BY: CHRIS LARSON
Opening Day happens tomorrow and that means that right now is the perfect time to look ahead to the season and do some Pre-Opening Day Power Rankings. Below I have listed the Top 15 teams in the league as they look right now on paper. As is always the case, you can never count out any team because surprises happen, but here is how I view the rankings as of right now.
1. Astros - You can't start a Top 15 list and not include the Astros as the best team in all of baseball right now. Houston is locked and loaded for the regular season as they look to attempt a World Series repeat and got even better this offseason. In addition, there's plenty to like all around the diamond from Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander to Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve to Chris Devenski and Ken Giles in the bullpen.
2. Cubs - Right underneath the Astros comes the Chicago Cubs who also got even better this past offseason. Chicago focused on bolstering their pitching staff and did just that with the signings of Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, Brian Duensing, Steve Cishek, and Brandon Morrow, their new closer. Furthermore, you have to like the depth and versatility of several players on the 25-man roster which makes them even more powerful in the grand scheme of things.
3. Dodgers - No Top 15 list should exclude the Dodgers from the Top 3 and the potential they have heading into this season. You can't forget the fact that it was just last year that the Dodgers recorded the most wins in all of baseball (104) and made it to the World Series. Looking ahead to this season, Los Angeles still has the same 25-man roster for the most past which includes depth, a strong core group of players, and the best starting pitcher of this era in Clayton Kershaw.
4. Nationals - The Nationals come in number 4 on the list simply because they are another stacked team that is underrated on a national scale and have new expectations under the leadership of their new skipper, Davey Martinez. Once again, it is looking as though the NL East will be a fairly easy slam dunk for Washington, but their biggest problem is going to be getting over that postseason hump. With that being said, they're still one of the top teams in the league and it wouldn't surprise me to see them in the World Series.
5. Indians - You can't overlook the greatness of the Cleveland Indians roster or the leadership of Terry Francona. Even with the loss of their pitching coach, Mickey Callaway who is now the skipper of the New York Mets, Cleveland has a very strong starting rotation, they still have Andrew Miller and Cody Allen at the back of their bullpen, and plenty of exciting position players around the diamond including Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Bradley Zimmer, and Francisco Mejia.
6. Yankees - New York is once again poised to make it back to the postseason following a season in which they exceed many people's expectations and finished with a 91-71 record even though they were in the midst of a so called "rebuild." Looking at the team on paper, there is plenty to like, but there are questions regarding the starting pitching. However, don't sleep on the Yankees bullpen, which is probably the deepest and most talented bullpen, in all of baseball right now.
7. Red Sox - Boston might come in 7th simply because of questions regarding their pitching staff both in the starting rotation and bullpen, but that doesn't take away from the greatness of their 25-man roster which is composed of plenty of talented positional players and probably the best outfield in the game. The Red Sox are under the guidance of new skipper, Alex Cora, this year who comes straight from the reigning World Series Champion, Houston Astros, and that should help them tremendously as they look to make a deep, extended postseason run and battle the Yankees for the AL East.
8. Diamondbacks - Arizona certainly needs to be included in the Top 10 for any Pre-Season Power Rankings following a year in which many expected them to take a step back, but one that included a trip to the postseason. The Diamondbacks are once again poised for a postseason run, assuming their impact players stay healthy all year, and should be able to make some serious noise amid a tough NL West division thanks to the leadership of Torey Lovullo and Mike Hazen.
9. Rockies - It's easy to sleep on the Colorado Rockies in the grand scheme of things, but don't. The Rockies starting rotation is young, but has plenty of talent with names such as Jon Gray, German Marquez, and Chad Bettis. Furthermore, they still have Nolan Arenado, who is easily the best third baseman in the game right now, along with Charlie Blackmon, who finished last year with monster numbers in the leadoff spot, and a super deep bullpen. As we've seen in the past, deep bullpens pay huge dividends come the postseason so who knows if that's the case for the Rockies this year.
10. Twins - Minnesota is a team that came flying out of the gate in 2015 barely missing the postseason, performing far below expectations in 2016, and having a complete bounce back season last year with a trip to the AL Wild Card game against the Yankees. On paper, the Twins got even better this winter even though they didn't necessarily make a huge splash. Logan Morrison is going to have a significant impact on their already great offense and Lance Lynn along with Jake Odorrizi are only going to do wonders in their starting rotation with Jose Berrios and Ervin Santana, once he returns from the DL.
11. Blue Jays - Amid the AL East, many people are sleeping on the Toronto Blue Jays simply because they don't believe they have what it takes to make the postseason. You can't forget that Toronto had the best starting rotation in all of baseball in 2016 and that rotation is still in tack. The problem last year was that injuries hit the starting rotation as well as the roster which hindered the Jays from making a serious run at the postseason, but if all of their impact players stay healthy this year, watch out because they can be a dangerous team.
12. Brewers - Although Milwaukee failed to add a significant piece to their starting rotation this winter, they are still a strong team and should be poised for a run at a NL Wild Card spot this year. The Brewers have terrific offensive pieces in Eric Thames, Travis Shaw, and now Christian Yelich as well as Lorenzo Cain. In addition, their starting rotation was a strong point last year and that should be the case this season as should the continued greatness of Corey Knebel, their closer. While the Brewers don't match up on paper to the Cubs, they still have a lot to like on their 25-man roster.
13. Mets - I am one of the people that is buying into what the New York Mets are looking to accomplish this season and I believe strongly that Mickey Callaway is going to have a huge influence on the performance of their pitching staff. The only thing is health as it always is, but if the Mets can stay healthy all year, they should no doubt make the postseason amid a division that isn't that strong just yet. Beyond that, the Mets have several good relievers at the back end of their bullpen which should only help make them stronger.
14. Cardinals - The Cardinals are another team that didn't make a huge splash this offseason, but they certainly aren't a pushover. As is the case every year, you can't count the Cardinals out because of their pedigree and their winning attitude, but many including myself don't see them making the postseason for the third straight year. While that is the case, they still have exciting starting pitching prospects such as, Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty, as well as an improved offense with the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna this winter.
15. Mariners - If the Mariners could only put together a full season with no injuries, they would be such a good team and probably make it to the postseason with no problem. Like the Mets, health has crippled the Mariners efforts the past few years, but don't sleep on this team. If Felix Hernandez and James Paxton are able to stay healthy all year, there's a 1-2 punch as good as any in the game. Furthermore, Seattle has a deep lineup headlined by Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, and Ryan Vogelbach as well as several intriguing bullpen arms.
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