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Sport MLB Power Rankings: Reigning Champ Dodgers Eye Repeat

06:05  02 april  2021
06:05  02 april  2021 Source:   si.com

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  Fantasy Baseball Today: Stephen Strasburg panic level, Wil Myers injury, Sonny Gray nears debut, more notes On Fantasy Baseball Today, we recap everything you need to know from Tuesday's actionIt actually came out after Fried's start that he'll be sent for an MRI on his hamstring. Perhaps that contributed to his last two starts. You can try to buy low on Snell but, as we talked about on the podcast, Snell has been overrated for Fantasy the past few seasons. The guy hasn't completed six innings in a start since July 21, 2019. There's no doubting the talent. We all saw it on full display in the postseason. But for whatever reason, the lack of consistency and volume in terms of innings pitched has made Snell a letdown.

In the first MLB Power Rankings of the new season, the defending champion Dodgers begin the year in pole position.

The wait is over: Baseball is back.

The 2021 season begins Thursday. The prospect of jumping from a 60-game sprint to a typical 162-game slog feels akin to preparing for a 10K and then deciding to run a marathon. For players and fans alike about to embark on the journey, remember to stay hydrated.

To commemorate what should be a national holiday, it’s time for the first MLB Power Rankings of the new season. To kick things off, we’ll identify what success looks like for each team—from World Series contenders to rebuilding basement-dwellers and everyone in between.

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Faithful followers of this column might notice a difference between this iteration and our way-too-early version from the spring. Some teams slid a spot or two here and there as a result of late player additions, injuries and, well, because sometimes we simply had a change of heart. With the semantics out of the way, happy baseball, everybody. Now let’s get to the rankings.

30. Pittsburgh Pirates (Last Rank: 30)

Ke’Bryan Hayes playing well enough to win the National League Rookie of the Year award would almost certainly be the highlight of the season. Aside from that, Pittsburgh can only hope to unearth any diamonds in the rough that could help the next Pirates playoff team in the distant future alongside Hayes.

29. Texas Rangers (Last Rank: 29)

The Rangers project to have one of the worst offenses in the league this year, and play in one of the most difficult ballparks to hit home runs. Their lone regular expected to be above-average—Joey Gallo—will likely be traded at some point before the deadline. A successful 2021 involves getting a quality return for Gallo, as well as young arms Dane Dunning and Kolby Allard developing nicely.

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28. Baltimore Orioles (Last Rank: 27)

The Orioles flirted with contention in 2020, but a repeat of lingering on the playoff-picture periphery feels unlikely. Instead of entertaining postseason pipe dreams, getting de facto ace John Means back on track should be of prime importance. It’s been far too long since a homegrown Orioles pitcher panned out, and Means could give the club a stabilizing arm it desperately needs (or, at the very least, a valuable trade chip to deal for future building blocks). Apart from that, a promising Adley Rutschman debut is something to root for.

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27. Colorado Rockies (Last Rank: 28)

The Rockies have a stable of young pitchers who have flashed potential at different times of their careers. Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jon Gray have all recorded 4.00 ERAs at least once over the past three years—but no more than two of them have in the same season. Getting three out of those four, plus Austin Gomber, the main return in the Nolan Arenado trade, repeating that feat would be another feather in the cap for manager and pitching guru Bud Black while providing hope for a franchise that’s always struggled to find pitchers who can keep their ERAs low in high altitude.

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26. Detroit Tigers (Last Rank: 26)

The rebuilding Tigers have some intriguing young talent on their roster, namely pitcher Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. A successful 2021 would entail rebuilding the trade value of starters Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull. Boyd posted a respectable 4.48 ERA from 2018–19 but had a 6.91 ERA in 12 starts last year. Turnbull was much better between the two last season, but he will begin 2021 on the injured list while in COVID-19 protocol.

25. Arizona Diamondbacks (Last Rank: 24)

The Rockies have gotten all the bad press in the NL West this offseason, but the Diamondbacks finished last in the division in 2020 and easily could again—especially after Zac Gallen suffered a hairline fracture in his arm while taking batting practice. (Bring back DHs to the NL, please.) Once Gallen is back, helping him return to form is the top priority, but it’s almost equally important to see Madison Bumgarner and Ketel Marte do the same. Both former All-Stars must reverse their alarming declines in production if the D-Backs are to have any hope of contending for the playoffs over the next couple of years.

