The inaugural edition of the 2010 MLB Power Rankings features the Yankees and Red Sox at the top. That might seem boring, but I just can't see it any other way. Should I be intellectually dishonest in favor of mixing it up? What's that old cliche? The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Anyway, this is the first launch of our MLB Power Rankings this year. Two things to keep in mind:
• These aren't predictions of how teams will finish. This is supposed to be a gauge of how good (or bad) each team looks right now. Things can easily change once the season starts.
• This is all me. If you want to blame someone for how poorly your favorite team is ranked -- and you will -- blame me. Not FanHouse.
Without further ado, let's get to it.
- 1. Yankees | 2009 Record: 103-59
No, this pick is not lazy or a cop-out. The Yankees have better starting pitching this time around and the addition of Curtis Granderson keeps the lineup very strong -- in addition to bolstering the outfield defense. Are they a better team? I don't know, but they certainly aren't worse. When the defending champs don't get worse, someone is going to have to prove they aren't the best team on the field.
- 2. Red Sox | 2009 Record: 95-67
This team will really push the Yankees -- as usual. Adding John Lackey makes the pitching staff absolutely menacing. The offense doesn't have the punch of the Big Papi-Manny Ramirez years, but it's plenty good enough to win close to 100 games with the stellar defense to support great pitching.
- 3. Phillies | 2009 Record: 93-69
A full season of Roy Halladay over less than half a season of Cliff Lee is a huge upgrade, and you can expect a better year from Cole Hamels. The third base swap appears to have weakened the defense, though Placido Polanco is a better fit for the offense. All in all, the only big question mark is the back end of the bullpen. I feel like this is the easiest pick of a division winner.
- 4. Rockies | 2009 Record: 92-70
You think that extended run last year was a fluke? Think again. This team is loaded, young and only getting better. You want a prognostication for MVP (I mean, is it really fun to just predict Albert Pujols is going to win it every single year?), I'll give you Troy Tulowitzki. In the Rockies' last 102 games in 2009, the 24-year-old shortstop hit .332 with 27 bombs and 76 RBI. His OPS during that span was 1.040 and he stole 16 bases. Now 25, he's ready for even bigger things.
- 5. Rays | 2009 Record: 84-78
This lofty spot is assuming the development of David Price, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis progresses during this campaign. If that happens, the Rays are good enough everywhere else to challenge the two titans atop the AL East -- maybe even unseat them like they did in 2008. On a personal note, the duo of Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria early in the lineup makes this team well worth watching on a nightly basis.
- 6. Mariners | 2009 Record: 85-77
With the addition of Cliff Lee, the Mariners now have a pair of aces. They also have the best table-setting 1-2 punch atop the batting order in the league after acquiring Chone Figgins to slot behind Ichiro. The defense will remain stellar. The question mark here is if the run producers are good enough to get the Mariners to first place.
- 7. Rangers | 2009 Record: 87-75
They have enough talent to overcome the distraction that was Ron Washington's drug revelation, but are they mentally tough enough? There's a good mix of veteran leadership to make it happen. If Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Rich Harden can all stay healthy all season (which is, yes, a tall task), the Rangers will be right in the thick of the playoff race all season.
- 8. Cardinals | 2009 Record: 91-71
The best player in baseball, an All-Star left-fielder, two of the NL's three best starting pitchers last season and a brilliant defensive catcher are enough to make them the favorites of an incredibly weak NL Central. Unless they get help from other places -- like Colby Rasmus improving, Ryan Franklin staving off the aging process and Brad Penny reverting to 2007 form -- they'll get pushed by up to three teams.
- 9. Giants | 2009 Record: 88-74
The offense is still a bit of a patchwork one, but the pitching is just phenomenal. The rotation boasts the two-time defending Cy Young award winner, Tim Lincecum, along with Matt Cain and the still-promising Jonathan Sanchez. The bullpen is stacked too.
- 10. Dodgers | 2009 Record: 95-67
Here's my vote for most disappointing finish this season. I should probably have dropped them a few more spots, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt, for now. It's possible the lineup is held together by the young stud outfielders, it's possible Manny plays for another monster contract and it's possible Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley pitch like All-Stars. If not, they're in trouble. Hell, I should demote them even further simply for having Vicente Padilla as their Opening Day starter.
- 11. Twins | 2009 Record: 87-76
The loss of Joe Nathan stings, but this is still a very strong team. Look at the power numbers from Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, and those guys are afterthoughts due to the presence of stars Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. On the backs of Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey, the rotation is unheralded, but solid. If players like Francisco Liriano, J.J. Hardy and Delmon Young come close to their potential, this team is a big threat.
- 12. Braves | 2009 Record: 86-76
Very strong pitching paves the way here, but the offense has to potential to keep the pace and make a playoff push in Bobby Cox's final season. Everyone is flocking to praise 20-year-old phenom Jason Heyward, and rightfully so, but it's overshadowing the potential in Tommy Hanson. He went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts at the age of 22 last year. He's ready to join the game's elite.
- 13. Angels | 2009 Record: 97-65
Honestly, I won't be surprised no matter what their finish is this year. They could come in last in a tough AL West, or win it going away. There are just so many questions on this team that could completely go either way -- concerning age, injury or development. It's certainly going to be interesting to see how it all plays out. One thing is for sure: never count out a Mike Scioscia squad.
