MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand Before 2021 Opening Day

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2021

MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand Before 2021 Opening Day

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Opening Day will finally be upon us Thursday.

    That means it's time to finalize our MLB power rankings for the start of the new season, setting the baseline for weekly Monday morning updates to come throughout the year.

    These rankings have been shuffled throughout the offseason as notable free agents have signed and teams have completed blockbuster trades. Now it's time for one final tweak with spring training wrapped up.

    Each team write-up includes a reminder of how it finished last year, a glass-half-full take on the 2021 season, a glass-half-empty take and a rundown of the club's ceiling.

    Let's get to it!

30. Pittsburgh Pirates

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

    2020 Record: 19-41, fifth in NL Central (-79 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to have a budding superstar in third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes. After a strong 2020 debut and a stellar spring training, he will start the season among the National League Rookie of the Year favorites. Shortstop Kevin Newman and left fielder Bryan Reynolds also still have the potential to be long-term building blocks. Closer Richard Rodriguez is one of the most underrated relievers in baseball.

    Glass Half-Empty: The fact the Pirates were deciding between Tyler Anderson and Chad Kuhl for Opening Day starter honors should tell you all you need to know about the state of the rotation. The lineup is also sorely lacking in middle-of-the-order run producers after Josh Bell was traded. This could easily be the third team in MLB history to lose 120 games.

    2021 Projection: It's hard to envision a scenario in which the Pirates finish anywhere but the cellar and with fewer than 100 losses.

29. Colorado Rockies

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    German Marquez
    German MarquezAshley Landis/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 26-34, fourth in NL West (-78 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: With underrated ace German Marquez leading the way, the Colorado Rockies rotation has a chance to be a strength, at least relative to the organization's past struggles in that department. Shortstop Trevor Story and right fielder Charlie Blackmon are elite offensive players, and newcomer C.J. Cron could do a lot of damage at Coors Field.

    Glass Half-Empty: The front office is clueless, and that was never more clear than in its handling of Nolan Arenado, who is now with the St. Louis Cardinals. A strong rotation by internal standards could still be one of the worst in baseball, the bullpen is a question mark, and the lineup beyond the three players listed above is questionable at best.

    2021 Projection: In 28 years, this team has never lost 100 games. There's a first time for everything.

28. Baltimore Orioles

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    Ryan Mountcastle
    Ryan MountcastleKathy Willens/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 25-35, fourth in AL East (-20 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: There is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for the Baltimore Orioles' rebuild. Slugger Anthony Santander put together a breakout 2020 season, and the team is hoping for a similar performance from Ryan Mountcastle this year. The healthy Trey Mancini could reemerge as the team's best hitter. Top prospects Adley Rutschman, DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez could be knocking on the door by season's end.

    Glass Half-Empty: The starting rotation is going to be one of the worst in baseball. Matt Harvey is penciled in to the No. 2 spot behind de facto ace John Means, and they'll be followed by a mix-and-match approach with a number of young arms. There are still a lot of holes that need to be plugged before this team can start climbing back up the standings.

    2021 Projection: There is enough offensive punch in the lineup to think the O's can avoid losing 100 games, but expect them to take up permanent residence in the cellar early.

27. Detroit Tigers

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    Casey Mize
    Casey MizeGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 23-35, fifth in AL Central (-69 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Detroit Tigers front office once again did a nice job adding on the margins, signing Robbie Grossman, Julio Teheran, Jose Urena, Wilson Ramos, Nomar Mazara and Rule 5 pick Akil Baddoo. The youth movement was in full swing last year, and Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Willi Castro gained valuable experience. The bullpen could be sneaky effective with a number of multi-inning weapons.

    Glass Half-Empty: This is still a roster filled with stopgaps while the front office waits on its prospects to develop. Left-hander Matthew Boyd is the ace of the staff but has been getting regularly shelled since the second half of the 2019 season. As the youth movement continues, growing pains are inevitable, and many of the short-term veteran additions could turn into trade bait in July.

