Major qualified free agents Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn remain unsigned due to the first round draft pick that has been assigned to them under the new CBA, and if a team were to sign one of them, it could very easily tip the following rankings. But since it’s the offseason and there’s nothing else to do, I’m about to do my annual pre-season power rankings despite my better judgement.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (1st in NLW)
The Dodgers–or Superdodgers, as they will be referred to on EM for the foreseeable future–have become too big for the box MLB created intending to contain the New York Yankees’ financial dominance. With their titanic TV contract with Rupert Murdoch, they have in the last six months equipped a team that already had Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw with Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Zack Greinke. I don’t pick the best team in Baseball to win the World Series since the playoffs are now more than ever a crapshoot, but I have to think LA is the best bet.
2. Anaheim Angels (1st in ALW)
Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo all in the same lineup just isn’t fair. Their supporting cast in the lineup are on the upper end of serviceable, and C.J. Wilson and Jeff Weaver head up a solid pitching staff that should be more than good enough to be carried by their tank column of a lineup. MVP voters won’t be able to use the shoddy “didn’t make the playoffs” excuse for Trout this time around.
3. Washington Nationals (1st in NLE)
Much of the same again for DC in 2013, where their lineup of underpublicized studs like Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa will (hopefully) team with full seasons from Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth; a stacked rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Dan Haren; and a top-ten bullpen will pave a pretty easy road over most of the National League.
4. New York Yankees (1st in ALE)
A typical Yankees team filled to the brim with All-Stars who are past their peaks but still have plenty left in the tank and plenty of capability to beat back the absolutely vamped Toronto Blue Jays. Save Francisco Cervelli at catcher, the Yanks have a well-known name at every position. The rotation past CC Sabathia is somewhat questionable, but not enough to believe that the offense won’t be able to make up for it as it always does.
5. Toronto Blue Jays (2nd in ALE, WC)
Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos went out and did work this offseason, picking up Melky Cabrera, Maicer Izturis, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and R.A. Dickey; all of whom I love, especially when added to Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie. Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero bottom out the rotation, and if they recover and play to potential, there may be no stopping the Jays.
6. Detroit Tigers (1st in ALC)
We all know about Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and the rest of the lineup that won an AL pennant for Detroit. But now those two superstars will be sandwiched between Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez. I personally think their rotation is widely overrated, but it’s unarguably solid and will be more than enough to run over the Central, as much as I’d like to see the Royals come through in ’13.
7. San Francisco Giants (2nd in NLW, WC)
Even the reigning champs will be no match for the Superdodgers in 2013, but they have above-solid guys at every position (Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, marco Scutaro, et cetera) that looks capable of supporting its famously strong rotation (Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and maybe even Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito) better than in years past.
8. Cincinnati Reds (1st in NLC)
While their in-division rival Cardinals got worse in the offseason, the Reds got better, sacrificing defense in centerfield for the all-critical additional on-base points in front of Joey Votto by virtually trading Drew Stubbs for Shin-soo Choo. The Reds were good enough to win the division with the team they had already (many games without Votto), and there’s no reason to think they won’t do it just as easily in 2013.
9. St. Louis Cardinals (2nd in NLC, WC)
The Cardinals understandably lost Lohse and failed to address their nightmare of a middle infield over the offseason. Skip Schumaker was traded, leaving the second base slot in the hands of Daniel Descalso and whomever else they can drum up in spring training. So they won’t win the division, but a wild card spot is definitely in reach for a team that still has a fatal starting lineup and a loaded bullpen (from the get-go, for once). The rotation is filled with uncertainty, but there are plenty of high-end young arms to step in if necessary.
10. Oakland A’s (2nd in ALW, WC)
The rotation has Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Brett Anderson and A.J. Griffin. The outfield has Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp. The bullpen that features Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour is one of the top five in the Majors. The rest is filled out with Billy Beane‘s typical cast of misfit toys that seem to always come together to form a 90+ win team, which I think they’ll do yet again.
11. Tampa Bay Rays (3rd in ALE)
I don’t know how Rays GM Andrew Friedman does it with so little, but like Beane in Oakland, he’s always able to somehow scrape together enough talent to make it close to or over 90 wins. James Loney and Yunel Escobar were added to a team that won 90 in 2012 and lost B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena. The rotation remains young, fast and likely successful.
12. Milwaukee Brewers (3rd in NLC)
The offense that scored more runs than any other in the League in 2012 has remained completely intact as Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez and Norichi Aoki all remained under contract; and the rotation is on the low end of serviceable with Yovani Gallardo and Mike Fiers at the helm. The ‘pen lost 33 games last year, more than any in the Majors; but upgrades have been made. It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that the Brewers could pass up the Cards in the wild card standings if all goes well for them.
13. Atlanta Braves (2nd in NLE)
They lost Bourn and Chipper Jones, which did a number to their offense and their position on this list, but they’re still a force to be reckoned with and are likely to face off against the Cardinals again for the wild card spot. The trio of Craig Kimbrel, Johnny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty returns for the third year in a row inside the best bullpen in Baseball, and the starting rotation has Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and Jair jurrjens with a couple of good options for the fifth spot as well.
