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MLB Preseason Power Rankings: Everyone’s Chasing the Dodgers

Sizing up the top contenders ahead of Opening Day.

After a long winter in which the very future of the sport hung delicately in the balance, the wait is officially (almost) over.

We’re days away from Opening Day, which means it’s time for everybody’s favorite spring tradition: to rank every MLB team before the first pitch is even thrown. For the third season in a row, the tag-team duo of Nick Selbe and Will Laws will be doing the honors, with Will handling blurbs for the National League teams and Nick writing for the American League squads.

In many ways, the 2022 season will be marked by change: The addition of two more playoff teams, the universal DH and the much-welcomed “Shohei Ohtani rule” will make for a different viewing experience. In an ever-evolving world, it’s comforting to have things you can count on, so rejoice in knowing each Monday will bring with it a new power ranking (and who doesn’t love a good list to dissect every week?).

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

30. Baltimore Orioles

Here are Baltimore’s loss totals for the past three full (162-game) seasons: 110, 108, 115. Orioles fans have endured years of tanking in the hopes better days would arrive. They’re not quite here yet, but success in 2022 for Baltimore could be evaluated based on the development of the organization’s young talent—namely Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez.

29. Pittsburgh Pirates

JT Brubaker, who at one point lost nine consecutive decisions last season while recording a 5.36 ERA, is set to be the seventh Opening Day starter for Pittsburgh in as many years. The other hurler in contention was José Quintana, whose 6.43 ERA ranked 262th out of 269 pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched last year. Wake us up when Oneil Cruz is called up.

28. Oakland A’s

Oakland has made the postseason in three of the past four years, but that run seems certain to come to a halt after the club parted ways with nearly all its key veterans this offseason. The A’s have slashed payroll to what it was more than 30 years ago, spending less on their entire roster than the average 2022 salaries of the league’s 10 highest-paid players.

27. Arizona Diamondbacks

Ketel Marte is one of baseball’s most effective spark plugs when healthy, and his six-year, $76 million extension could end up looking like a bargain. But you can’t help but wonder whether the Diamondbacks would be better served by cashing in on their most valuable trade chip to restock a roster that finished 55 games out of first place in the NL West last season.

stephen-strasburg-nationals

26. Washington Nationals

Stephen Strasburg has made only seven starts since signing a seven-year, $245 million contract after Washington’s 2019 World Series win, while Patrick Corbin has somehow been even more disappointing since the victory parade. Juan Soto gives the Nationals as good of a building block as you could find for an offense, but a largely barren farm system points to a long rebuild around him—if they can retain the Scott Boras client before he hits free agency after the ’24 season.

25. Colorado Rockies

Colorado’s confounding $182 million agreement with Kris Bryant easily qualifies as the offseason’s most stunning signing. You have to give the Rockies credit for trying to improve an offense that ranked last in the majors with an environment-adjusted 82 OPS+, but there are still plenty of issues to confront before they’re ready to contend in the NL West.

24. Cincinnati Reds

Reds GM Nick Krall was put in a tough spot by team ownership with a mandate to cut payroll ahead of this season. But he can’t be faultless for what may have been the worst offseason of any team, losing Wade Miley for nothing on waivers and extracting relatively meager returns for Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, Sonny Gray and Tucker Barnhart.

23. Texas Rangers

The 2022 Rangers could resemble the teams from the early 2000s—plenty of hitting with no pitching to speak of. Adding Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Mitch Garver greatly improves the Texas lineup, though it’s best not to make direct eye contact with the starting rotation.

22. Cleveland Guardians

Outside of José Ramírez and Franmil Reyes, there aren’t many fearsome bats in the Cleveland lineup. Depending on how extension negotiations go—and what kind of start the team gets off to—it might not be long until trade talks start to really ramp up for Ramírez and former Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber.

