Spring training has finally come to an end, and opening night features the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros, two teams headed in complete opposite directions. Where do they rank among the rest of the teams in baseball? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are the MLB power rankings for opening day:
1. Washington Nationals – The Nationals are the only team in baseball I look at and see no weakness. They can pitch and defend, and their young players seem to just keep getting better.
2. Detroit Tigers – The Tigers have the last two AL MVPs and a slew of other contributors who make them the most feared team in the AL. If they figure out their bullpen, this might be the year they come out on the winning side of a World Series.
3. Los Angeles Angels – Three of the first four hitters in the Angels’ lineup are MVP candidates. But outside of Jered Weaver, there are questions in their rotation.
4. Cincinnati Reds – When it comes to complete teams, the Reds are the only one close to the Nationals. The decision to return Aroldis Chapman to closer makes them the favorite in the NL Central.
5. Toronto Blue Jays – The Blue Jays went all-in this offseason, acquiring the best of the Miami Marlins to bolster their lineup and rotation. If they stay healthy, they are the most talented team in the toughest division in baseball.
6. Atlanta Braves – There is a lot of excitement in Atlanta because of the additions of the Uptons to the lineup and the outfield. If Kris Medlen is the guy we saw in the final two months of the season, the Braves are as good as anyone in baseball.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers – After an aggressive offseason, the Dodgers now boast the highest payroll in baseball. Whether that leads to wins will likely depend on everyone avoiding injuries, which so far (Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and Zack Greinke) doesn’t seem likely.
8. Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays took a big gamble trading James Shields to get Wil Myers. They still have depth in their rotation, but at some point this season, Myers will need to make an impact in order for this group to make the playoffs.
9. St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals have arguably the best farm system in baseball and will need to rely on prospects in 2013 if they want to return to the postseason. Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Oscar Taveras should all make valuable impacts.
10. San Francisco Giants – The Giants return one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and a lineup centered around NL MVP Buster Posey. To hang with the Dodgers in 2013, the Giants need former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum to return to form.
11. Texas Rangers – The Rangers will surely miss having Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli hitting in the middle of their order. The pressure now shifts to a rotation that needs someone to step up and be an ace.
12. New York Yankees – The Yankees opening-day lineup will be without four of their best hitters. The pressure will be on the rotation to keep this team afloat until their all-stars return from injury.
13. Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies won 81 games without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for most of last season. If Roy Halladay can shake his spring struggles, the Phillies should be able to compete with the Nats and Braves.
14. Baltimore Orioles – All of the stats say the Orioles were more lucky than good last season. They should be able to score runs in 2013, but I am not quite sold on their rotation.
15. Oakland A’s – The A’s magical 2012 was due to strong pitching and timely hitting. Their young pitchers are for real, but their offense must prove themselves once again for this team to earn respect.
16. Chicago White Sox – The White Sox need everyone to play to their full potential to even begin to sniff the Tigers in the AL Central. John Danks opening the season on the DL also doesn’t help.
17. Milwaukee Brewers – The signing of Kyle Lohse has single-handedly made the Brewers contenders in the NL Central. Their season will center around Ryan Braun and the potential of a suspension at some point this season.
18. Kansas City Royals – The addition of James Shields makes the Royals a team to watch in 2013. They have needed an ace to go with that lineup for some time now.
19. Arizona Diamondbacks – Despite trading Justin Upton, the Diamondbacks still have enough to be competitive in the NL West. Their rotation from 1-4 can hang with any in baseball.
20. Cleveland Indians – The Indians quietly have had a strong offseason adding depth in both the lineup and rotation. But being deep and being talented are two different things.
21. Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox starting rotation being healthy to start the season has some believing this team can compete in the AL East. The lack of depth in their lineup however, makes me think otherwise.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates have collapsed in the second half of the season two years in a row. Their quiet offseason makes me believe they are in line for another disappointing season.
23. New York Mets – The Mets trade of R.A. Dickey eliminated them from any kind of contention in the NL East. Their core of young players in addition to what they hope will be a healthy David Wright should allow them to remain competitive enough to float around .500.
24. Seattle Mariners – Felix Hernandez may be the best pitcher in baseball and Mike Morse remains one of more underrated sluggers in all of baseball. Now, if they can just get some of their young players to produce.
25. Colorado Rockies – The Rockies can’t pitch but have one of the best lineups in the NL when healthy. But this group staying healthy might be a bit too much to ask for.
26. Minnesota Twins – Not too many teams in the AL can match the Twins’ 3-4-5 of Mauer, Willingham and Morneau. But as far as pitching, this team has no ace and no legitimate closer.
27. Chicago Cubs – Year two of Theo Epstein’s rebuilding phase boasts a strong offensive core of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, along with a couple more prospects about a year away. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the pitching staff.
28. San Diego Padres – Some feel the Padres hitters may be able to produce this season with the fences coming in a bit at PETCO Park. Shrinking the ballpark, however, hurts their pitchers just as much as it helps their hitters.
29. Houston Astros – The Astros and Marlins are virtually interchangeable in the opening MLB power rankings. I give a slight edge to Houston, however, because most of their young players got valuable experience last season, so there should be some kind of improvement.
30. Miami Marlins – The fire sale of this past offseason is likely to continue at this year’s trade deadline for the Marlins. The question is whether Giancarlo Stanton will be a part of it.