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  AL West X-factors: Springer-less Astros frontrunners? Angels, Athletics could use pitching boost Here's each AL West team's biggest X-factor in 2021For three seasons, the AL West belonged to the Houston Astros. That doesn't appear to be the case anymore. In 2020, albeit a 60-game shortened season, the Oakland Athleticswalked away with the division crown, their first since 2013. The Los Angeles Angels should be doing far better than what their last few division finishes reflect and based on their lineup, which now includes Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. The last time L.A. took home the division title was back in 2014, which was the last time they made the playoffs.

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24. Boston Red Sox (Last Rank: 23)

The Red Sox predictably struggled in their first post–Mookie Betts season, finishing with their worst winning percentage since 1965. Rebuilding some goodwill with the fanbase starts with putting a good product on the field, and that relies on some bounce-back seasons from key pieces. We’ll focus on Rafael Devers, who looked like a budding star in 2019 but struggled in 2020. Rediscovering his form will go a long way toward the Red Sox contending in the AL East.

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23. Seattle Mariners (Last Rank: 25)

After the embarrassing departure of president and CEO Kevin Mather, a successful season for Seattle hinges on proper development (and treatment) of its young core. Outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic has already said he believes the club is manipulating his service time, and the situation will only grow worse if Kelenic excels in the minors out of the gates only to be denied a timely call-up. The Mariners have plenty of young talent waiting for a chance to reach the big leagues, and a front office that’s scrambling to clean the egg off its face. Putting the club’s best players on the field would be a great place to start.

22. Miami Marlins (Last Rank: 22)

Miami was playing with house money after a team expected to finish in the basement of the NL East endured a debilitating COVID-19 outbreak last summer. Somehow, the Marlins left the casino with a playoff series win over the Cubs. That was in large part due to five starters recording ERAs between 3.00 and 3.61, including four (Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, Elieser Hernandez, Sixto Sánchez) under age 25 who are long-term building blocks. If Miami’s rotation finishes in the top 10 of the team ERA leaderboard, Derek Jeter owes those youngsters a pizza party.

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21. San Francisco Giants (Last Rank: 20)

The Giants missed out on a playoff spot via tiebreaker last season, narrowly falling short despite a top-five scoring offense in the NL led by reclamation projects such as Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson and Donovan Solano. With three fewer playoff spots in the NL and two juggernauts residing in the NL West, it’s unrealistic to expect San Francisco to come that close to a postseason berth again. Franchise icons Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford will all be free agents next offseason. All the aforementioned players are on the wrong side of 30. The Giants should aim to exchange those aging hitters, plus Opening Day starter Kevin Gausman, for prospects who will help turn the page on the Even Year Magic era.

20. Kansas City Royals (Last Rank: 21)

Kansas City has gone five years without a winning record since its 2015 World Series title. The Royals made some intriguing moves that suggest they’re entering win-now mode (or at least signaled the end of the rebuild), so the expectation will be to at least contend for a postseason spot. For that to happen, veteran signings Carlos Santana, Mike Minor and Greg Holland (re-signed) need to pan out. A bounce-back year from newly acquired Andrew Benintendi is also critical.

19. Cincinnati Reds (Last Rank: 19)

The Reds expected a lot out of their offense last season after shelling out millions to add Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas to a lineup headlined by Eugenio Suárez and Joey Votto. Cincinnati then proceeded to rank 27th in runs scored and became the first team in MLB history to go scoreless in a postseason series. With Trevor Bauer gone, the Reds need to take advantage of their hitter-friendly stadium and rank as a top-five offense in the NL to have a prayer at topping a weak NL Central for their first division title since 2012.

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18. Chicago Cubs (Last Rank: 16)

Cubs fans will also be expecting a run at the NL Central race despite the loss of Yu Darvish, the team’s WAR leader a year ago. But the real goal on the North Side should be establishing a clear vision after a couple of years in limbo. Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Kris Bryant are all set to be free agents next offseason after struggling to various degrees last year. The front office has to evaluate if those past heroes are part of the team’s future by extending or trading them by the deadline instead of potentially losing them for nothing.

17. Philadelphia Phillies (Last Rank: 15)

Philadelphia received above-average offensive production last year from all of its position players except center field, and boasts three playoff-worthy starters in Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin. What kept the Phillies out of the playoffs was their historically poor bullpen, which wasn’t helped by a midseason makeover. If any of Philly’s many center field options can emerge from the pack and the offseason overhaul of its relieving corps takes hold, the Phillies should be in good shape.

