30.) Houston Astros: The Astros made some nice offseason acquisitions, acquiring seasoned veterans Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman to blend in with their rising youth. 2014 will not be their year but they are certainly making strides to greatness.
29.) Minnesota Twins: The Twins brought in two mediocre pitchers in Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco this offseason in an attempt to ameliorate one of the worst rotations in baseball last season. Minnesota is one of the worst all-around teams in MLB and the moves to acquire both pitchers will have a minuscule impact to help their team prosper.
27.) Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies should have a very formidable starting five this year, but they are not getting any younger — especially on the offensive side of the ball. It would not be surprising to see them finish in the National League East cellar in 2014.
26.) Miami Marlins: At first when the Marlins made the huge fire-sale last offseason, people were absolutely perplexed by the organization’s philosophy, but looking at their team right now and projected for the next couple of years, it seems that they had a clear plan in place after all. The Marlins have a great mix of veterans and youth and it would not be surprising for them to come close to a .500 record this season.
25.) New York Mets: If Matt Harvey had only stayed healthy, this team could have been a legitimate contender this year. I know it seems rather rash to say one player can make that much of difference but Harvey really is an elite pitcher in Major League Baseball and he will be dearly missed throughout the 2014 season. The Mets lured a couple of quality free agents ready to turn the direction of this struggling franchise around, but without the presence of Harvey, it seems unlikely that 2014 will be the year for the Metropolitans.
24.) Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers have a lineup that screams contention, but their weak rotation has been the element that has stifled them from flourishing. They recognized this impairment in the offseason and addressed it by adding the archetype of dependability in Matt Garza. Although he is not an ace, he is very consistent, posting an ERA south of 4.00 for seven consecutive years. If Gallardo and Lohse live up to the hype than the Brewers could have a very solid top of the rotation.
23.) Seattle Mariners: The Mariners started the 2014 off-season with a bang, signing premier free agent Robinson Cano to a lucrative, multi-year contract. People began to anticipate a huge spending spree to complement the lavish signing, but that did not come to fruition and Seattle acquired three pedestrian players instead, in Logan Morrison, Corey Hart, and Fernando Rodney.
22.) Colorado Rockies: This team could be a huge under the radar sleeper in 2014. Their lineup is potent, albeit they do benefit from playing in one of the more hitter-friendly parks in the league. They improved from a pitching stand point in 2013 and they acquired other assets in the off-season in Boone Logan, LaTroy Hawkins, Franklin Morales, and Brett Anderson to fortify their pitching.
21.) San Diego Padres: San Diego’s time is almost here, prospects are beginning to blossom, and a conservative but intelligent off-season approach makes you think that this team could jolt some unforeseen success in 2014.
20.) Chicago White Sox: This team did not abide by the new era of advanced statistics to orchestrate crucial team decision-making, and as a result they fell behind and generated a sense of bewilderment from their fan base and outside spectators alike. A new approach had a wondrous effect, as Rick Hahn reinvented a team that was heading towards undeniable dismay for years to come. Adding the likes of Matt Davidson, Adam Eaton, and Jose Abreu bolsters a youth movement in the Windy City that will surely have positive results now and for the future.
19.) Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout, or the two-time MVP — oh wait, the two-time MVP snub, is far and away the best player in Major League Baseball. I would say having the best player on your team is assuredly a plus but that fact did not forge or fulfill any postseason aspirations. The rest of team struggled — especially their starting rotation, but they did address this instability by obtaining both Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs in a three-way-trade. These additions, along with an imposing top of the rotation in Weaver and Wilson, should resonate into much more success.
18.) Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays had steady play from their lineup and bullpen in 2013, and their lone weakness (starting rotation) has yet to be addressed. If the Blue Jays manage to win the Ervin Santana sweepstakes, then their 2014 prospects will be viewed in a whole new light.
17.) Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates have been silent in the off-season. The only “significant activity” being the loss of the anchor of their rotation the past few seasons, A.J. Burnett. Their lineup seems to be the real deal, however, the pitching staff collectively caught lighting in a bottle last season and with the exception of Gerrit Cole, the rotation should manifest into a glaring hole for the Buccos in 2014.
16.) Cleveland Indians: The Indians shocked everyone last season making it into the postseason as a Wild Card team. It is even more odd considering their big-time players, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Asdrubal Cabrera all underperformed. I guess it must have been the infamous “Terry Francona effect.” Nonetheless, this team has had a quiet off-season, like the Pirates, and should regress a bit in 2014.
