joe Ross can stake a claim to a rotation spot, it will be hard to find a hole on this roster.

Tier 3: AL Playoff Contenders

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    Tyler Glasnow
    Tyler GlasnowFrank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Minnesota Twins

    Aside from re-signing Nelson Cruz, the Twins made some solid additions to shore up the roster. Alex Colome is a proven late-inning option, Andrelton Simmons will be a significant upgrade defensively at shortstop over Jorge Polanco (minus-34 defensive runs saved for his career), and veterans J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker should provide stability at the back of the rotation.


    Oakland Athletics

    Since the calendar flipped to February, the Athletics have signed Trevor Rosenthal, Mitch Moreland and Sergio Romo, re-signed Mike Fiers and Yusmeiro Petit, and traded for Elvis Andrus and Adam Kolarek. Those additionscoupled with the departure of George Springer from Houstonhave them well positioned for a fourth straight postseason appearance and another AL West title.


    Tampa Bay Rays

    Losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton is a significant blow for the Rays, enough to bump them out of the top tier. But if any team can find a way to squeeze the most out of Chris Archer, Rich Hill and Michael Wacha, it's the Rays. A full season of Randy Arozarena and the eventual arrival of Wander Franco could also provide a different dimension to the offense.

Tier 2: World Series Contenders

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    Yu Darvish
    Yu DarvishCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Atlanta Braves

    If there's one question with this Braves roster, it's a bullpen that lost Mark Melancon, Shane Greene and Darren O'Day and didn't make significant additions. That said, Atlanta still has plenty of quality arms available, and the rotation should be far more stable with the additions of Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly and a full season of Ian Anderson. Is this the year the Braves get over the hump after reaching Game 7 of the NLCS in 2020?


    Chicago White Sox

    The 2020 White Sox share a lot of similarities with the 2015 Astros. Both came out the other side of a rebuild with a wealth of exciting young talent. Both made the playoffs a bit sooner than expected. Both had Dallas Keuchel. The Astros took a step back in 2016 before winning a World Series title the following year. This White Sox team is talented enough to skip that middle step and go right to contending for the trophy.


    San Diego Padres

    The Padres were 1.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 14 before going 5-6 to close the season, so the gap between the two teams wasn't as big as some might think. With the additions of Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, the Padres might be the second-best team in baseball, but they still have to go through the Dodgers if they want to reach the Fall Classic.

Tier 1: World Series Favorites

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    The Dodgers won the World Series, re-signed their two biggest free agents in Justin Turner and Blake Treinen, and added reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer and former All-Star Corey Knebel for good measure. Only 14 teams have ever won two or more World Series titles in a row, but this Dodgers team is built to join that elite group.


    New York Yankees

    With Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon added to the rotation and Darren O'Day and Justin Wilson brought in for the bullpen, the Yankees are ready to make a title push. The returns of Domingo German and then Luis Severino will be major X-factors, as will Kluber's ability to put two injury-plagued seasons behind him, but this is the team to beat on the AL side.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.


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