16. Milwaukee Brewers (Last Rank: 17)

The Brewers have more than their fair share of dominant pitchers, from starters Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes to relievers Josh Hader and Devin Williams. But Milwaukee was a bottom-five offense in 2020, and can’t expect to outscore three division rivals again with that sort of showing (yes, NL Central teams accounted for four of the five lowest-scoring teams in the majors, even with the DH rule). The crew rightfully has its sights set on a fourth consecutive playoff berth, and will need its outfielders (Christian Yelich, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Lorenzo Cain) to perform to their potential to accomplish that.

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15. Cleveland (Last Rank: 14)

The Francisco Lindor–Carlos Carrasco trade was never going to be viewed favorably by Cleveland fans. Now, it just can’t look like a total embarrassment. More than any other players, Cleveland needs the key returns in that deal—Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez—to succeed. Giménez appears on track to be the everyday shortstop, leaving Rosario on the outside looking in for the moment. The 25-year-old has taken reps in the outfield this spring to increase his positional flexibility and his chances of seeing the field.

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14. Oakland Athletics (Last Rank: 18)

An injury to Matt Chapman and a down year by Matt Olson severely hindered Oakland’s 2020 offense, which didn’t stop the team from winning its first division title in seven years. Oakland's repeat efforts begin with those two, who will be relied upon even more after the departures of Marcus Semien, Robbie Grossman and Tommy La Stella. After suffering significant losses, repeating as AL West champions would be viewed as an unequivocal success.

13. Los Angeles Angels (Last Rank: 13)

New year, same old story for the Angels, which need their pitching to finally pull its weight in order to snap a six-year playoff drought. José Quintana and Alex Cobb represent the rotation reinforcements, but the key there is the health and effectiveness of Shohei Ohtani. If he can provide even 15 to 20 starts that resemble his 2018 pitching form, the Halos will be in the hunt for a wild-card spot at the very least. Anything short of a postseason berth will be a failure.

12. Toronto Blue Jays (Last Rank: 10)

The Blue Jays should have one of the most feared lineups in the league this year, but what about their pitching? Aside from last year’s Cy Young Award finalist Hyun Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray is the starter with the biggest upside. He had a 6.62 ERA in 12 games last season after posting a 3.72 mark from 2017–19. Ray will open the season on the injured list with a bruised elbow, but he’ll be counted on to stabilize the rotation once he returns. Just returning to the playoffs in 2020 was viewed as a success. Now the Blue Jays will need to make some more noise once they get there.

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11. Tampa Bay Rays (Last Rank: 12)

The decisions to trade Blake Snell and not exercise Charlie Morton’s team option were head-scratchers, to put it mildly, particularly for a team so close to winning the World Series a year ago. A strong debut season from Luis Patiño, whenever he comes up, will go a long way to softening the blow of Snell’s departure. Similarly, resurgent years from reclamation projects Chris Archer and Michael Wacha would boost Tampa Bay’s chances of making a deep run again. The last time the Rays went to the World Series, they finished in third place in the AL East and missed the playoffs the following year. They’ll need to at least win a wild-card spot for 2021 to be viewed favorably by the fan base.

10. St. Louis Cardinals (Last Rank: 11)

After executing their blockbuster trade for Nolan Arenado—and in a division lacking a true powerhouse—the Cardinals won’t consider 2021 a success without a Central Division championship. Those title hopes could hinge on a talented yet inconsistent supporting cast, a group that includes Tommy Edman, Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson and Tyler O’Neill. The rotation is already hampered with injuries to Miles Mikolas and Kwang Hyun Kim, making the early-season performances by Jack Flaherty, Carlos Martínez and Adam Wainwright that much more crucial.

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9. Washington Nationals (Last Rank: 9)

Call it a World Series hangover, natural regression or just bad luck, but the Nats scuffled through a rough 2020 season, posting their worst winning percentage in a decade. There’s reason to believe in a bounce-back 2021, though, which begins with the health of the club’s trio of aces in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. While the NL East will be perhaps the most competitive division this year, making the playoff field is necessary for the season to be considered a success.