15.) Kansas City Royals: The Royals rebuilding process has finally come to a close and 2014 should be their time to strike. Although, their window may be closing even quicker than it opened, as the Royals’ ace, James Shields, is said to have no desire to extend his brief tenure in a Royals uniform. Pitching has been the problem for sometime now, and next season they could have the same inefficiency that has been haunting the franchise for a while.
14.) San Francisco Giants: 2010 World Series champions, 2011 no playoffs, 2012 World Series champions, 2013 no playoffs. So if history is correct, than the Giants should be hoisting the 2014 World Series trophy over their shoulders on a brisk night in October. Anyway, their lineup looks potent, which has not been the case in the past. How the rotation bounces back will be the determining factor if the Giants make the postseason in 2014.
13.) Baltimore Orioles: A flurry of late off-season signings have put the orange birds in a much better position to compete in the toughest division in sports. The O’s have extensive depth in the rotation, a strong lineup, and the best defense in Major League Baseball. The only knock against them is their lack of southpaws in the bullpen. Matusz is solid, but after that there is a grey area.
12.) Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-Backs seemingly are one of those teams that are comprised on the philosophy of above-average all over. The Red Sox proved that this method pays off and now the Diamondbacks are striving for the same success that the Red Sox encountered last season.
11.) Cincinnati Reds: Dusty Baker got the boot and we can only hope that this means we will not see Zack Cozart in the 2-hole on a consistent basis or Brandon Phillips and his .396 slugging percentage in the cleanup spot. The Reds do have talent all-around, even with the subtraction of on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo. If Bryan Price makes the right decisions, do not be surprised to see this team competing for a playoff spot once again.
10.) New York Yankees: Oh, how it is a luxury to have Yankee-esque cash to work with. The Bronx Bombers acquired Ellsbury, Tanaka, McCann, and Beltran for big money and have now solidified themselves as an intimidating contender. Even though the Yankees do not follow traditional methods in building a team, they still are going to be in the playoff hunt for years to come.
9.) Atlanta Braves: The Braves stayed put in the off-season — only extending current players to long-term deals. As the young, talented players on the Braves progress, they will only get better.
8.) Texas Rangers: The Rangers acquired slugger Prince Fielder and on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo in the off-season, and now seem to have the best lineup in baseball. However, their rotation still has a lot of questions surrounding it, and they have done nothing at this point to assuage these concerns.
7.) Oakland Athletics: Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Scott Kazmir, and Craig Gentry will all enter the fold in 2014, fortifying a team that has won two consecutive A.L. West pennants. Billy Beane is seeking for this to be the year of the Oakland A’s, and to finally resonate the regular season success into the postseason.
6.) Washington Nationals: The Nationals acquired one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball — trading the Tigers for Doug Fister. The addition of Fister gives the Nationals one of the best rotations in baseball, if not the best rotation in baseball. They also have a very solid lineup and bullpen and it seems apparent that this team will thrive in 2014, albeit I thought the same exact thing last year.
5.) Tampa Bay Rays: A full season of highly touted player Wil Myers will certainly help a team that has been the model of consistency. The Rays are another team that is built around and on the grounds of above-average all over and they certainly have one of the better teams baseball has to offer.
4.) Detroit Tigers: Even though the Tigers’ off-season moves speak volumes to smart financial decisions, there is no way that the Tigers improved at all. They gave up Fister, who was costing them pennies, for nothing in return. The Tigers also lost a lot of offense when they decided to trade Fielder for Kinsler and Johnny Peralta decided to leave Motown. It does not even seem that they improved the bullpen, either, as they lost Joaquin Benoit, Jose Veras, and Drew Smyly (now a starter), and gained just Joe Nathan and the erratic Joba Chamberlain.
3.) Los Angeles Dodgers: They have money, depth, and talent.
2.) Boston Red Sox: It seems rather rash to say that the defending World Series champions do not rank first on the pre-season power rankings. However, they did not get better this off-season while the other team ahead of them did. The Red Sox lost Ellsbury, Saltalmacchia, and potentially Stephen Drew — all three were key components to the Sox’ success. As slated right now, the Red Sox have question marks at third base, catcher, and center field.
1.) St. Louis Cardinals: The Cards have a ton of depth, directed their focus in the off-season to needs and they did just that. John Mozeliak brought in power-hitting shortstop Jhonny Peralta to fill the need at short for years to come. He also traded for defensive superstar Peter Bourjos to add more depth to a premier team.