MLB 2018 Power Rankings: Preseason Edition
2018 Preseason MLB Power Rankings
There are shockingly still a few free agents out there, but now that the season is nearly upon us, it's time to take a crack at ranking the 30 MLB franchises.
30. Miami Marlins
The Marlins aren’t trying, so why should we? They traded away almost every asset of value, and they care far, far more about turning a profit than they do winning baseball games. Their fans deserve better.
29. Pittsburgh Pirates
This isn’t a knock on the Pirates’ plan, as sometimes it makes a lot of sense for small-market teams to start rebuilding. They couldn’t take advantage of their contention window, but after just being .500 for the first time in two decades, the McCutchen Era in Pittsburgh was an objective success. It’ll be a few years before they’re ready to compete again, especially considering the top-heavy strength of the NL Central, but it was the right time to make this decision, and the future of the franchise is in good hands.
28. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are going to be bad. Like, really bad. Even if a healthy Miguel Cabrera bounces back to MVP-levels, this team will barely win 65 games this season. I don’t want to spend any more time on this team than I have to. Don’t be surprised if they’re picking first in the 2019 draft.
27. San Diego Padres
The Padres are.. trying, I guess? They signed Eric Hosmer to a way above-market deal, locking him in for 8 years. They already had Wil Myers at first base, so he’ll move to the outfield. They already had a glut of outfielders, so somebody is going to get left out.
I can respect the desire to compete for a playoff spot, especially in a weak National League that doesn’t have many teams going for it after you get past the strong 3-4 teams at the top. This team has some really intriguing young pieces, so their contention window probably won’t open until 2020 or so. They probably should have let Hosmer sign elsewhere, but what’s done is done, and he at least does help in the short-term.
26. Tampa Bay Rays
As always, the Rays have a plethora of young pitching talent ready to fill the cracks in the big league rotation. And, as always, they are sorely lacking in the young position player department. This will be the first season in a decade without Evan Longoria in Tampa Bay, and there’s no obvious fill-in as the face of the franchise. Chris Archer is the most likely candidate, but he’s also maybe the most likely player in baseball to be traded. He’s talented, young, and on a team-friendly contract, meaning he could bring in a haul for the Rays.
The most interesting thing about this team is the potential trade candidates, which should tell you everything you need to know about their chances to compete in a loaded AL East this season.
25. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox committed to a rebuild relatively recently, and through some shrewd trades are already seeing the light at the end of their tunnel. They aren’t ready to compete yet, and would probably have no problem losing 90 games again, but they boast one of the most impressive farm systems in baseball, and should soon find themselves with a talented young core that rivals anyone not named Houston. For now, expect another season with countless losses, but these fans are “trusting the process” more so than any others in baseball, so they’re ready to deal with another rough year.
24. Kansas City Royals
The Royals’ recent core of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon was an unquestionable success. They made two World Series, winning one, and flags fly forever. That said, even with the return of Moustakas on a very team-friendly short-term deal, this team is about to enter a period full of struggles. The core is gone, and there are no young talents in the farm system ready to step up, mostly since they traded away many of those guys to help build those World Series teams (again, flags fly forever).
23. Oakland Athletics
There’s nothing particularly exciting about the Athletics franchise. They haven’t won much in recent years, they play in a terrible ballpark, and they don’t have many name-brand players on the roster. They could be a surprisingly decent team this season, however. While they lack upper-echelon players, they also have shockingly few holes in both the lineup and the pitching staff. The tough division represents a major obstacle to the playoffs, but this team should at least play in competitive games most nights, which is better than any other rebuilding team can say.
22. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are just about done with their rebuild, or so they hope. The incredible free agent class of 2018 will be one they dip their toes into, and if they can add a Bryce Harper or a Manny Machado next season (sorry DMV fans), they should be competitive in 2019 and beyond.
This is still a 2018 Power Rankings, so we can only judge this year’s roster. I like many of the individual pieces they have, but they still feel a year away. This is a surprisingly well-rounded team who could be highly competitive by late summer, but will probably start slowly as their young talent continues to adjust to the majors. Look out for them going forward, but teams like the Nationals, Dodgers and Cubs probably don’t have much to worry about in Philly for now. But their time is coming soon.
21. Atlanta Braves
The Braves, like the White Sox, decided to embrace the rebuilding process and commit to a high-level farm system. Their minor league teams are rivaled only by those of the White Sox, and probably have even more upside than the players in Chicago. Ronald Acuna is maybe the best prospect since Mike Trout, having dominated multiple levels in the minors at the raw age of 19. Ozzie Albies is a dynamic, high-upside 20-year old who may have already broken out last season, and that doesn’t even get into the impressive young pitchers Atlanta boasts. This will be another losing season, but more so than any other team in baseball, the future of this team looks like a potential dynasty.