- 14. White Sox | 2009 Record: 79-83
There's enough here for a great race with the Twins. The bullpen is strong and the rotation has the potential to be stellar. The question is if the offense can hit its stride. With Gordon Beckham still awfully young, can he handle the two-hole all year? Can Carlos Quentin stay healthy? Will Alex Rios ever live up to his immense promise? Can Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski still hit like middle-of-the-order guys?
- 15. Cubs | 2009 Record: 83-78
The good news is, the mentality will be better for two reasons. 1) Milton Bradley is gone; and 2) the team hasn't heard all winter how great it is. Only Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly performed better than expected last year and many others fell drastically short of expectations. If there's a return to form from players like Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano (not to mention a full season of health for Aramis Ramirez), they'll push the Cardinals. If not, the window of opportunity with this nucleus will be fully closed.
- 16. Brewers | 2009 Record: 80-82
I like the offense, like the defense, like the closer and love the potential of the ace (Yovani Gallardo is going to be an elite pitcher this year). I'm just not sure their offense and defense are great. So can they overcome sub-par starting pitching and middle relief for three out of every five days consistently enough to be a force? They'll certainly be in the race in the weak NL Central, but don't count on a wild-card run if they miss out.
- 17. Diamondbacks | 2009 Record: 70-92
If Brandon Webb was fully healthy, I'd be predicting the Dodgers to finish fourth in the NL West. The Snakes have every reason to believe they can be the most improved team in baseball this season. A trio of still relatively young players will be much better offensively this year (Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson, Kelly Johnson) for various reasons and the rotation will be solid once Webb comes back.
- 18. Tigers | 2009 Record: 86-77
I could easily be way off here, but a lot of things would have to happen. Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez will have to hit like it's 2007, while Jeremy Bonderman needs to dial it back to 2006. Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore need to develop really fast, too. I do believe the bullpen is good, though, and Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer provide nice potential behind Justin Verlander.
- 19. Marlins | 2009 Record: 87-75
They aren't quite there yet, but there's an awesome team on the horizon -- and it actually looks like they'll be able to pay to keep talent around. Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco form one of the more potent 1-2 rotation punches. With all eyes on young Cameron Maybin and waiting on Logan Morrison, you might overlook Gaby Sanchez. Not me, as he's my pick for the NL Rookie of the Year.
- 20. Reds | 2009 Record: 78-84
They seem to be a sexy pick to make a run, and I've even said as much in the past. Upon further review, however, I'm just not seeing it. I'd more look toward next year when Aroldis Chapman is in the rotation, Edinson Volquez is healthy, Drew Stubbs has a full year under his belt and they've presumably found a left fielder.
- 21. A's | 2009 Record: 75-87
They'd have a decent shot at contending in either one of the Central divisions, but not in the AL West. The A's won't be bad, but they certainly don't have enough just yet to make noise anywhere other than playing a spoiler. The pitching could prove good, but there just isn't enough offense.
- 22. Mets | 2009 Record: 70-92
The good news is that David Wright is bound to have his power return, Jose Reyes appears to be on track to return soon and Jason Bay provides a good cleanup hitter. The bad news is Carlos Beltran still isn't healthy, the rotation behind Johan Santana is suspect and the bridge to K-Rod is awful.
- 23. Orioles | 2009 Record: 64-98
Slowly headed in the right direction, with a strong foundation of youth (Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman), but they are still totally outclassed by a trio of baseball's best teams in their beast of a division.
- 24. Blue Jays | 2009 Record: 75-87
On the other hand, the Jays are in the middle of rebuilding the foundation. The good news is they have lots of talented young arms. They can pick which ones to develop and which to spin to other teams for position-playing prospects. Do watch Adam Lind, though. He's one of the more underrated sluggers in the game.
- 25. Padres | 2009 Record: 75-87
They aren't winning 75 games again this season, not in that division. Taking a five-game regression, though, doesn't mean they won't be making progress in the rebuilding project. I do think they deal Adrian Gonzalez to stock their arid farm system. Some fun players to watch here: Mat Latos and Kyle Blanks.
- 26. Nationals | 2009 Record: 59-103
Take it to the bank: the Nationals will not lose 100 games again, nor will they be the worst team in baseball -- not for the foreseeable future. The handful of die-hard Nationals fans should be seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. They have star power for years to come in Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg and the farm system is finally shaping up.
- 27. Pirates | 2009 Record: 62-99
Yes, they are headed toward yet another losing season and they may even finish last again. General manager Neal Huntington is still trying to clean up the mess he was left with and it's not going to turn around anytime soon. Look for Ryan Doumit to be the guy they trade at the deadline this year -- causing overreactions from casual fans about how despicable the Pirates are for making trades.
- 28. Indians | 2009 Record: 65-97
Speaking of trades for the sake of rebuilding, I fully expect Jhonny Peralta and Kerry Wood to be headed elsewhere this July. You could make a case that the Indians will be much improved this season by discussing scenarios chock full of ifs. I'm just not seeing it. Not yet.
- 29. Astros | 2009 Record: 74-88
They ignored their minor-league system for years, all in the name of staying in the wild card race into late August for the latter part of the last decade. It's going to start catching up with them -- this year. Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Roy Oswalt can still play, but they are aging. Hunter Pence is exciting and Wandy Rodriguez was great last year. Other than that, this is a sorry bunch.
- 30. Royals | 2009 Record: 65-97
Well, I like Billy Butler and Zack Greinke. The Royals made a seemingly admirable attempt to formulate a roster mixed with cheap veterans and upcoming youth, but the mix just looks bad. There's no real nice or creative way to phrase it. It's possible they climb out of last place, thanks to the Tribe, but they aren't close to competing, even in a weak division.