Baseball Is Back
One of the holiest days in the American calendar year is finally upon us – Opening Day. Over the course of the last five months, 30 teams have worked tirelessly to improve their rosters in the hopes of playing baseball late into the upcoming fall. On Thursday, they will take the field and begin their 162-game campaign.
At the beginning of the season, every team has already won roughly 60 games and lost 60 games. What happens in the remaining 42 games will separate the good teams from the great, the wheat from the chaff, and the contenders from the pretenders. Naturally, it can be difficult to develop a basic idea as to the hierarchy of the league before a single pitch has been thrown. That’s at least what I am here to try to do.
Without any further ado, here are the Opening Day MLB Power Rankings presented by FlurrySports.
30.) Miami Marlins 29.) Detroit Tigers 28.) Chicago White Sox 27.) Kansas City Royals 26.) Pittsburgh Pirates 25.) Cincinnati Reds 24.) San Diego Padres 23.) Atlanta Braves 22.) Oakland Athletics 21.) Tampa Bay Rays 20.) Baltimore Orioles 19.) Philadelphia Phillies 18.) San Francisco Giants 17.) Seattle Mariners 16.) New York Mets 15.) Toronto Blue Jays 14.) Texas Rangers 13.) Colorado Rockies 12.) Los Angeles Angels 11.) St. Louis Cardinals
The Top Ten
10.) Milwaukee Brewers
It should go without saying that last year’s 86-76 campaign was more than a pleasant surprise for the Brewers. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, Milwaukee ended up being a dark horse contender, finishing the season just one game shy of a Wild Card berth. The Brewers were also quite active this offseason. On January 25, the Brewers added two outfielders, trading for Miami’s Christian Yelich and signing veteran Lorenzo Cain in free agency. Given what those two can do both offensively and defensively, as well as the young core of talent returning from last year, this could be a fun summer for baseball in the state of Wisconsin.
9.) Minnesota Twins
Speaking of teams that exceeded expectations, how about the Minnesota Twins? Going from 59-103 in 2016 to earning a Wild Card berth was an incredible turnaround, earning Paul Molitor AL Manager of the Year honors. Minnesota didn’t stop there, either. In the offseason, they made a flurry of moves: signing Zach Duke, Addison Reed, and Fernando Rodney to shore up the bullpen; trading for Jake Odorizzi and signing Lance Lynn to give their starting rotation depth; as well as signing Logan Morrison to share responsibilities at first base and DH with Joe Mauer. They face stiff competition with the Indians in the AL Central, but this team is more than capable of rattling off 90+ wins.
8.) Arizona Diamondbacks
It seems as if this end of the rankings is dedicated to teams that exceeded everyone’s expectations. In his first season as the D-backs’ manager, Torey Lovullo led a team that went 69-93 in 2016 to a 93-69 mark in 2017. Lovullo would be the NL Manager of the year for 2017. Arizona also secured the top Wild Card spot in the National League and reached the NLDS. Departures like J.D. Martinez and Fernando Rodney certainly hurt. Zach Greinke may not have the same velocity he used to have, but he’s still a top of the line starter. Paul Goldschmidt is a rising star in this league. Plus, Arizona is bringing back the bullpen car. Watch out for the Diamondbacks in the loaded NL West.
7.) Boston Red Sox
The new manager of the Red Sox, Alex Cora, is walking into a good job situation. Chris Sale and David Price head up his starting rotation. He has one of the best closers in the game in Craig Kimbrel. His infield depth is phenomenal with the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramírez, Rafael Devers, and Eduardo Núñez patrolling the bases. Mookie Betts is a legitimate MVP candidate. Newly-acquired outfielder/DH J.D. Martinez will add some pop to a lineup that was greatly lacking in power in 2017. In 162 regular season games, Boston hit only 168 homeruns. That total was dead last in the American League. In spite of that, they won 93 games in 2017. Not too shabby.
6.) Cleveland Indians
The Indians absorbed the loss of their 2016 World Series defeat and bounced back in 2017. Cleveland set the American League record for most consecutive wins, rattling off a 22-game winning streak. They eclipsed the 100-win mark, posting a record of 102-60 while winning their second straight AL Central Division title. The ALDS collapse at the hands of the Yankees was devastating. Losing Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, and Addison Reed hurt their bullpen. Still, their starting rotation houses 2017 AL Cy Young Award-winner Corey Kluber as well as Trevor Bauer. Added to their young and talented skill position players, the Indians can easily capture another 95+ win season.
5.) New York Yankees
The Yankees had a 3-2 lead in the ALCS last season. They were one win away from their first World Series appearance since 2009. Unfortunately for the Yankees, they could not stop the Astros – no one could. Now as New York beefs up their lineup with the arrival of Giancarlo Stanton, fans can only wonder if anyone can stop the Yankees this year. Luis Severino could emerge as a leading Cy Young candidate. Their closer, Aroldis Chapman, has a fastball that consistently reaches triple digits. The power of their lineup is intimidating, but at the same time that can make them prone to striking out. Doesn’t mean that the Yankees won’t be favored in the AL East, though.
4.) Washington Nationals
The Nationals were on a roll until Bryce Harper hyperextended his left knee crossing first base in August. He would later return to play in the postseason, but it was easy to see that he wasn’t at 100%. Despite this, the Nats won 97 games in 2017. Washington also has the luxury of playing in the weakest division in Major League Baseball. 2017 NL Cy Young Award-winner Max Scherzer heads the rotation, followed by another All-Star pitcher in Stephen Strasburg. Adam Eaton was showing to be a promising addition until he injured his knee stumbling over first base. Harper and Eaton should be healthy to start the 2018 season. The Nats could win it all, as long as they are careful while rounding first.
3.) Los Angeles Dodgers
Last year’s World Series defeat was tough on Los Angeles. They were the hottest team in baseball until they hit a 12-17 skid in the month of September. Even still, the Dodgers managed to finish 2017 with the best record in baseball (104-58). Los Angeles made short order of their playoff opponents, only losing one game on their way to the World Series. Bringing Yu Darvish to town strengthened the rotation, but he was 0-2 in the World Series. That may or may not have had something to do with the Dodgers letting him walk in free agency. Clayton Kershaw is still there. LA is still one of the deepest rosters in terms of skill position players. They’re not going anywhere in the NL West.
2.) Chicago Cubs
Speaking of deep rosters, time to talk about the Chicago Cubs. The 2016 World Series Champions reached the NLCS in 2017, only to be dispatched in five games by the Dodgers. In response, Chicago tossed a ton of money at Yu Darvish, the Dodgers starting pitcher who earned the victory in Game 3 of the NLCS. Darvish will likely be able to fill the hole in the rotation left by the departing Jake Arrieta. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have played well beyond their years and are entering their respective primes. In fact, the Cubs’ Opening Day lineup will very likely not have a player over 29 years-old, as only two of thirteen position players are in their thirties. This team is going to be really, really good for the next several years.
1.) Houston Astros
Was there any doubt as to who would top the Opening Day rankings? The defending World Series champs are by far the best team in baseball. José Altuve has cemented himself as baseball’s best second baseman – which is saying a lot, considering how many great second basemen are in the American League alone – winning the 2017 AL MVP. Shortstop Carlos Correa could emerge as an MVP candidate in his own right. The rotation is one of the strongest in baseball with Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Justin Verlander, and Gerrit Cole looking to shut down opposing hitters. After winning 101 games last year, in addition to their World Series title, the sky is the limit for the 2018 Houston Astros.
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