20. Minnesota Twins
The Twins have probably as big a difference between their floor and their ceiling as any team in the American League. They’ve got some really, really talented players in Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, and Miguel Sano. They’ve also got some really, really major question marks in Buxton’s consistency, Berrios’ ability to miss bats consistently, and Sano’s legal troubles (and consistency). They will be an excellent defensive team, which raises the floor of their pitching staff, so this ranking could end up looking quite foolish. But it also wouldn’t shock me to see this team fall back to a 70-win pace this season.
19. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are in the middle of their rebuilding process, but actually have some really nice pieces. Most of them are too young to be expected to impact the 2018 version of the team, but guys like Nick Senzel could join the big leagues sooner rather than later. No team with Joey Votto at first base is going to be truly terrible at the plate, but the rotation should be among the worst in baseball.
You shouldn’t expect much winning in Cincinnati this season, but there’s usually one team projected to finish poorly who ends up competing way longer than it feels like they should, and when you have talented young position players and a quality bullpen, you’ve got a shot to surprise some people.
18. New York Mets
The Mets employ Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow is best known for playing quarterback, which, last I checked, is still not a position in baseball.
Jokes aside, they’ve still got some serious talent in the starting rotation. Can Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom stay healthy? If so, this will be one of the 3 best staffs in baseball, and if Michael Conforto returns from his shoulder surgery by May (noticing a pattern here?) then the offense should boast some nice power at the very least. Amed Rosario is a future star at shortstop, so the ceiling for this squad is actually quite high. When so many of your stars have injury-related question marks, however, the floor is also quite low.
17. San Francisco Giants
If you look at their roster, you’ll probably think this ranking is too high. There are a lot of big names who are past their prime. But if you look at the calendar, you’ll notice it’s an even year, and therefore this ranking will probably end up too low.
Superstitions aside, the Giants play in a tough, deep division, and while the National League as a whole is very top-heavy, there are enough quality teams to make for a tough road to a wild-card spot. The Giants have overcome long odds before, but it just feels like this is a team that should be embracing the rebuild process instead of acquiring overpriced veterans.
16. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays no longer have Jose Bautista on their roster, signaling a major change from the last half-decade. That said, they’ve still got tons of position player depth. Is it good depth though? Guys like Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte are nice bench pieces, but you still need stars. Josh Donaldson is just that, if he’s fully recovered from his calf problems, but this team is lacking the big name players we all associated with Toronto in recent years.
Like the Orioles and Rays, this team’s ceiling is likely just 3rd within the AL East, meaning it may make sense to just commit to a rebuild. Heading into the season, it appears they aren’t thinking the same thing.
15. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles are maybe the most frustrating team to cheer for in all of Major League Baseball. Sure, they aren’t as much of a disaster as the Marlins, but fans in Miami have no reason to believe in their team any more. The O’s aren’t as talent-dry as the Rays or the Pirates, but that’s not saying much. They actually spend quite well for their market size, but playing in the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox means they’ll never be close to even the 2nd-biggest payroll in their own division.
They’ve got generational talents like Manny Machado, breakout stars like Jonathan Schoop, prodigious power hitters like Chris Davis, talented young pitchers like Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, established bullpen pieces like Brad Brach, one of the 5 best managers in the sport in Buck Showalter, and a very worthy face of the franchise in Adam Jones. They’ve won a lot of games in the last 6 seasons, but fans are still left feeling upset with ownership’s vision for the team. No extension talks with Machado is just the tip of the iceberg that is the fans’ frustration with Dan Duquette and Peter Angelos. This season feels like an important one in Baltimore, whether the team commits to a rebuild or goes all in for a likely Wild Card appearance. Either way, 2019 should bring a new-look team, for better or worse.
14. Milwaukee Brewers
Last season, the Brewers started competing for the playoffs a couple years earlier than expected. It’s always nice when a rebuilding phase lasts shorter than expected, but it begs the question. Was last year a fluke? Or a legitimate step forward for the franchise?
To help make sure last season’s success can be replicated, the Brewers went out and acquired some nice offensive pieces. Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich are two of the more underrated outfielders nationally, both providing quality all-around games. Their impact will be felt in Milwaukee, where the Brewers are still looking up at the Cubs, but have a very manageable path to an NL Wild Card spot. If last season’s improvements are real, and Jonathan Villar bounces back to 2016-levels, this rankings could end up being half a dozen spots too low.
