Cubs

2016 MLB Power Rankings

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2016 MLB Power Rankings

There's no question: The Cubs are clearly baseball's best team on paper entering the 2016 campaign. But, of course, there's still six months of baseball to be played, so don't just hand them the trophy yet. Teams like the Washington Nationals, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are looking to throw their hat in the ring to contend with the NL Central - baseball's best division. And that's not even getting into the American League contenders.

With that comes another edition of MLB Power Rankings from CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay with us every Monday from here through October for a fresh set of rankings.

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 -

OK, look, being the best team on paper means nothing, but all we have right now is "on paper" and in that category, the Cubs are (preseason) champs.

2   -

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Mets have great pitching. We know (and we're not disputing that at all). But the real question marks revolved around David Wright (can he stay healthy and produce amid a career-threatening back injury?) and Yoenis Cespedes (can he duplicate his power explosion from last year?).

3 -

If ever there was a season the Dodgers needed Puig, it's this one.

4   -

 Advanced-stat predictions don’t like the Royals, but we're buying them so long as they continue to field an elite defense. 

5 -

It's an even year, and we all know what that means for the Giants!

6 -

A full season of Carlos Correa and Carlos Gomez is mouth-watering, and Ken Giles was a solid addition to shore up a shaky bullpen. 

7 -

Last year was a disaster after World Series expectations. But if they stay healthy, watch out. This is still a bonafide contender.

8 -

Could be even better than last year. Gregory Polanco looks primed for a breakout, which would give Bucs arguably the best OF in the game.

9 -

Count the Cardinals out at your own risk. As far as we know, they're still under contract with that deal with the devil.

10 -

They’ll still hit a ton of home runs, but who outside Marcus Stroman can be counted on to succeed out of that rotation? 

11 -

David Price was a massive offseason addition, and eventually, this team will stop underperforming — right?

12 -

An under-the-radar contender stocked with baseball’s time-tested recipe for success: Pitching and defense. 

13 -

There certainly are offensive weaknesses here, but a solid rotation and good defense should play well in a wide-open American League. 

14 -

A.J. Pollock injury a huge, huge blow. May knock them out of contention altogether if he misses the entire season.

15 -

Todd Frazier was a crucial offseason add and Carlos Rodon looks primed for a big year. But will the defense and back of the rotation be good enough? 

16 -

If Yu Darvish comes back strong from Tommy John surgery, he and Cole Hamels could power Texas back to the postseason. 

17 -

Getting Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton this winter were quality moves, but are they enough to bail out an aging, sinking roster?

18 -

Can be a surprise contender. A lot of talent with Stanton, Fernandez, Gordon, Yelich leading the way.

19 -

Does an offense full of players on the wrong side of 30 have another run in it?

20 -

FanGraphs projects 13 Angels position players to be worth 22.7 WAR this year. Subtract Mike Trout from there and it’s 12 players and 14 WAR (1.2 WAR/player). 

21 -

Desperately need a starter or two to emerge from a group that is projected to have a collective 4.43 ERA by FanGraphs. 

22 -
If Nelson Cruz wasn’t enough to get this team over the hump last year, then where’s the fix?
23 -

Well they certainly didn't win the offseason, so maybe they could contend with low expectations? They do have some decent talent still around.

24 -

A lot to like with Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, but pitching staff needs to take a major step forward to keep 2015 from being a flash in the pan. 

25 -

Outside of Sonny Gray and Josh Reddick, this is a team with a ton of mediocre-to-bad pitching and a ton of mediocre-to-bad fielding. 

26 -

Should be a fun offense to watch once again, but they won't be playing in October this season. 

27 -

The rebuild is on. Still feels weird to see Braves cashing in another season. Millenials aren't used to a world without Braves as contenders.

28 -

They've officially wasted Joey Votto's prime years.

29 -

Yet another NL team just tanking this season.

30 -

Will be very shocked if they don't wind up with the worst record in baseball. No hope of contention anytime soon.

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. might be in the middle of a breakout season. The 24-year-old outfielder continues to show his impressive range in center field and is having his best year at the plate.

In Sunday's 8-3 win against the Giants, Almora had three hits and showed off his wheels in center to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases. The catch is visible in the video above.

"Defensively, right now he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.

On top of the defense he has become known for, he is hitting .326. That's good for fifth in the National League in batting.

"He's playing absolutely great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's working good at-bats. His at-bats have gotten better vs. righties.

"The thing about it, is there's power there. The home runs are gonna start showing up, too."

There's also this stat, which implies Almora is having a growing significance on the Cubs as a whole:

There may be some correlation, but not causality in that. However, with Almora's center field play and growing accolades at the plate, the argument is becoming easier and easier that he is one of the most important players on the Cubs. That also goes for Almora's regular spot in the lineup, which has been up in the air with Maddon continuing to juggle the lineup.

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."