    2021 Projection: The Tigers quietly started the 2020 season with a 9-5 record before a nine-game losing streak. They added a six-game winning streak before losing 19 of their last 25. Expect a few more flashes of contention this year, but they'll be fighting to avoid a last-place finish.

26. Texas Rangers

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    Joey Gallo
    Joey GalloSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 22-38, fifth in AL West (-88 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Texas Rangers have fully committed to rebuilding, trading away Lance Lynn and Elvis Andrus and cutting ties with Rougned Odor despite all the money he's owed. Slugger Joey Gallo could be the next to go if his strong spring training numbers carry over to the regular season. That said, there's still a lot of talent, and youngsters Nick Solak, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Leody Taveras, Dane Dunning and Taylor Hearn will be prominently featured from the jump. It's only a matter of time before top prospects Josh Jung and Sam Huff join the party.

    Glass Half-Empty: This is going to be a fun team to watch with so many young players on the Opening Day roster and more on the way. However, this season should be viewed as the first step toward future contention. Veteran Kyle Gibson is the Opening Day starter but would fit better as a No. 4 starter. Despite Gallo's ups and downs, if he is traded, it would rob the club of significant entertainment value.

    2021 Projection: Props to the Rangers for rebuilding rather than limping along as a fringe wild-card team at best. Another last-place finish is the most likely outcome, but they could return to contention faster than some of the other rebuilders around baseball.

25. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Madison Bumgarner
    Madison BumgarnerAshley Landis/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 25-35, fifth in NL West (-26 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: It's easy to buy in to the idea that veterans Madison Bumgarner and Eduardo Escobar, as well as young players Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly, are capable of much more than what they showed in 2020. Much of the Arizona Diamondbacks' top-tier talent is still in the lower levels of the minors, but they have a deep farm system that ranked No. 10 in our most recent update.

    Glass Half-Empty: Aside from Ketel Marte and injured ace Zac Gallen, the D-backs look an awful lot like the generic team you get to start your diamond dynasty in MLB The Show. It just feels like a roster full of players likely to finish with 0.2 WAR and forgettable stat lines. The fact that they have to play the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres a combined 38 times is less than ideal.

    2021 Projection: The floor for this team is another last-place finish. The ceiling is an outside shot at a .500 record and a distant third-place finish behind the two division juggernauts. A fittingly mediocre outlook.

24. Kansas City Royals

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    Carlos Santana
    Carlos SantanaSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 26-34, fourth in AL Central (-24 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Kansas City Royals quietly made some nice additions this offseason, signing veterans Carlos Santana and Mike Minor, buying low on Michael A. Taylor and Hanser Alberto and trading for Andrew Benintendi. Add that group to the incumbent core of Whit Merrifield, Salvador Perez, Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier, Brad Keller and Brady Singer, and this team has a chance to surprise. A breakout spring training by top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. should have fans excited for the future.

    Glass Half-Empty: The bullpen could be a nightmare if veterans Greg Holland and Wade Davis fail to do their part. The starting rotation is essentially a collection of Nos. 3 and 4 types, unless Singer can take a significant step forward in his second season. The outfielders have significant boom-or-bust potential at the plate, and shortstop Adalberto Mondesi needs to show some semblance of on-base ability.

    2021 Projection: If you're looking for a dark-horse wild-card contender in the American League, this could be it. At the very least, the Royals look capable of compiling a winning record, though they also have a low floor and are just as likely to be jockeying for position at the bottom of the division.

23. Seattle Mariners

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    Kyle Lewis
    Kyle LewisRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 27-33, third in AL West (-49 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: It's only a matter of time before outfielder Jarred Kelenic, catcher Cal Raleigh and right-hander Logan Gilbert join the MLB roster, and outfielder Julio Rodriguez might not be far behind. They'll join the Seattle Mariners' established core of Marco Gonzales, Kyle Lewis, Evan White, J.P. Crawford and the healthy Mitch Haniger. Dylan Moore, Ty France, Chris Flexen and Justus Sheffield have serious breakout potential. The future is bright, and it's coming fast.