13. Texas Rangers
The Rangers feel kind of boring, mostly because they’ve stuck with many of their same stars from recent successful seasons. This isn’t necessarily an indictment, as a few of those guys are established quality players. Elvis Andrus is one of the better shortstops in baseball right now, and Adrian Beltre is one of the better third basemen in baseball history. Willie Calhoun, Nomar Mazara, Delino DeShields and Joey Gallo give this team some really nice high-upside position players, so if Cole Hamels can bounce back on the mound, this team could be a scary matchup in the ALDS.
12. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have been a staple of MLB postseasons this century, with guys like Albert Pujols (obviously), Yadier Molina (makes sense), and David Freese (huh?) stepping up in big October moments over the last decade and a half. With the Cubs looking to dominate the near future, and the Brewers ready to start the next phase post-rebuild, the Cardinals had a decision to make. Banking on their young talent developing, as has happened so many times in recent years, the Cards appear ready to compete again.
Acquiring Marcell Ozuna is a big win. He’s coming off a career-best season, and some regression should be expected. But this is still a top power hitter entering his prime seasons, and they only spent 70 cents on the dollar to get him. They’ve got young pitching (what else is new?) in the form of Luke Weaver, and always find themselves with a flamethrowing closer by season’s end. It’s getting repetitive at this point, but expect the Cardinals to compete for a playoff spot this year, and to make some damage if they find their way in.
11. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners were pretty easily the best team in baseball in 2001, riding the high of an incredible Ichiro Suzuki season all the way to the ALCS. Since losing to the Yankees, they haven’t made the postseason in 16 years, the longest active streak in Major League Baseball. Not to rehash the same things said a year ago, but this team represents their best chance at playing in October in a number of years.
The key will be health. James Paxton could be left-handed Noah Syndergaard, but like “Thor,” he needs to prove he can throw 180 innings before becoming a true ace. The acquisition of Dee Gordon will help the team’s overall speed, an especially useful trait given their power-draining home ballpark. This team is good, but realistically, won’t be able to compete for anything higher than the 2nd Wild Card spot. Given their history, this would be an accomplishment, but is it worth it just to lose to one of the AL’s superteams in the divisional round? You’ll have to ask Seattle fans to find out.
10. Colorado Rockies
You can probably guess right now how this Rockies season will go. Thanks to a combination of their crazy-talented position players and crazy-high-altitude home park, there will be runs aplenty. Thanks to a combination of their crazy-young pitching and crazy-high-altitude home park, they will give up plenty of runs as well.
This has been the story of the Rockies for basically their entire history as a franchise. As long as guys like Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon are around, they’re going to be a fun team who hits the crap out of the ball. And as long as Jon Gray is their ace (no offense intended to the talented righty), they probably won’t be true threats to compete in October. Coors Field is both a blessing and a curse, and that probably won’t change anytime soon.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks were a good team last season, and should expect to be good again this year. Chase Field has long been known as maybe the best ballpark for hitters in all of baseball, but this season that should change. They’re going to be utilizing a humidor (without getting into the science of it all, it means the balls will be stored in a way that generally diminishes offense). Their pitching staff was a pleasant surprise last season, so the humidor should only help breakouts Robbie Ray and Zack Godley, not to mention ace Zack Greinke.
It may hurt Paul Goldschmidt’s numbers, but we’re still talking about a super star. Arizona isn’t a true contender without adding another piece or two, but this is going to be a quality team night in and night out.
8. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are easily this year’s most intriguing team outside of the true contenders. They don’t have nearly the depth of the top 7 teams in the league, but they can match any franchise’s star power with the 1-2 punch of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Mike Trout needs no introduction at this stage of his career, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock since 2012, here’s a reminder. He’s the best player in baseball. He’s been the best player in baseball every year for the last half-decade. He will, barring injury, be the best player in baseball for the next half-decade. He is on pace to be an inner-circle Hall of Famer. When all is said and done, it’s not crazy to imagine him being considered the greatest baseball player of all time.
That said, his supporting cast has flat-out stunk during his career. That’s why the Angels brought in Ohtani, the most-hyped international prospect since Ichiro Suzuki, and potentially baseball’s first true two-way player in 100 years. The Angels may be really good, and they may be not-so-good, but they will absolutely be worth watching every step of the way, if only to experience The Trout and Ohtani Show.