14. Texas Rangers (3rd in ALW)
Losing Josh Hamilton to their biggest in-division competition irreparably damned the Rangers for the 2013 season, and the aging or losing of their pennant teams’ stars will knock them out of playoff contention even in an era of expanded playoffs. Though this isn’t to say they’ll suck. The rotation is still great, and the offense, while depleted, is anything but pedestrian.
15. Kansas City Royals (2nd in ALC)
KC GM Dayton Moore went all in on his team this offseason, putting his career on the line trying to fit into a two-year window that opens in 2013 with the trade of top prospects (including Wil Myers) for rotation buffers James Shields and Wade Davis. Combine that with a lineup of highly touted studs Lorenzo Cain, Alcedes Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez formed around franchise brickhouse Billy Butler, and you get a team very capable of proving the Myers-for-Shields trade completely wrong.
16. Chicago White Sox (3rd in ALC)
Basically all of the 2012 almost-made-it team’s cast returns in 2013 with veterans a year further from their prime and upcomers a year closer. The lineup that has Alejandro De Aza, Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios is still a big threat; and Jake Peavy and Chris Sale provide highly effective speed in the rotation.
17. Arizona Diamondbacks (3rd in NLW)
Justin Upton, Jason Kubel and Aaron Hill in the same lineup is never a bad thing, and if the rotation of Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy can perform as they have before, the D-backs could really mess up a big portion of the National League; maybe even the Cardinals in the season’s opening series.
18. Pittsburgh Pirates (4th in NLC)
The rotation has at least four guys who have enjoyed big time success in very recent years and may or may not do the same in 2013. Luckily for them, they’ll have more backup than almost all Pirates teams in recent memory with sluggers Neil Walker, Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen in the lineup.
19. Philadelphia Phillies (3rd in NLE)
Ben Revere was a great add, and their other offseason bring-aboard Michael Young nicely summarized the entire Philadelphia team: a number of once-big names that are now over the hump. Like the Yankees, but not nearly as good. The rotation will be made up of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Kyle Kendrick, so Philly should be able to hold their own as healthy versions of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins cover the rear as best they can.
20. Boston Red Sox (4th in ALE)
Boston made a number of financially questionable offseason moves, and while they were able to buy a few spots on this list, the once-mighty Sox are going to be far, far from a playoff spot this year. Talented starters Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster could only go up from their 2012 seasons; and Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz are still around.
21. Baltimore Orioles (5th in ALE)
Baltimore’s 2012 season was a mirage, loaded with several one-run games, last-inning wins and a record that was 11 games over their pythagorean win-loss. They’re still a solid team with Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Jason Hammel, Wei-yen Chen and maybe a returning Joe Saunders; but the magic of 2012 won’t be repeated by the Orioles or anyone else for quite a while.
22. San Diego Padres (4th in NLW)
The Padres are an all-around solid team pretty much everywhere, and will come close to .500 in 2013. Among their big players are the monstrous Chase Headley and one of my absolute favorites Everth Cabrera; and while the rotation is in need of repair it’s not going to get, the bullpen remains one of the NL’s best.
23. Chicago Cubs (5th in NLC)
Now that the Astros are gone, it’s the Cubs’ turn to return to the basement. The bullpen sucks, the defense sucks, the offense remains highly questionable even with young billboard guys Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. But the rotation features Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza and now Edwin Jackson, so at least Cubs fans won’t be without something to watch this year.
24. Cleveland Indians (4th in ALC)
I hate to put the Tribe so low since I think they did a great job upgrading the lineup this offseason. But the pitching on both sides of the sixth are so bad, even a lineup with Michael Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Mark Reynolds, Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher won’t be able to save them.
25. Seattle Mariners (4th in ALW)
A collection of young prospects whose Major League potential might be starting to become uncertain (Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Michael Saunders, Kyle Seager) was equipped with some additional offense this offseason with the additions of Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales. Felix Hernandez remains the teams’ unquestionable face, though Erasmo Ramirez and Hisashi Iwakuma might be able to provide some company in the rotation.
26. Colorado Rockies (5th in NLW)
When you have the worst pitching staff in the majors, the worst defense in the Majors and play half your games in the worst pitcher’s park in the Majors, you are in deep trouble. Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer, Wilin Rosario and maybe even Josh Rutledge will provide faces to put on tickets, but that’s about it.
27. Minnesota Twins (5th in ALC)
The once-stable Minnesota Twins have fallen into perpetual disrepair that will continue into and beyond 2013. Joe Mauer will be there, and any additional excitement from the lineup will depend on Jason Willingham continuing his newfound greatness and Justin Morneau to rediscover his. The rotation has a few longshots that might form up to become at least unembarrassing.
28. New York Mets (5th in NLE)
Dealt a fatal financial hit from Bernie Madoff that set the franchise several years back, the Mets have seen their assets dribble away. To their credit they retained franchise face David Wright this offseason, but 2013′s outlook is grim after losing Andres Torres, Scott Hariston and most of all Dickey.
29. Miami Marlins (5th in NLE)
Deplorable ownership moves by Jeff Loria and his crony Dave Sampson has reduced the Marlins to nothing, trading off all serviceable players for nothing in an effort to save cash. All that’s left is Mike Stanton, standing confused in a barren, lime green room waiting for his sentence to be over.
30. Houston Astros (5th in ALW)
The Astros will look every bit like a brand new expansion team in their first year of AL play. God bless Jose Altuve, the only real beacon of talent on the most barren team in recent memory.