    Glass Half-Empty: The rebuilt bullpen still looks like a glaring weakness, and the starting rotation has a ton of variability between floor and ceiling with the oft-injured James Paxton being counted on to fill the No. 2 starter void and unproven arms behind him. Outside of the aging Haniger and Kyle Seager, the lineup is thin on players with track records.

    2021 Projection: The end is near for a postseason drought that stretches to 2001, and if a few things break right, Seattle could make a wild-card push. A positive step forward before a run at contention in 2022 is the more likely outcome.

22. San Francisco Giants

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    Buster Posey
    Buster PoseyMatt York/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 29-31, third in NL West (+2 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The San Francisco Giants struck gold when they bought low on Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly a year ago, and they're hoping for similar success from bounce-back candidates Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez and Alex Wood this year. It's a smart approach to free agency while they wait out bad contracts still on the books and with nearly $100 million in payroll set to be free after this season. Logan Webb and Mauricio Dubon are the tip of the rising talent iceberg.

    Glass Half-Empty: As long as the Giants are still paying them a ton of money, expect to see Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto and Brandon Belt filling prominent roles. On a roster still filled with stopgaps, a summer fire sale is not out of the question to pave the way to assess the young talent in the second half. That's a necessary step in the rebuilding process but would obviously limit San Francisco's short-term upside.

    2021 Projection: The Giants are going to be major players in free agency, and they could have a number of attractive trade chips. Big picture: It might be detrimental to their long-term outlook if they were to contend.

21. Cincinnati Reds

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    Luis Castillo
    Luis CastilloJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 31-29, third in NL Central (0 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: Even after NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer bolted in free agency, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and breakout candidate Tyler Mahle still have a chance to form the nucleus of one of the best rotations in baseball. The Cincinnati Reds made major additions to the lineup after it laid an egg in the Wild Card Series, but veteran sluggers Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas give the lineup solid upside, and Jonathan India is a sleeper NL Rookie of the Year candidate.

    Glass Half-Empty: The bullpen was gutted, and since it will be up to the trio of Amir Garrett, Lucas Sims and Sean Doolittle to do the heavy lifting, the Reds could be exposed in the middle innings. The lineup has a lot of big names, but the production just wasn't there a year ago and hoping for the best from the same group is an obvious risk. Defense could be a real weakness, specifically with Suarez shifting to shortstop and Castellanos and Jesse Winker in the outfield corners.

    2021 Projection: The only sure thing in the NL Central is that the Pirates will finish last. Other than that, the clubs could finish in any order. The Reds got worse, but they have enough talent to remain relevant in the division and wild-card picture.

20. Miami Marlins

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    Sandy Alcantara
    Sandy AlcantaraLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 31-29, second in NL East (-41 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Miami Marlins have an exciting group of young arms, and the trio of Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Sixto Sanchez is going to make them a thorn in the side of the rest of the division. A full season of Starling Marte will give the lineup a dynamic power-speed threat, while free-agent signing Adam Duvall has the potential to outperform his one-year, $5 million deal while hitting in the middle of the lineup.

    Glass Half-Empty: This team snuck into the postseason last year, and even with Marte and Duvall, the lineup still lacks after finishing 23rd in the majors with a .703 OPS in 2020. The projected nine-player bullpen includes seven newcomers, and the Fish still don't have a lockdown closer with Anthony Bass and Yimi Garcia expected to handle late-inning duties.

    2021 Projection: The NL East is stacked, and despite last year's success, the Marlins look like the worst team. They are young and on the rise, but the quest for another winning record will be an uphill battle.

19. Boston Red Sox

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    Eduardo Rodriguez
    Eduardo RodriguezFrank Franklin II/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 24-36, fifth in AL East (-59 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are enough to make the Boston Red Sox one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball. Offseason additions Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero have significant power potential, and Bobby Dalbec is a bona fide American League Rookie of the Year candidate after a stellar spring training. Eduardo Rodriguez and, eventually, Chris Sale will be back in their spots atop the rotation, the bullpen looks more stable after a handful of additions, and young right-hander Tanner Houck is a major X-factor.

