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MLB Power Rankings: All Eyes Are on the Padres

In the first installment of 2021 MLB Power Rankings, it's the Dodgers and Padres, then everyone else.

It’s been a long, contentious winter. Debates raged on about rules of the gamewhen the season will start and how many games it will include. Some issues are settled and some hardly feel that way.

Regardless, teams are, in fact, reporting to spring training this week, which means there's no better time to debut way-too-early 2021 MLB Power Rankings.

There are still some notable free agents on the market that could sway teams’ fortunes. But as the dying embers of the hot stove burn out, here’s a breakdown of where every team stands.

30. Pittsburgh Pirates (Last Rank: 30)

Notable acquisitions: SP Wil Crowe, prospects

First baseman Josh Bell and starter Joe Musgrove are gone from last year’s league-worst team, and their trades netted the Pirates’ only significant offseason additions. Gregory Polanco, whose $11.6 million salary accounts for nearly 30% of Pittsburgh’s payroll, should be gone by the trade deadline. This team is a heavy favorite to claim the No. 1 pick in the MLB draft for the second straight year.

29. Texas Rangers (Last Rank: 29)

Notable acquisitions: SP Mike Foltynewicz, DH Khris Davis, SP Dane Dunning, OF David Dahl

The Rangers enter 2021 in full-on rebuild mode. Face of the franchise Elvis Andrus is gone, as is staff ace Lance Lynn, who posted back-to-back top-six finishes in Cy Young Award voting over the past two seasons. The only position player who projects to be an above-average regular is Joey Gallo, who’s a prime candidate for a midseason trade. Texas hasn’t lost 100 games since 1973, a streak that’s in serious danger of being snapped this season.

Rockies shortstop Trevor Story reacts after getting picked off at first base against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

28. Colorado Rockies (Last Rank: 26)

Notable acquisitions: SP Austin Gomber, RP Robert Stephenson

The Rockies appear headed for a painful rebuild as shortstop Trevor Story seems like a natural candidate to follow Nolan Arenado out the door. Will manager Bud Black, 63, want to stick around for a teardown? 

27. Baltimore Orioles (Last Rank: 21)

Notable acquisitions: INF Freddy Galvis, SP Félix Hernández, SP Matt Harvey

The Orioles hung around on the periphery of the playoff race for much longer than anyone anticipated in 2020, but still endured their fourth consecutive losing season. Regulars from last season—José Iglesias, Alex Cobb, Hanser Alberto and Renato Núñez—are gone, and there haven’t been substantial additions to the major league club. Adley Rutschman Watch will likely be the most compelling part of 2021 for O’s fans.

26. Detroit Tigers (Last Rank: 27)

Notable acquisitions: OF Nomar Mazara, OF Robbie Grossman, C Wilson Ramos

The Tigers lost at least 98 games each year from 2017–19 and were on a 97-loss pace in 2020. An optimist would point to that trend as progress, though expect much of the same from Detroit in 2021. Starting pitchers Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull could be trade candidates by midseason, though the development of young arms Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning will be the key story line to keep tabs on.

25. Seattle Mariners (Last Rank: 22)

Notable acquisitions: SP James Paxton, SP Chris Flexen

The Mariners finished just two games behind the Astros for a playoff spot in 2020, though still ended up with an uninspiring 27–33 record. A lack of pitching depth and a weak lineup will hold Seattle back in 2021, though watching Kyle Lewis’s follow-up act after winning Rookie of the Year will sure be entertaining.

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24. Arizona Diamondbacks (Last Rank: 25)

Notable acquisitions: RP Joakim Soria, INF Asdrubal Cabrera

The Madison Bumgarner contract already seems to be weighing down this roster, and there are four more years ahead. Arizona probably won’t finish in last place again, but the D-backs are leagues behind the top two teams in the NL West. Starter Zac Gallen deserves your attention, regardless.

23. Boston Red Sox (Last Rank: 28)

Notable acquisitions: INF Enrique Hernández, INF Marwin Gonzalez, SP Garrett Richards

The Red Sox traded away Andrew Benintendi earlier this month, signaling the continuation of the club’s rebuild process. Bounce-back seasons from J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers would go a long way toward boosting Boston’s chances at contention, particularly with a rotation that leaves a lot to be desired, at least until Chris Sale returns at some point midseason.

Marlins pitcher Sixto Sánchez throws against the Nationals at Marlins Park.

22. Miami Marlins (Last Rank: 13)

Notable acquisitions: OF Adam Duvall, RP Anthony Bass, RP Dylan Floro, RP Adam Cimber

Miami’s young rotation and revamped bullpen could end up carrying the Marlins to another surprising run toward October, making this ranking look far too unkind. But this is the weakest lineup in the NL East, and they’ll need to prove last year’s 60-game success wasn’t a flash in the pan a few years ahead of schedule.

21. Kansas City Royals (Last Rank: 23)

Notable acquisitions: OF Andrew Benintendi, 1B Carlos Santana, SP Mike Minor, RP Greg Holland

The Royals did well this winter to add significant pieces to its big league roster, assembling a lineup that has the looks of a well-balanced unit. Kansas City’s starting rotation is not as far along as its offense, though the development of Brady Singer is a key focal point.