21. Kansas City Royals

Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez make for an exciting enough combo of young infielders on their own, but Bobby Witt Jr. makes the infield even more potent, and his debut season will be a can’t-miss development regardless of how much team success the Royals have in 2022.

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20. Chicago Cubs

Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom and Rafael Ortega were relative nobodies before last season. Chicago is putting a lot of trust in them to repeat their out-of-nowhere 2021 breakouts, as well as former NPB star Seiya Suzuki’s ability to adapt to the majors. Even with the signing of Marcus Stroman, there’s still not a lot of swing-and-miss stuff in the rotation.

19. Detroit Tigers

Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning make up a trio of young, promising arms who all at least showed flashes of figuring out how to handle big-league hitters last year, and all are 25 or younger. The addition of established veterans like Eduardo Rodríguez and Javier Báez to the roster—plus the debut of No. 1 pick Spencer Torkelson—gives Detroit the most promise its had in at least half a decade.

18. Miami Marlins

Maybe Miami’s moves weren’t enough to keep Derek Jeter on board, but the Fish seem set to have an improved offense after the additions of Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia. If just a few of the Marlins’ touted young arms live up to their potential under the guidance of newly acquired catcher Jacob Stallings, a 2021 Gold Glove winner, Don Mattingly’s men could surprise some folks.

Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins

17. Minnesota Twins

Perhaps no team was as disappointing in 2021 as the Twins were. Minnesota followed up back-to-back AL Central titles with a last-place finish, as just about everything that could go wrong did. A revamped lineup—headlined by star shortstop Carlos Correa—featuring a healthy Byron Buxton could be enough for a bounce-back season, though the pitching staff still has plenty of question marks.

16. St. Louis Cardinals

Even after bringing Steven Matz into the fold, the Cardinals’ rotation doesn’t compare with the best editions during Albert Pujols’s first stint with the club. Jack Flaherty’s continued shoulder issues could severely hamper St. Louis’s ceiling. While Adam Wainwright recorded a 3.05 ERA last season in the final year of his 30s, the only pitchers this century to match that mark in their age-40 season or later are Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Bartolo Colón—two of whom were connected to PED use.

15. Seattle Mariners

Seattle defied the odds by winning 90 games and remaining in the playoff hunt until Game 162 last season despite being outscored by 51 runs on aggregate. The Mariners’ success in close games last year relied upon a bullpen that thrived in high-leverage situations. That’s a difficult blueprint to replicate, but the anticipated debut of star outfield prospect Julio Rodriguez is enough to believe that a 21-year postseason drought could come to an end.

14. Los Angeles Angels

How do you project an Angels team that addressed its age-old starting pitching problem by adding just two arms (Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen) who’ve made a combined four starts the past two years? Reinforcements have arrived in the bullpen, which should position the team well in close games, but the success or failure of the 2022 season will depend on healthy, productive seasons from Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon (oh, and also that Shohei Ohtani guy being awesome again, too).

13. Boston Red Sox

Boston’s lineup should be plenty good enough in 2022 despite losing Kyle Schwarber and Hunter Renfroe, but the rotation appears to lack the depth to keep pace with the stacked AL East. Rich Hill, James Paxton and Michael Wacha weren’t exactly the big-name, reliable acquisitions fans were hoping for, putting added pressure on Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale and Nick Pivetta.

12. San Francisco Giants

Too low for the defending NL West champions? Perhaps. But we can’t help but feel like after seemingly everything went right for San Francisco in 2021, the Giants could struggle to replicate last year’s success without Buster Posey, Kevin Gausman and Kris Bryant. Lady Luck hasn’t been kind so far with Evan Longoria and Lamonte Wade Jr. both set to start the season on the injured list.

Max Scherzer throws a pitch during a spring training game.

11. New York Mets

Jacob deGrom’s shoulder injury is exactly what New York could not afford to start the season, no matter how deep Steve Cohen’s pockets are. The Mets should qualify for the playoffs on the strength of their offensive depth, but what happens after they get there will depend on the fortunes of the team’s trio of 2021 Opening Day starters—deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt.

10. Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski is seemingly on a mission to prove that fielding matters as much as a wet match. The additions of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos give Philadelphia a tantalizing lineup, but if the club’s NL-worst postseason drought extends to 11 years, you’ll probably be able to trace it back to a curiously flippant attitude toward improving the league’s worst defense from last year.

9. New York Yankees

Much of the focus late in the offseason has been on whether the Yankees will be able to reach an agreement on a contract extension with Aaron Judge ahead of his walk year, but the team did well in the blockbuster deal with the Twins that netted Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. A full season with Joey Gallo and renewed power from Anthony Rizzo would go a long way toward New York’s keeping pace with the rest of the division.

8. San Diego Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr.’s wrist injury has probably sunk San Diego’s shot at winning the NL West, but the Padres’ on-paper rotation is even more promising than last year’s with the looming return of Mike Clevinger from Tommy John surgery and Sunday’s acquisition of Sean Manaea from Oakland. The Friars will be a force to be reckoned with if they can reach the postseason.

7. Milwaukee Brewers

We’re optimistic about Christian Yelich’s chances of getting back to providing All-Star level production. The acquisition of Hunter Renfroe should help offset the loss of 2021 home run leader Avisail Garcia, but the Brewers would be wise to look for lineup upgrades if they’re to improve upon last year’s NLDS exit.

6. Chicago White Sox

Chicago’s starting rotation took a bit of a hit with the news that Lance Lynn would miss the first couple of months of the season following a knee injury. Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech form a strong trio, though Dallas Keuchel suffered through a miserable 2021 and needs to do better for this team to reach its potential. The lineup should be among the deepest in the league.

5. Houston Astros

Even with the departure of Carlos Correa, Houston should mash enough to be considered the favorite to win its fifth AL West title in six years. Kyle Tucker broke out in a big way in 2021 and could get even better in ’22, while rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña posted a .944 OPS at Triple A last year and should turn some heads as Correa’s replacement. If Justin Verlander can approach his pre–Tommy John form, the Astros will be in great shape.

4. Tampa Bay Rays

If there’s a safe bet in baseball, it’s for the Rays to have outstanding pitching depth. Tampa Bay didn’t do much to bolster its staff besides adding the oft-injured Corey Kluber, but there never seems to be any shortage of effective arms coming in and out of the bullpen that the casual fan has never heard of. The offense should be strong, too, though dealing away Joey Wendle could sting more than anticipated.

3. Toronto Blue Jays

We must at least consider the possibility that this team—which finished in fourth place a year ago and hasn’t made the playoffs in a 162-game season since 2016—is being overhyped. But it's difficult to look at the Blue Jays roster on paper and not get carried away. The additions of Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi greatly bolster the rotation’s depth, while Alek Manoah has big breakout potential. With an offense as star-studded as this, the pitching staff doesn’t need to be outstanding for Toronto to win a ton of games in 2022.

2. Atlanta Braves

The defending champs were clearly intent on augmenting an already impressive bullpen this offseason, using money saved by swapping Freddie Freeman for Matt Olson to add former Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen and ex-Rays reliever Collin McHugh (1.55 ERA in 2021). Atlanta managed to bring home a championship with Ronald Acuña Jr. sidelined last year, but the Braves don’t possess as much outfield depth as they did after last year’s trade deadline, and they’ll be challenged in an improved NL East.

Dodgers outfielders Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

It feels like the Dodgers have been the preseason favorites for a decade now, but we did not come to this decision easily—Los Angeles’s rotation depth is not what it once was. That being said, the acquisitions of former Braves Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel lengthened the lineup and bullpen to a typically Dodgersian degree, and provided a small measure of payback for last year’s NLCS loss to boot. A rematch would provide endless story lines. We would only be so lucky.

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