    Glass Half-Empty: The starting rotation of Houck, Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Richards and Martin Perez could be solid, or it could be a disaster. The closer's role is still a major question mark, even if the bullpen as a whole is deeper, and the Sox can't afford to give away games late in an ultra-competitive division. They are going to pile up strikeouts at the plate, to the point that it could undermine their strong middle of the order.

    2021 Projection: It still looks like the Red Sox are closer to the bottom of the AL East than they are to the top, but if the starting rotation can pull its weight, they should hang around in the wild-card race.

18. Milwaukee Brewers

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    Christian Yelich
    Christian YelichAaron Doster/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 29-31, fourth in NL Central (-17 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: With Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes at the top of the rotation, and Brent Suter, Devin Williams and Josh Hader at the back of the bullpen, the Milwaukee Brewers have the foundation for a formidable pitching staff. Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura are prime bounce-back candidates, while the return of Lorenzo Cain and additions of Kolten Wong and Jackie Bradley Jr. makes them a deeper team and standout defensive group.

    Glass Half-Empty: It's not hard to envision catcher, shortstop and third base turning into black holes at the plate. Manager Craig Counsell could also be forced to mix and match to get through games when Woodruff and Burnes don't start. Even if Yelich returns to form, this still looks like a below-average lineup, so the pitching staff could be asked to shoulder the load.

    2021 Projection: Like the Reds, the Brewers could finishing anywhere from first to fourth in the division. They have postseason upside but enough "what ifs" to be skeptical.

17. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Alec Bohm
    Alec BohmGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 28-32, third in NL East (-5 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: With J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius back in the fold and Alec Bohm destined for stardom after a strong rookie season, the Philadelphia Phillies are going to put a lot of crooked numbers on the scoreboard. They also addressed what was a historically awful relief corps, adding Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, Brandon Kintzler and Sam Coonrod while also shifting Vince Velasquez to the bullpen.

    Glass Half-Empty: The Phillies have put a lot of eggs in the Matt Moore and Chase Anderson basket, and if those two inconsistent veterans fail to stand out, the back of the starting rotation could turn into a revolving door. This is a solid team on paper, but the same thing was true a year ago. Did Philly do enough to keep pace with the rest of the NL East contenders?

    2021 Projection: The Phillies have not had a winning record since 2011. This certainly seems like a team capable of bucking that trend, but it is still a tier below the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. That means it's wild-card contention or bust if Philadelphia hopes to make the playoffs.

16. Cleveland

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    Shane Bieber
    Shane BieberPaul Sancya/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 35-25, second in AL Central (+39 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: Shane Bieber was the No. 5 starter for Cleveland in 2018. He has ascended to staff ace as the rotation has been overhauled, and despite so much turnover, it's still a strength with Zach Plesac and Triston McKenzie capable of taking steps forward. Jose Ramirez has finished in the top three in AL MVP voting three times in the last four seasons, and sluggers Eddie Rosario and Franmil Reyes will provide protection.

    Glass Half-Empty: The loss of Francisco Lindor is going to hurt. Andres Gimenez is a good young shortstop, but he's not going to be a perennial 5-WAR player and MVP contender, and the impact Lindor had on the team stretched beyond his on-field production. The decision to cut Brad Hand loose will look fine if James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase live up to expectations in the late innings, but that is by no means a foregone conclusion.

    2021 Projection: The Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins took steps to improve during the offseason, while Cleveland traded the face of its franchise. The pitching staff is good enough for it to remain a contender in the division and wild-card race, but the window might be closing.

15. Los Angeles Angels

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    Shohei Ohtani
    Shohei OhtaniMatt York/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 26-34, fourth in AL West (-27 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The return of Shohei Ohtani as an impactful two-way star could make a world of difference for the Los Angeles Angels. Using a six-man rotation should put him in the best position to succeed on the mound, and with Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb added to the starting mix, they have six starters capable of above-average production. The bullpen is improved with Raisel Iglesias headlining a long list of newcomers, and an offense led by Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon is going to make plenty of noise.

