MLB preseason power rankings
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Since the St. Louis Cardinals won the 2011 World Series, there has been a great bit of activity in the baseball world. Any idea of the National League being stronger than the American League has completely shifted with two franchise first basemen now playing elsewhere. Also with the expansion of playoff teams going from eight to 10, there are a few more teams thinking playoffs going into 2012 . Let’s see where they all rank.
1. Texas Rangers (96-66) – The Rangers made it to the World Series last season with the deepest lineup in baseball, a strong bullpen and no legit ace on their staff. Can Yu Darvish be what C.J. Wilson wasn’t?
2. New York Yankees (97-65) – Career years out of Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano got the Yankees regular season success but a suspect rotation got them a first round playoff exit. Add Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda and potentially Andy Pettitte and pitching will be the least of their worries this year.
3. Detroit Tigers (95-67) – The Tigers have arguably the AL’s best pitcher (2011 MVP and Cy Young) in Justin Verlander and hitter in Miguel Cabrera, and now they add Prince Fielder to hit behind him. But, unless a breakout year is ahead for Max Scherzer, the pitching will keep them behind the top two teams.
4. Boston Red Sox (90-72) – The catastrophic collapse for the Red Sox last season made many forget how good this team really was. They will once again score a ton of runs, but the health of their pitching staff over a full season is a big question mark.
5. Los Angeles Angels (86-76) – The Angels added the NL’s best player in Albert Pujols and their division rival Rangers’ best pitcher in Wilson, and as a result, have their fans thinking championship. In order for that to happen, Kendrys Morales must return to form to hit behind Pujols.
6. St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) – So, how can there be five AL teams better than everyone in the NL despite having the World Series champs? Subtract Pujols, add an injury-prone hitter (Carlos Beltran) in his place and the only place you can go is backwards. However, Adam Wainwright‘s return will be huge.
7. Philadelphia Phillies (102-60) – It’s hard to say anything bad when your pitching staff has names like Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and now Papelbon. Names not expected to play opening day include Howard, Utley and Polanco. I’m sure at some point you can add Rollins and Victorino to that list as well.
8. Tampa Bay Rays (91-71) – There are some great rotations around baseball but none are deeper than the Rays. And it only helps that they defend better than everyone as well. The problem is they can’t hit with the Yankees and Red Sox and really don’t have a strong bullpen.
9. Milwaukee Brewers (96-66) – The loss of Prince Fielder is huge for the Brewers. Aramis Ramirez is a solid replacement but not quite the same protection for Ryan Braun. Luckily, this team has a solid rotation and a lockdown bullpen.
10. Atlanta Braves (89-73) – The Braves have a young, deep rotation and the best bullpen in all of baseball. They just don’t hit enough. In order to challenge the Phillies, they need a bounce-back year from Martin Prado and for Jason Heyward to finally tap into his potential.
11. Arizona Diamondbacks (94-68) – The NL West won’t likely provide much competition for the Diamondbacks. Ian Kennedy leads a solid rotation that added Trevor Cahill in the offseason. Justin Upton is a star, but in order for this team to go anywhere, they need another hitter to emerge. Will that be Paul Goldschmidt?
12. Cincinnati Reds (79-83) – The biggest weakness last season for the Reds was pitching. The addition of Mat Latos will help but Ryan Madson‘s season-ending injury hurts. Somebody is going to have to step up in the pen if Joey Votto and company are to make any noise this in 2012.
13. Washington Nationals (80-81) – The additions of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson, as well as having Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg healthy have Nationals fans excited. Bryce Harper isn’t likely to make an impact this season, but it won’t be necessary if Michael Morse repeats 2011 and Jayson Werth forgets 2011.
14. Florida Marlins (72-90) – The Marlins have a new stadium, new jerseys, a new manager and three big-time players added to the roster. Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell are reliable pitchers and Jose Reyes is seen by some as the best shortstop in baseball when healthy. But this team is going nowhere unless Ozzie Guillen gets Hanley Ramirez back on track.
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