It’s been a whirlwind of an offseason in the MLB and we’ve only got a few more weeks to wrap our minds around it. Thanks to the transaction-happy owners, we need to sit down and simplify (like, down to 5 words) the consequences of all of these deals. So whether you’re a new fan of the MLB, an old fan trying to figure out what happened over the last few months, or a significant other trying to act like you know what you’re talking about, this article should meet your needs. There’s also a chance that citing any of my opinions on these teams will just make you sound ignorant around your MLB-savvy friends, but that’s a risk I’ve come to terms with.
1. Washington Nationals
Ok, THIS is the year. For the third year in a row the Nats are favorites to get it done with the best rotation in the league now that Max Scherzer is in town. The Nats are the only team in the league that can actually say that they have five (and a half) aces in their rotation. Health is wealth for the Nats. If they can stay healthy they will be the team to beat come October.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
How much for a trophy? With a payroll $50 million higher than the Yankees, it’s no surprise the Dodgers are expected to make a run at the title again. They strengthened their infield with Kendrick and Rollins but shipped out Kemp and Ethier in favor of Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson, both products of the Chattanooga Lookouts
3. St. Louis Cardinals
Different team, probably same results. Once again the Cardinals aren’t afraid to tweak the formula that’s kept them at the top. One of the best clubhouses in baseball has added another bat to the lineup in Jason Heyward, and still has the most consistent starter in all of baseball in Wainwright. These guys are always a threat in the postseason.
4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The other Los Angeles team. Can the Angels repeat the success they had last year? As long as the pitching staff comes through for the Angels, this team is always a contender.
5. Seattle Mariners
Maybe one more free agent. I want to talk bad about paying a power hitting free agent, Nelson Cruz, $57 million over four years to play at Safeco Field, but he’s still an upgrade and they were just a game away in 2014. It’s tough to say that a bat like Cruz doesn’t bridge that gap.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
We lost to the champions. The Pirates lost out to the would-be-champion Giants in the Wild Card game and it’s obvious that the front office believes the formula is still right. McCutchen is back, but the rotation is full of question marks.
7. Detroit Tigers
We lost to our bullpen. The Tigers’ bullpen pulled off two of the most epic collapses in postseason history in the ALDS last year and they didn’t address the problem, plus lost their Scherzer to the Nationals. On the plus side, they still have Miggy and Cespedes has brought his power bat to town.
8. San Francisco Giants
Have you seen our Panda? Sandoval out; McGehee in. That’s all that happened in San Fran this offseason, but who’s to blame them after winning the 2014 title?
9. Boston Red Sox
Cue the nobody knows song. A projected winner finishing 25 games back last year. They’ve bolstered the pitching staff and added Sandoval and Hanley but once again, no idea.
10. Cleveland Indians
You make my heart sing. You can’t deny it. It’s kind of satisfying to see good baseball back in Cleveland. These guys aren’t loaded with star power, but they get it done. Pedro Cerrano approves.
11. Baltimore Orioles
Hello, 96 wins; goodbye, players. It was a long winter in Baltimore after losing Cruz, Miller, and Markakis to free agency, but some major pitching prospects are a year older; Wieters, Machado, and Davis are healthy; and Buck Showalter is still at the helm. No worries, Charm City.
12. Toronto Blue Jays
This is the year, eh? The Blue Jays showed their potential at times last year. The addition of Josh Donaldson was a great pickup for Toronto and could be just what the doctor ordered.
13. San Diego Padres
Baseball arrives in San Diego. The Padres had one of the best offseasons in the league. They’ve still got to compete in one of the most top-heavy divisions in the league, but these guys could snag a wild card spot and surprise some folks when it counts.
14. Chicago White Sox
Finally, some help for Sale. With Samardzija in town and Jose Abreu putting up video game numbers, this group is not to be overlooked.
15. Oakland Athletics
Oakland, do you recognize us? Billy Beane’s A’s basically had 7 All Stars last year and two of them are on this year’s roster. Here’s to you, Jonah Hill.
16. Kansas City Royals
Never happening again, Kansas City. Ok, maybe I’m salty for my Orioles, but the Royals playoff run last year was absolutely absurd. (Un)fortunately, they lost their ace in James Shields. Please, not again. The world can’t bear anymore visions of Eric Hosmer celebrating by signifying that he is “strapping the team on his back” after a Texas-league single. Yeah, I’m salty.
17. Chicago Cubs
This is the year, again. The Cubs probably had the most intriguing offseason in the MLB. They are immediately competitive with additions like Jon Lester, but most people write them off on inexperience. In reality, the Cubs are only featuring a couple players who aren’t, at least, in their third year in the league. The issues for the Cubs will come from their rotational question marks and the tough competition in their division.
18. Atlanta Braves
What in the world, Atlanta? The Braves have no business being ranked 23rd on this list, but they shipped out the entire core of their team for minor leaguers and Shelby Miller. However, I’ve got the Braves a little higher than most because it’s an organization that doesn’t have much experience with losing and I put a little more faith in Miller and Markakis than others. Chop on.
19. Miami Marlins
Three hundred twenty five million. Giancarlo Stanton got PAID. The Marlins also made some moves that should see them out of the bottom-dwellers.
20. New York Yankees
“I’m not dead yet.” These guys stay old, but A-Rod is back so we’ll get to hear about them.
21. Tampa Bay Rays
No doubt, we got worse.
22. Milwaukee Brewers
We will need the B(b)rewers. This team has all the offensive pieces to have success. Just the offensive pieces, though.
23.New York Mets
The other New York team.
24. Cincinnati Reds
We make losing look good. See, Billy Hamilton and Aroldis Chapman.
25. Texas Rangers
The best team in Texas. These guys could easily prove me wrong on this one. They’ve strung together a decent rotation and a potentially above average lineup.
26. Houston Astros
Second best team in Texas.
27. Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer and the boys.
28. Arizona Diamondbacks
A team for the future.
29. Colorado Rockies
High altitude and low expectations.
30. Philadelphia Phillies
And the bad get worse. The fact that Philadelphia fans have to fight through a 76ers’ season and stumble right into this heap is cause for the greatest of empathy.
So there it is. It’s a new year and an entirely new MLB with the Braves dropping into the bottom third and the Cubs threatening to rediscover postseason baseball. Things are different, but it’s the same beautiful game of baseball. It’s still America’s greatest pastime, and that’s not going to change.