    Glass Half-Empty: We've seen the Angels take the plug-in-a-few-veterans-and-hope-for-the-best approach to shoring up the starting rotation in the past. Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill, anyone? Starting pitching has been the glaring weakness for years, and it's fair to question whether Cobb and Quintana move the needle enough to change that.

    2021 Projection: The AL West is more of a crapshoot than in recent years after the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros both lost significant pieces during the offseason. That could open the door for the Angels to finally return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

14. Chicago Cubs

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    Kris Bryant
    Kris BryantJae C. Hong/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 34-26, first in NL Central (+25 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: Javier Baez (62 OPS+) and Kris Bryant (76 OPS+) were essentially non-factors last year, and several other key hitters underperformed relative to expectations. Despite that, the Cubs still won a division title, and the lineup returns intact with significant room for improvement, with the only major change being Joc Pederson replacing Kyle Schwarber. The bullpen question marks that existed at the start of 2020 are no longer as glaring after Craig Kimbrel finished strong.

    Glass Half-Empty: Trading away Yu Darvish and waving goodbye to Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood gives the Cubs rotation a very different look. Does Jake Arrieta have anything left in the tank? Can Trevor Williams bounce back? Is Adbert Alzolay a long-term rotation piece? The rotation could be a major weakness if the answer to one or more of those questions is no.

    2021 Projection: If the Cubs get off to a slow start, the front office might quickly go into fire sale mode with Baez, Bryant and Anthony Rizzo all ticketed for free agency. On the flip side, if the starting rotation can do its part, they could win another division title.

13. Houston Astros

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    Yordan Alvarez
    Yordan AlvarezChris O'Meara/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 29-31, second in AL West (+4 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Houston Astros leaned heavily on young arms Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier and that trio proved surprisingly effective. With Jake Odorizzi added to the mix late in free agency, starting pitching depth now looks like a clear strength, even with Justin Verlander likely sidelined for the year. Offensively, a healthy Yordan Alvarez is a huge addition to the lineup, and re-signing Michael Brantley was a major win.

    Glass Half-Empty: The impact that George Springer made as a catalyst out of the leadoff spot can't be understated. And while Myles Straw is a dynamic speed threat, he's also a clear downgrade in the starting center fielder spot. On the pitching side, very little was done to address a bullpen that blew 13 saves in 29 chances last year, and beyond Ryan Pressly and Joe Smith it's a young, unproven group.

    2021 Projection: The Astros reached Game 7 of the ALCS last year, but they also had a losing record during the regular season. That feels like the perfect representation of their ceiling and floor in 2021. The window has most definitely not closed on their current core, but it feels like they've already peaked.

12. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Robbie Ray
    Robbie RayGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 32-28, third in AL East (-10 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: Adding George Springer and Marcus Semien to an exciting young offensive core that includes Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez gives the Toronto Blue Jays one of the most imposing lineups in baseball. There are few teams in baseball with more playable starting pitching depth, and that is being put to the test early with Robbie Ray, Nate Pearson and Thomas Hatch all on the injured list.

    Glass Half-Empty: Behind ace Hyun Jin Ryu lies a sea of question marks in the starting rotation. Steven Matz, Ross Stripling, Tanner Roark and Ray have been effective starters in the past, but they all struggled through trying 2020 seasons. The depth is nice, but do they have five quality options? The bullpen was also dealt a blow when free-agent signing Kirby Yates was lost for the year, leaving a closer-by-committee situation fronted by Rafael Dolis and Jordan Romano.

    2021 Projection: It's easy to get behind the idea of a lineup that has 30-homer threat Rowdy Tellez penciled into the No. 8 spot leading this team to another postseason berth. However, the uncertainty surrounding the starting rotation will hang over this team until it proves to be a non-issue.

11. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Nolan Arenado
    Nolan ArenadoJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 30-28, second in NL Central (+11 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado tandem gives the St. Louis Cardinals their most potent middle of the order since the days of Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds. Touted rookie Dylan Carlson is capable of joining that conversation as well. With a healthy Jordan Hicks joining Alex Reyes, Giovanny Gallegos and Andrew Miller, they also have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Ace Jack Flaherty is a better pitcher than what he showed in 2020, and the staff as a whole should benefit from not having to play doubleheaders every other day this year.

    Glass Half-Empty: With Dakota Hudson out for the year while he recovers from Tommy John surgery and both Miles Mikolas and Kwang Hyun Kim expected to start the year on the injured list, starting pitching is already looking like an area of concern. In the outfield, there is nothing close to an established MLB starter, and even if Carlson delivers on expectations the other two spots could wind up underperforming.

    2021 Projection: The Arenado trade is enough to make the Cardinals the team to beat in a wide-open NL Central, but the starting pitching will determine whether they deliver on that upside. They could just as easily be fighting for a wild-card spot from the third or fourth spot in the standings.

10. Oakland Athletics

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    Matt Chapman
    Matt ChapmanTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 36-24, first in AL West (+42 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Oakland Athletics did well navigating the losses of Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks, trading for Elvis Andrus to plug the shortstop hole and signing Trevor Rosenthal to anchor a relief corps that also added Adam Kolarek and Sergio Romo. The lineup again looks strong top-to-bottom with Mark Canha now tasked with the leadoff spot; the rotation is rock solid and should benefit from the continued development of Jesus Luzardo; and the bullpen is just as deep and talented as a year ago.

    Glass Half-Empty: Replacing Tommy La Stella and Marcus Semien with Jed Lowrie/Tony Kemp and Andrus will likely end up being a downgrade at both positions. And for as good as Rosenthal was last season, he's just a year removed from struggling mightily, and Hendriks is arguably the best reliever in baseball. So while the roster holes were sufficiently plugged, the team as a whole was weakened by free agency. Health will also be key on both sides with limited MLB-caliber depth.

    2021 Projection: Few teams are better at squeezing the most out of their roster, and the Athletics have contended with essentially this same team for multiple years running. Another division title is well within reach, and at the very least they should be among the top wild-card contenders. Then all it takes is getting hot at the right time.

9. Washington Nationals

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    Stephen Strasburg
    Stephen StrasburgJulio Cortez/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 26-34, fifth in NL East (-8 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Washington Nationals addressed last season's offensive woes by trading for Josh Bell and signing Kyle Schwarber, and those two sluggers will provide some much-needed protection for Juan Soto and Trea Turner. A healthy Stephen Strasburg will be a huge addition to the rotation, and Jon Lester is still a gamer who is more than capable of handling the No. 4 starter role. Throw in the addition of Brad Hand to solidify the relief corps and this team looks poised to put a disappointing 2020 in the rearview.

    Glass Half-Empty: Second base and third base remain up in the air after Carter Kieboom once again failed to seize a starting role. Victor Robles will also be tasked with handling leadoff duties after posting a .293 on-base percentage last year. If one of their top three starters goes down with an injury, the drop-off to Austin Voth or Erick Fedde is a steep one, and the roster as a whole is lacking in pitching depth.

    2021 Projection: They are still chasing the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets in the NL East, but the Nats are well-equipped to contend after a disappointing title defense a year ago. Their success hinges on the effectiveness of the high-priced starting rotation.

8. Minnesota Twins

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    Andrelton Simmons
    Andrelton SimmonsJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 36-24, first in AL Central (+54 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: Veterans J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker will bring stability to a Minnesota Twins rotation that has a chance to be a major strength. The bullpen also looks more formidable after adding proven late-inning options Alex Colome and Hansel Robles to the mix. The offense took a major step backward last year, but the key pieces are still in place from the lineup that was a juggernaut in 2019. Slick-fielding Andrelton Simmons will also provide a significant defensive boost up the middle.

