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Major League Baseball Offseason Power Rankings to Start the New Year
The Los Angeles Dodgers have the top spot
1. Los Angeles Dodgers - After having the top offense in the National League last season, and doing a great job of replacing Hanley Ramirez this offseason, the Dodgers are in great position to field another strong offensive team in 2015. With two top of the rotation starters leading their rotation with a depth of veteran talent behind them, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and the rest of the Dodgers pitching staff should play at a high level again in 2015. The additions of middle infielders Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick in offseason trades should allow the Dodgers to play fantastic infield defense along with a solid offensive output from both middle infield positions. Adding Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson to the pitching staff to slot in as the fourth and fifth starters behind third starter Hyun Jin Ryu, gives the Dodgers one of the best starting pitching staffs in the game. With the Dodgers still having relief pitching issues to deal with, they still have some work to do in order to field a good bullpen behind their dynamite close in Kenley Jansen.
2. Los Angeles Angels - In the American League where transition has happened at the top, the Angels are the only clear favorite to win the most games in the American League for 2015. After trading away Howie Kendrick this offseason, the Angels have opened the door for Grant Green to take over their second base job full time. By adding Matt Joyce to bolster their outfield depth, the Angels now have another left handed power bat to complement a lineup that features plenty of right handed power in Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and designated hitter C.J. Cron. Adding Andrew Heaney in the Howie Kendrick trade allows the Angels to put one of the better rotations in baseball on the field for 2015, provided that Garrett Richards returns at full strength. With Richards as the ace of the staff, Matt Shoemaker, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and one of Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs or Hector Santiago would make up the Angels pitching rotation. With a deep bullpen that features plenty of strikeout potential, the Angels are in great position to protect leads again in 2015.
3. Washington Nationals - There is some uncertainty about Nationals ace pitcher Jordan Zimmerman as he enters the final year of his contract with the team. For right now though, he remains on the team as a part of the Nationals fantastic pitching rotation. A returning rotation of Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzales and Tanner Roark makes the Nationals a formidable opponent every time they take the field. With a strong core of position players highlighted by youngster Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, the Nationals will look to once again lead the National League in regular season win total. With some bullpen issues left to iron out, the Nationals did not need to add much to their roster this offseason.
4. St. Louis Cardinals - The Cardinals remain among the top teams in baseball after coming off the second of back to back division titles. They were able to add proven all star level production in right field by adding Jason Heyward this offseason, and they replaced free agent departure Pat Neshek, by adding setup man Jordan Walden in that very same trade. With some young high ceiling players in their lineup, they figure to improve some offensively as Kolten Wong, Matt Adams and Randall Grichuk find their way. Defense in left field with Matt Holliday is a bit of an issue for them, but they are willing to overlook that because of what he provides at the plate. Adam Wainwright leads a strong rotation that includes John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez as the fifth starter to start the season. With Walden setting up closer Trevor Rosenthal, the Cardinals should once again feature a strong bullpen in the later innings.
5. Detroit Tigers - Detroit does not have the same pitching talent that they have had in the past, but the 3,4,5 combination of Cabrera, Cespedes and Victor Martinez is tough to match. David Price and Anibal Sanchez form a strong top of the rotation for Detroit, but if Verlander is not able to bounce back, the Tigers will no longer be among the top teams in the American League. Shane Green and Kyle Lobstein are likely to make up the back end of the Tiger's rotation, but it is the back end of the Tiger's bullpen that is more of a concern going into the season. Detroit may have found their replacement for Austin Jackson in centerfield when they acquired Anthony Gose in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. Once again the Tigers should have a fantastic offensive team, but shortcomings on the pitching staff and defense may keep them from realizing their potential in the coming season.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates - As the Cardinals closest competition in the National League Central the past two seasons, the Pirates return a strong core group offensively with a very deep bench behind them. Stars Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte lead the way for this team that is counting on Francisco Cervelli to take over the catching duties vacated by the departure of Russell Martin. The additions of Corey Hart, Sean Rodriguez and potentially Jung-Ho Kang, make a strong bench from last season even better now that Polanco will be starting in right field to send 2014 breakout outfielder Travis Snider to the bench this coming season. The Pirates re-united the four starting pitchers who had so much success for them in 2013, but with A.J. Burnett now two years older, it will be up to young ace Gerrit Cole to pick up the slack for him. Vance Worley rounds out the starting staff, which figures to be supported by a stronger bullpen in 2015. Radhammes Liz, Antonio Bastardo and Brad Lincoln all have an opportunity to help the Pirates improve their relief pitching, that was such a weakness for them last season.
7. Baltimore Orioles - As the defending AL East champions, the Orioles have earned respect due to their strong pitching staff. This coming season they are hoping that one of Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman will emerge to become the ace of their pitching staff. With the departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in free agency, the Orioles lineup has gotten thinner. With the Orioles counting on a bounce back season from first basemen Chris Davis, they may have enough to get it done with their strong outfield combination of Adam Jones and Steve Pearce. Manny Machado's health is something to keep an eye on, but Baltimore is not lacking in talent. Two of their three recent big name pitching prospects to come up through the system, now anchor what has proven to be a fantastic bullpen. The Orioles will have some serious competition with in the AL East in 2015, however as of right now they appear to have enough to win back to back division titles.