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20. San Francisco Giants (Last Rank: 16)

Notable acquisitions: INF Tommy La Stella, SP Alex Wood, RP Jake McGee, SP Anthony DeSclafani, RP Matt Wisler

The Giants still need to cycle out the veterans from their World Series core before this team has a full Farhan Zaidi look to it. More than anything the team needs a minor league season to further develop its top prospects like Joey Bart, whose rocky 2020 debut has him ticketed to start 2021 in the minors. The admirable refusal of the front office to fully tank means there’s still enough talent here to hang around the edge of the playoff race for a while.

19. Cincinnati Reds (Last Rank: 14)

Notable acquisitions: RP Sean Doolittle, RP Jeff Hoffman, UT Dee Strange-Gordon

Though the Reds were shut out by Atlanta during their two-game postseason foray, the club's offense appears to be the strongest aspect of this roster. Losing Trevor Bauer significantly lowers Cincinnati’s ceiling, and the team’s bullpen could again be a liability.

18. Oakland Athletics (Last Rank: 7)

Notable acquisitions: SS Elvis Andrus, RP Adam Kolarek, RP Sergio Romo

Last season’s AL West champs will look pretty different in 2021. Gone are key contributors Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks, Robbie Grossman, Joakim Soria and Khris Davis, putting Oakland’s three-year playoff streak in jeopardy. A full season from Matt Chapman would greatly help, as would a rebound from first baseman Matt Olson. There’s starting rotation talent in the form of Jesús Luzardo, Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea and A.J. Puk, but the group as a whole has yet to put it all together.

Reigning National League Rookie of the Year Devin Williams pitches against the Cubs at Miller Park.

17. Milwaukee Brewers (Last Rank: 17)

Notable acquisitions: 2B Kolten Wong

Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes are among MLB’s most underrated starters, while Josh Hader and Devin Williams combine for perhaps the most dominant back-end of a bullpen in baseball. A watered-down NL Central is there for the taking. But Wong is the only addition of note to an offense that doesn’t measure up to other National League contenders.

16. Chicago Cubs (Last Rank: 11)

Notable acquisitions: OF Joc Pederson, SP Zach Davies, SP Jake Arrieta, SP Trevor Williams

Chicago’s core started to look stale last season. If that was just collective bad luck in a shortened season, the Cubs could give this group a last hurrah before Kris Bryant presumably leaves in free agency. Bringing back Arrieta in an attempt to recapture 2016’s glory still leaves this rotation short on strikeout artists sans Yu Darvish, however, meaning batted ball luck could dictate a wide range of outcomes.

15. Philadelphia Phillies (Last Rank: 18)

Notable acquisitions: SP Matt Moore, RP Archie Bradley, RP Brandon Kintzler, RP José Alvarado

Only four teams (Dodgers, Braves, Padres, Yankees) scored more runs last year than the Phillies, who retained J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius and should be a force on offense again. The rotation was also a top-10 unit by ERA (4.08). If the Phillies are to make the postseason for the first time since 2011—now the second-longest drought in the majors —the most straightforward route is the bullpen improving from historically inept to merely average.

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14. Cleveland Indians (Last Rank: 10)

Notable acquisitions: OF Eddie Rosario, SS Amed Rosario, OF Andrés Giménez

It might be a bit of a surprise to see Cleveland rank this high after trading Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco while letting Brad Hand and Carlos Santana (among others) walk in free agency. Retaining reigning Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber and MVP runner-up José Ramírez certainly helps, and there’s enough depth elsewhere that Cleveland could contend for the division despite having the lowest projected payroll in the majors ($36.6 million).

Shohei Ohtani is greeted by Anthony Rendon after scoring a run against the Mariners at Angel Stadium.

13. Los Angeles Angels (Last Rank: 24)

Notable acquisitions: SP José Quintana, SS José Iglesias, RP Raisel Iglesias, SP Alex Cobb

The Angels had numerous roster holes to address this offseason and filled them exclusively via one-year deals or trades for players a year away from free agency. That approach should serve first-year general manager Perry Minasian with flexibility for 2022 and beyond, though it will likely leave this year’s club somewhere in the middle of the pack. This is a critical point in Shohei Ohtani’s attempts to thrive as a two-way player.

12. Tampa Bay Rays (Last Rank: 3)

Notable acquisitions: SP Luis Patiño, SP Chris Archer, SP Rich Hill, SP Michael Wacha

The defending AL champions lost quite a bit from last year’s club, most notably starting pitchers Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. They’ve opted to go the patchwork route to rebuild the rotation, making the health of staff ace Tyler Glasnow all the more crucial. Tampa Bay’s lineup and bullpen depth should still be strengths.

11. St. Louis Cardinals (Last Rank: 12)

Notable acquisitions: 3B Nolan Arenado

The Cardinals boast more depth throughout the roster than any of their division rivals, putting them in a good position to win the NL Central crown if we do indeed get a full 162-game season. Arenado and top prospect Dylan Carlson should add much-needed pop to the lineup, though it's probably not enough to outlast the Dodgers and Padres in October.