    Glass Half-Empty: Kenta Maeda is likely due for some level of regression after a career year and both Shoemaker and Michael Pineda have had a hard time staying healthy, so the team's starting rotation could just as easily become a weakness. There's also a case to be made that, despite the additions, the bullpen got worse by losing Trevor May, Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard in free agency.

    2021 Projection: The White Sox may be the new favorites in the AL Central, but this Minnesota team is just a year removed from a 101-win season. Expect the Twins to give the South Siders a run for their money in the division race, and they might even be able to snap that 18-game postseason losing streak.

7. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Tyler Glasnow
    Tyler GlasnowGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 40-20, first in AL East (+60 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Tampa Bay Rays reached the World Series last season, and a solid offense was as much a part of their success as the always productive pitching staff. A full season of Randy Arozarena should mean an even better lineup, and it's only a matter of time before Wander Franco forces his way into the picture. Say what you will about Chris Archer, Rich Hill and Michael Wacha at the back of the rotation, but the Rays know how to get the most out of their pitchers.

    Glass Half-Empty: Losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton hurts, regardless of how good Tampa Bay is at mixing and matching arms. Ideally, a young arm like Luis Patino or Shane McClanahan would step up and claim a rotation spot, but relying on that is risky, and the three veteran additions are unlikely to reach 30 starts. Relief ace Nick Anderson will miss the first half of the season with an elbow injury.

    2021 Projection: Did the Rays catch lightning in a bottle during the shortened 2020 season? Sure, but that doesn't mean they can't return to the Fall Classic. This is no longer a team that will simply go as far as the pitching staff carries it. If the Rays can squeeze 400 innings out of Archer, Hill and Wacha combined, they should be in fine shape.

6. New York Mets

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    Francisco Lindor
    Francisco LindorLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 26-34, fourth in NL East (-22 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: Even in the face of recent disappointment, it's hard not to be optimistic about this year's New York Mets team. They added a superstar in Francisco Lindor, shored up the catcher position with James McCann, added quality arms in Taijuan Walker, Joey Lucchesi, Trevor May and Aaron Loup, and will have a healthy Marcus Stroman and eventually Noah Syndergaard in the rotation. Even the bench is vastly improved after they added Jonathan Villar, Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora Jr.

    Glass Half-Empty: With Carlos Carrasco already on the shelf with a hamstring injury and both Stroman and Syndergaard returning from lost years, the starting pitching depth could be put to the test. Failing to lock up Lindor with an extension before the season starts could also cast a cloud over the season. Will the pieces fall into place in a bullpen filled with talented but volatile arms?

    2021 Projection: The Mets are a bona fide World Series contender, but the team that wins the offseason doesn't always win once the games start to matter. We still need to see how all the pieces mesh once the season gets rolling. That said, anything short of a postseason berth would be a major disappointment.

5. Chicago White Sox

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    Lucas Giolito
    Lucas GiolitoRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 35-25, third in AL Central (+60 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The biggest hole on the Chicago White Sox roster last year was the lack of a reliable third starter alongside Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. That was quickly addressed when Lance Lynn was acquired from the Texas Rangers, and Dylan Cease still has the potential to be a front-line guy as well. The lineup is going to score plenty of runs, and a loaded relief corps will be tasked with protecting leads. Flamethrowers Michael Kopech and Garrett Crochet are going to be dynamic, multi-inning weapons for new manager Tony La Russa.

    Glass Half-Empty: The Eloy Jimenez injury stings. It forces Luis Robert or rookie Andrew Vaughn to step into the No. 5 spot in the lineup, and while both guys have the potential to thrive in that role, they are also largely unproven run producers at the MLB level. There is very little in the way of starting pitching depth if someone goes down or Carlos Rodon falters in the No. 5 starter role.

    2021 Projection: The White Sox have arrived and should be perennial contenders in the American League for the foreseeable future. After breaking the postseason drought last year, the next step is winning a playoff series, and they are well-equipped to do just that.