8. Seattle Mariners - The Mariners put together a fantastic effort that fell just short of the playoffs last season when they had just their fantastic pitching staff leading the way for a poor offense. This offseason Seattle has brought in Nelson Cruz to bolster their offense, and they rewarded Kyle Seager with a large contract extensions for his all-star caliber play at third base. After having a great pitching staff last season, the Mariners expect it to be even better in 2015 with James Paxton healthy enough to join the rotation for a full season behind fantastic starters Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners also added outfielder Seth Smith in a trade with the Padres to join centerfielder Austin Jackson in the Mariners outfield for a full season. Seattle hopes this will improve their offense in 2015, because if it does their strong bullpen will be ready to close out late inning leads.
9. Toronto Blue Jays - A big offseason trade has the Blue Jays in position to compete in 2015, after adding star third basemen Josh Donaldson. Donaldson and free agent signing Russell Martin join a roster that already featured multiple stars such as Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion. Most fans know the Blue Jays can hit, but their underrated pitching staff often goes unnoticed. Youngster Marcus Stroman emerged as the ace of the staff in 2014, and he is joined in that rotation by veterans Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, young starter Drew Hutchison and rookie Aaron Sanchez. The Blue Jays continue their search for a closer this offseason, with their bullpen only being considered average, but the strengths of this team should allow them to compete in 2015.
10. Cleveland Indians - After finishing the season in third place for the 2014 season, the Indians have added to their roster enough to realistically challenge Detroit for the division title in 2015. Ace starter Corey Kluber is the reigning Cy Young award winner in the American League, and he is joined by talented youngsters in the Tribe rotation. Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, T.J. House and Trevor Bauer should fill out the rest of the Indians rotation unless Gavin Floyd is healthy and ready to earn a rotation spot. An offseason trade for all-star first basemen and outfielder Brandon Moss, has the Indians offense ready to compete in 2015. Moss's presence displaces Swisher in the field who will likely take over the duties as the team's primary designated hitter. Carlos Santana takes over at first base with Yan Gomes behind the plate. Jose Ramirez will keep the shortstop position warm for top prospect Francisco Lindor, while the Tribe have star power across the outfield with Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn and Brandon Moss.
Top ten in the offseason rankings
What team would you add to the top ten that is not currently there?
11. Miami Marlins - The Marlins are among the teams that hope to contend in 2015 due to a big offseason. Adding starting pitcher Mat Latos, second basemen Dee Gordon, third basemen Martin Prado and first basemen Mike Morse, has really bolstered both the Marlins rotation and starting lineup. After being well below average offensively in 2014, the Marlins hope to change that with a re-tooled infield to complement the star power they have in the outfield. The return of Jose Fernandez could go a long way in helping the Marlins to earn a 2015 playoff berth.
12. Kansas City Royals - The Royals are the defending American League Champions, but they head into 2015 trying to do more with less. This strategy can work sometimes for scrappy ball clubs like Kansas City, but asking Edinson Volquez to help fill the void left by the departure of James Shields may be asking too much. Kansas City still has one of the best bullpens in baseball, and they can probably expect their offense to grow some after a down year for most of their core guys last season. The addition of Alex Rios gives the Royals a veteran presence in the middle of their lineup, but the team could use another quality veteran starter in their rotation.
13. Chicago White Sox - The White Sox are another team on the rise as they added talent to their roster to complement Jose Abreu and Chris Sale. The addition of outfielder Melky Cabrera, starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and closer David Robertson addressed all of the White Sox biggest needs this offseason. A young core of talent led by prospect Carlos Rodon will be put in place for 2015 as the White Sox look to compete in the American League Central following a big offseason for the team.
14. San Diego Padres - The Padres re-tooled their outfield completely this offseason and it may be enough to field a good offense in 2015. This will not be an easy task for the Padres though, as their offense was 18 percent below the league average in runs created last season. The Padres have a competitive starting rotation, but with a ground ball staff they will need their infield defense to be better than it was for the team last season. The coming season will show if the Padres offseason efforts are able to pay off with a big showing in the regular season.
15. Chicago Cubs - The Cubs have had a big offseason to back up what their farm system is producing in talent to put a core of position players on the field. Free agent acquisition Jon Lester will be the Cubs ace this coming season, and trade acquisition Miguel Montero will guide the Cubs pitching staff. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler should combine to form a potent attack in the middle of the order in years to come. The Cubs will find out in 2015 if they have assembled enough talent to compete, as the pieces fall into place.
16. Milwaukee Brewers - The Brewers big offseason move was to add first basemen Adam Lind, but that is not likely enough to get them into the playoffs without a true frontline starting pitcher. Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun lead a strong offensive ball club, but without the pitching to stabilize things the Brewers could be in for another season where they finish at or around .500.
17. New York Mets - The Mets have assembled a roster that features some star power and stability with starting pitchers Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and third basemen David Wright. Michael Cuddyer being added to the Mets outfield mix gives them stability in the lineup with a solid veteran. The Mets continue to look for an upgrade at shortstop, but they may be better off giving Wilmer Flores the opportunity to prove himself there in 2015.