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10. Toronto Blue Jays (Last Rank: 15)

Notable acquisitions: OF George Springer, INF Marcus Semien, RP Kirby Yates

The nomadic Blue Jays returned to the playoffs in 2020 and have the look of a contender after offseason signing George Springer and Marcus Semien. Toronto should have one of the league’s best offenses, though the pitching staff leaves a bit to be desired beyond Hyun-Jin Ryu. A return to form from Kirby Yates would be critical in stabilizing the back end of the bullpen.

9. Washington Nationals (Last Rank: 19)

Notable acquisitions: 1B Josh Bell, LF Kyle Schwarber, SP Jon Lester, RP Brad Hand

The Nationals are prime bounce-back candidates after using free agency to patch up various holes that appeared during their championship hangover. The return of 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg won’t hurt, either.

8. Houston Astros (Last Rank: 5)

Notable acquisitions: RP Pedro Báez, C Jason Castro, RP Ryne Stanek

Houston hasn’t added much this offseason, and the departure of George Springer will undoubtedly hurt. But retaining Michael Brantley was significant, and this is still one of the best offenses in the game. Pitching-wise, Framber Valdez and José Urquidy look like burgeoning stars to go along with the steady Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. The Astros were an underachieving bunch last year, and in a division that lacks any really impressive clubs, they’re the safest bet to emerge as front-runners.

Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom throws in a simulated game at Citi Field.

7. New York Mets (Last Rank: 20)

Notable acquisitions: SS Francisco Lindor, C James McCann, SP Carlos Carrasco, SP Joey Lucchesi, RP Trevor May, UT Jonathan Villar, OF Albert Almora Jr.

Steve Cohen has bankrolled the rapid construction of a World Series contender in Queens. It may be tough for New York to snap Atlanta’s three-year NL East reign, but even if they’re relegated to the wild-card game, who else would you want on the mound besides Jacob deGrom? The only question mark is a bullpen that’s tortured Mets fans the past few seasons.

6. Minnesota Twins (Last Rank: 8)

Notable acquisitions: RP Alex Colomé, SS Andrelton Smimons, SP J.A. Happ

The Twins won a tight battle for the AL Central last season, and their offseason acquisitions have outweighed their departures. Though they’ll miss Eddie Rosario, who was surprisingly nontendered and ended up in Cleveland, there’s still plenty to like about this lineup. Minnesota’s bullpen ranked third in the majors in fWAR last season and loses some key pieces from that unit, but Alex Colomé should help offset those departures and stabilize the relief corps in close games.

5. Chicago White Sox (Last Rank: 9)

Notable acquisitions: RP Liam Hendriks, SP Lance Lynn, OF Adam Eaton

The White Sox snapped an 11-year playoff drought in 2020, and they’ve gotten better during the offseason. They’ve upgraded at closer from Alex Colomé to Liam Hendriks, while Lance Lynn provides another top-end starter to go along with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. Youngsters Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez appear destined for stardom, and having reigning MVP José Abreu in tow makes this one of the best lineups in the league.

4. Atlanta Braves (Last Rank: 2)

Notable acquisitions: SP Charlie Morton, SP Drew Smyly

Adding two veteran starters should do wonders for a team that nearly advanced to the World Series despite starting Max Fried, three rookies and a reliever against the Dodgers in the NLCS. Still, the Braves did not improve as much as several other contenders around the league and may be hard-pressed to repeat their superb hitting. Atlanta also has the weakest bench of any team with championship aspirations.

3. New York Yankees (Last Rank: 6)

Notable acquisitions: SP Corey Kluber, SP Jameson Taillon, RP Darren O’Day

It’s remarkable the Yankees were able to succeed to the degree they did last season given the injuries and underperformances from key players. The band has more or less returned for 2021, and the offense should be elite if they can get something close to full seasons from Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. New York’s pitching has enough depth that the club doesn’t need to rely on Corey Kluber, but a resurgence from the two-time Cy Young Award winner would give New York one of the best staffs in baseball.

Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado celebrate against the Cardinals at Petco Park.

2. San Diego Padres (Last Rank: 4)

Notable acquisitions: SP Yu Darvish, SP Blake Snell, SP Joe Musgrove, RP Mark Melancon, INF Ha-seong Kim, C Victor Caratini

The Padres have precisely one homegrown player (Dinelson Limet) on their projected 25-man roster. That speaks to the absurd amount of wheeling and dealing carried out by A.J. Preller since taking over as GM in 2014. The result is the most talented Padres team in franchise history. Unfortunately, they’re not the most talented team in their division.

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1. Los Angeles Dodgers (Last Rank: 1)

Notable acquisitions: SP Trevor Bauer, RP Corey Knebel

The Dodgers don’t have quite as much organizational depth following the departure of Joc Pederson, Kiké Hernandez and several relievers, but this franchise is still the envy of the other 29 teams. Los Angeles countered San Diego’s remarkable upgrades by signing Trevor Bauer and will also debut David Price in its rotation. Whoever wins the National League West should enter the playoffs as the favorite to win it all.