7. Washington Nationals
The Nats should win the NL East with ease, as they’ll probably once again threaten to win 100 games. They’ve once again got one of the deepest, most talented starting rotations in baseball, paired with one of the deepest, most talented lineups in the National League. They’re once again a little weak in the bullpen, though it looks improved over that situation entering last season.
I say “once again” so many times because we’ve been through this before. The Nationals have fielded one of the most stacked teams in baseball many times in the last 5-6 years, but like so many talented D.C. teams before them, their regular season dominance has yet to translate in the playoffs. The Cubs and Dodgers are still looming in the NL, so while it’s always nice to add another NL East Champs banner, fans aren’t going to care much about what happens this season unless the team’s postseason demons are exorcised. It’s (probably) Bryce Harper’s last season in the nation’s capital, so it’s now or never for this iteration of the Nats. Based on their history, I’d probably lean towards never.
6. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox and Yankees are primed to reignite baseball’s best rivalry. New York has gotten most of the headlines for their offseason acquisitions, but J.D. Martinez should be a highly productive bat for the Sox this season. Martinez has secretly been one of the best hitters in baseball in the last few seasons, and hit home runs at a Stanton-esque pace for Arizona last year when healthy. The lineup is still young enough to expect even more improvement from stars like Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, and there are more reinforcements on the way, specifically in the form of a full season from phenom Rafael Devers.
Not to mention, Boston boasts the 2nd strongest ace-closer combination in the game, with Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel trailing only Kershaw/Jansen in Los Angeles. The Red Sox are crazy-talented, they’ve got as much depth as you could ask for, and they’ve got a few crucial stars on the pitching staff. Fans are in for an exciting season in the AL East.
5. Cleveland Indians
The Indians are a really good team that has had the misfortune of facing some other really good teams in the playoffs. They were, of course, on the losing end of the Cubs’ history-making 2016 World Series run, falling in one of the most epic Game 7’s of all-time. They were one of the best teams in baseball last year, but couldn’t find their way back to the Fall Classic.
They’ve still got young superstar Francisco Lindor as the face of their franchise, to go along with Jose Ramirez and others. Corey Kluber is as reliable an ace as you’ll find in the American League, and Terry Francona is regarded by just about everyone as an elite manager. They are set to be really good yet again, and their fans are hoping this is the year they get over the hump.
4. New York Yankees
The Yankees won the offseason already, after swindling the Marlins into giving them Giancarlo Stanton for pennies on the dollar. For most franchises, Stanton’s contract could be crippling, but for the Yankees, it’s a mere blip in their financial records. In combining forces with Gary Sanchez and last year’s rookie sensation Aaron Judge, Stanton will help form the most fearsome murder’s row since, well, Murderer’s Row.
But it’s not just about what should be a legendary middle of the order. The Yankees have enough talent in the starting rotation, plus easily the deepest, most-talented bullpen baseball has seen in years. If they have a lead going into the 6th-inning (and Stanton, Sanchez and Judge will see to it that they do quite often), the game is over. I’m already tired of hearing about the Yankees, and March only just began. But, I’m sorry to say, the hype is real.
3. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs were really good last year, and if 2016 never happened it would have been an incredibly disappointing finish for fans everywhere. Luckily for Wrigleyville, 2016 did happen, which bought Cubs fans at least a decade or two of goodwill towards the franchise. That said, fans are greedy, and with a nucleus that’s still both really talented and really young, expectations are going to rightfully remain high for the next few seasons.
As long as they’ve got the best infield in baseball, and the best manager, they’ll be a threat. If Yu Darvish can fill Arrieta’s ace role as well as I expect he can, then you’re talking about a World Series favorite
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Runners-up in the World Series, and runners-up in our preseason power rankings. The Dodgers have more talent than American Idol, more depth than an Olympic diving pool, and more money than Bill Gates. In other words, they are really, really good, and have plenty of avenues to get even better.
The top 3 teams in the National League are clearly in a tier in their own, and there’s an argument to be made that the Dodgers should have their own tier too. They’re that good.
1. Houston Astros
This one’s easy. The reigning champs have earned the right to be listed number in preseason rankings. If they were an older, more veteran-heavy team who won the title in “one last hurrah” fashion, then maybe there’d be an argument for another up-and-coming team to be preseason favorites. These Astros, however, could still be considered up-and-coming, which is a scary proposition for MLB franchises everywhere. Their star power is nearly unrivaled, with young talents such as Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and George Springer.
They’re good now, they’ll be good for years to come, and they’ve proven they can win a title. The top spot in our MLB Power Rankings is locked up until further notice.