18. Boston Red Sox - The Red Sox brought in some star power by adding Sandoval and Ramirez this offseason, but their effort to rebuild the pitching staff has not brought them an ace starter in Boston after trading Lester at last year's trade deadline. The additions of Porcello, Miley and Masterson should allow the Red Sox to make a push in 2015, but if they fall short of a playoff berth, the shortcomings on their pitching staff will likely be to blame.
19. San Francisco Giants - The Giants are the defending World Series Champions, but a poor offseason has them in danger of missing the playoffs like they did to follow up their previous two championships. They replaced free agent departure Pablo Sandoval with trade acquisition third basemen Casey McGehee. Jake Peavy returned to the Giants on a two year contract, and Matt Cain expects to make a return from injury, but the rest of the Giants rotation does not look great beyond ace Madison Bumgarner.
20. Atlanta Braves - The Braves may be in rebuilding mode after trading away the expiring contracts of their two star corner outfielders, but they still have a strong starting rotation. The Braves brought in Nick Markakis to place hold one of the corner outfield spots while they work to develop or acquire the necessary players to fill the holes left in their outfield. The Braves appear to be the fourth best team in the National League East entering the 2015 season.
Which team is most likely to be MLB's surprise team in 2015?
21. New York Yankees - If Masahiro Tanaka can return to full health in 2015, the Yankees should have a fantastic pitching rotation with hard throwing youngster Nathan Eovaldi as their fifth starter. With Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann as the only impact hitters for the Yankees still in their prime years, it could be another very long season for the Yankees offensively. The Yankees may have found their replacement for Derek Jeter in glove first shortstop Didi Gregorius.
22. Minnesota Twins - The Twins have made some nice moves to improve what has been a woeful starting rotation lately. Now they should be able to field a pitching staff that is league average or better in the coming season, but with fly ball pitchers at the top of their staff, outfield defense is a concern. The Twins have an above average offense, but most of this is because they have sacrificed offense for defense in the outfield by having too many hitters on the team that would be better served to be designated hitters.
23. Oakland Athletics - The Oakland Athletics have unloaded plenty of talent this offseason in an effort to jumpstart their rebuild. With A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker set to return from injuries in 2015, the Athletics still have the talent in place to surprise some teams. After getting rid of their best middle of the order hitters recently, the A's figure to be a below average offense in a transition 2015 season.
24. Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays have plenty of talent still on their roster after trading pieces away recently in an effort to replenish their farm system. With new management in place however, 2015 is likely to be a transition season for the Rays. A strong pitching staff combined with a bounce back season for Evan Longoria, could allow the Rays to sneak up on teams this coming season.
25. Texas Rangers - The Texas Rangers have a formidable top of the rotation in place, but lack of depth makes it hard for them to sustain winning. The Rangers are currently thin in the outfield and getting older at both corner infield positions. Without a great catcher, the Rangers lack of depth makes it unlikely for them to surprise teams in 2015. They have some nice pieces to build around, but they need more in order to return to being a playoff contender once again.
26. Cincinnati Reds - After moving Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon this offseason, it appeared that the Reds were making the transition necessary to start a rebuild. Now with a lack of veteran pitching depth, they brought in Marlon Byrd to try to compete in 2015. While the Reds still have talent on their roster, they are currently a step behind every other team in the National League Central. Their win/loss record in 2015 will likely reflect that.
27. Arizona Diamondbacks - The Diamondbacks are a year away from being in position to go into a season as a contender with Archie Bradley scheduled to debut in 2015. Adding Yasmani Tomas should help their offense, but playing him at third base could get very interesting. Arizona is not very deep in the outfield along with being inexperienced on the left side of the infield. With a new catcher guiding the pitching staff in 2015, its not likely for the Diamondbacks to have a successful season.
28. Houston Astros - The Astros moved emerging starter Jarred Cosart to put their window of contention off until they could assemble a group of impact arms together on the same pitching staff. The pending debut of top prospect Carlos Correa gives Houston fans something to look forward to in 2015, as he will join George Springer and Jonathan Singleton in their effort to make an impact offensively. The Astros could take a step forward in 2015, but in all likelihood they will earn another high draft pick.
29. Colorado Rockies - The Rockies are left wondering if they should move Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales to assemble a younger core together, or if they have enough in the farm system to compete with those two under contract. With both stars being injury prone, a change of scenery may be the best option for both parties. With the Rockies impact pitching yet to arrive, 2015 probably will not be a very good season for Rockies fans.
30. Philadelphia Phillies - The good news for Phillies fans is that management may have finally acknowledged the need for a rebuild. The bad news is that it may have happened a season too late, as the Phillies barely earned a top 10 pick for their last place finish in 2014. The three pitchers that the Phillies received in return for Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins, now make up three of the top eight players in the Phillies farm system. The rebuild is underway in Philly, and the best thing that could happen to them in 2015 is to earn a first overall pick that allows them to add impact talent to the farm system.