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8. Houston Astros (Last Rank: 8)

Will Houston have enough pitching to support what should be among the league’s best lineups? There are several unknowns behind veteran ace Zack Greinke. Recently extended Lance McCullers was solid in his return from Tommy John surgery last season, but he’s never thrown more than 130 big league innings in a single season. Framber Valdez’s status remains up in the air following a finger injury, while newcomer Jake Odorizzi pitched just 13.2 innings in 2020. Youngsters Cristian Javier and José Urquidy will need to help pick up the slack for the Astros to thrive. The Astros fumbled their way through the regular season before finding their stride in October. Reclaiming the AL West—and their status as World Series contenders—is the mission in 2021.

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7. New York Mets (Last Rank: 7)

At the 11th hour, the Mets got the deal done to keep star shortstop Francisco Lindor in Queens for the foreseeable future. In some ways that already makes 2021 a successful season for the team, but snapping a four-year postseason drought now becomes priority No. 1. The Mets have the pieces to get there, though they’ll need a deeper and more consistent bullpen to aid closer Edwin Díaz, who was quietly excellent last season after a tough debut in New York.

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6. Chicago White Sox (Last Rank: 5)

The injury to Eloy Jiménez was a brutal spring development, though the offense should have enough firepower to withstand his loss. The White Sox have a young core built for the future but boast as much talent as anybody, so their sights are firmly set on winning a World Series. The team’s starting pitching depth could be cause for concern, though, particularly in a year in which depth could be even more important coming off a shortened season. Dylan Cease, Carlos Rodón and Reynaldo López will be needed to provide quality innings after what should be a stout top three in Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn and Dallas Keuchel.

5. Minnesota Twins (Last Rank: 6)

There’s no tiptoeing around it—for 2021 to be a success, Minnesota absolutely must win a playoff series. Like their division rivals, the White Sox, the Twins have plenty of thump in their lineup, and they improved defensively with the addition of Andrelton Simmons at shortstop. Minnesota got a fully healthy and incredibly productive season from Kenta Maeda in 2020. He and José Berríos will need to anchor a rotation that is short on sure things beyond the top two arms.

4. New York Yankees (Last Rank: 3)

It’s the Yankees, so the goal is always World Series or bust. New York had several key pieces who either underperformed (Gary Sánchez, Gleyber Torres) or were injured (Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge) for large stretches of 2020, yet the team still pushed the Rays to the brink in the ALDS. The injury bug has already taken its toll with Luke Voit’s knee surgery, but the biggest factor in what kind of season the Bronx Bombers have will be health. The team has enough depth to weather long absences from key pieces and is as equipped as any club to win the pennant.

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3. Atlanta Braves (Last Rank: 4)

The Braves sought to shore up their rotation during the offseason after scraping by with Max Fried and a bunch of rookies last year, which worked better than anyone could have imagined. But the acquisitions of Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly and the return of Mike Soroka bring enhanced expectations. After coming within a game of the World Series last year only to collapse in heartbreaking fashion, the only thing that will ease Atlanta’s pain is a trip to the Fall Classic.

2. San Diego Padres (Last Rank: 2)

The Padres loaded up on starters over the winter with one goal in mind: toppling the Southern California rivals who have long overlooked them. Los Angeles emerged victorious again last year in both the NL West race and the teams’ first playoff meeting. San Diego likely isn’t too concerned with snapping the Dodgers’ eight-year streak of division titles but must feel confident in its ability to beat L.A. in a five-game series behind its stacked rotation. If that comes to fruition this fall, everything else will be gravy.

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1. Los Angeles Dodgers (Last Rank: 1)

For two decades nearly every World Series champion has expected to repeat. Not one of them has. It’s tough to extend your season into November for consecutive seasons. With that in mind the Dodgers refused to rest on their laurels as MLB’s deepest team and signed the NL’s reigning Cy Young Award winner. After integrating Trevor Bauer into the team’s clubhouse culture, there will only be two goals: Bring home the title again and celebrate with a championship parade to make up for the one that never happened last fall.

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The division-leading Reds and Phillies shoot up in this week's rankings while the suddenly hapless Athletics tumble. View the original article to see embedded media.For the measured baseball fan, the first week of the year is not a time to draw many significant conclusions. The day-in, day-out grind of a 162-game season is not structured for wild swings in fortune, yet that won’t prevent most die-hards from buying into the hype of a fast start—or conversely, bracing for six months of agony following a rough first week.

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