4. Atlanta Braves

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    Marcell Ozuna
    Marcell OzunaJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 35-25, first in NL East (+60 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The Atlanta Braves were one win away from sending the Los Angeles Dodgers packing in the NLCS, and after adding Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to solidify a rotation that used 14 different starters last year, they are ready for another run at the champs. Re-signing Marcell Ozuna kept the heart of the lineup intact, Cristian Pache should slide seamlessly into the everyday center field job, and a full season of Ian Anderson will be a major boon to the rotation if he pitches like he did in October.

    Glass Half-Empty: Mark Melancon, Shane Greene and Darren O'Day are all gone from last year's relief corps, and the only newcomer in the bullpen is non-roster invitee Nate Jones. That's the only major question mark for this team. After a so-so year from lefty Will Smith in the first season of a three-year, $40 million deal, it's fair to wonder if the closer's role could become a problem.

    2021 Projection: The Braves are going to have their hands full holding off the challengers in the NL East, but they are still the best team in the division. After coming one game away last season, it's World Series or bust for this group in 2021 as far as expectations are concerned.

3. New York Yankees

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    Corey Kluber
    Corey KluberGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 33-27, second in AL East (+45 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The New York Yankees retained their biggest free agent in DJ LeMahieu while also taking steps to shore up the starting rotation by trading for Jameson Taillon and signing bounce-back candidate Corey Kluber. Those two additions, coupled with the return of Domingo German and eventually Luis Severino, have a chance to make the rotation a strength for the first time in years. Offensively, they can be a juggernaut if everyone stays healthy, and they have done a great job with the next-man-up philosophy when injury has struck.

    Glass Half-Empty: How many games can the Yankees realistically expect Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to play at this point? Slugger Luke Voit is already on the injured list, along with lefty relievers Zack Britton and Justin Wilson. This team just can't seem to shake the injury bug, and while there is no shortage of talent on the 40-man roster, it can only be stretched so far and still be expected to contend for a title.

    2021 Projection: If the Yankees can make it through 162 games relatively unscathed, they have World Series potential. Even if they lose a few key pieces, they should still give the Rays everything they can handle in the AL East race.

2. San Diego Padres

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    Fernando Tatis Jr.
    Fernando Tatis Jr.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 37-23, second in NL West (+84 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The San Diego Padres are officially all-in. They traded for Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove to shore up the starting rotation, signed KBO star Ha-Seong Kim to a four-year, $28 million deal, and added Mark Melancon and Keone Kela to the bullpen. With the superstar left side of the infield of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado leading the offense and a stacked rotation supported by a deep bullpen, they look the part of a title contender.

    Glass Half-Empty: The elbow discomfort that will keep Dinelson Lamet sidelined to start the year is unsettling after he missed time down the stretch last year. They have stud prospect MacKenzie Gore waiting in the wings, but ideally he'd be called upon when ready rather than forced into action. After running out of gas late last season, this team still has a lot to prove.

    2021 Projection: Talent-wise, the Padres stack up to any in baseball. They should be able to push the Dodgers in the NL West, and they look like the biggest threat to unseat the defending champs in 2021.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Trevor Bauer
    Trevor BauerRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

    2020 Record: 43-17, first in NL West (+136 run differential)

    Glass Half-Full: The only notable losses for the Los Angeles Dodgers were a utility man (Enrique Hernandez), a platoon outfielder (Joc Pederson) and a couple veteran relievers (Jake McGee and Pedro Baez). Meanwhile, they added the NL Cy Young winner (Trevor Bauer) and a former All-Star reliever (Corey Knebel) while retaining Justin Turner and Blake Treinen. Top-to-bottom, pitching and hitting, this team is stacked.

    Glass Half-Empty: Winning back-to-back World Series titles is really hard. Only 14 teams in MLB history have won at least two in a row, with the most recent example being the New York Yankees' three-peat from 1998 to 2000. It's extremely difficult to poke holes in the Dodgers roster, but the odds are stacked against them hoisting the trophy again.

    2021 Projection: This is the best team in baseball and the team to beat in 2021. Anything short of another World Series win would be a disappointment.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.