Baseball’s regular season is quickly approaching, and that means the first edition of this season’s power rankings.
These rankings will be unique in a couple senses. One, they will only look at one league at a time. And two, the top three teams will represent the three divisions. After all, those are the teams that will make the playoffs in the end. This is the American League edition of the power rankings. The National League rankings will be available when you check back here next Monday.
After the preseason rankings, the American League rankings will appear on the last Monday of the month and the National League power rankings will appear on the first Monday of the month. Stay tuned, enjoy and as always feel free to comment!
1. Boston Red Sox– Take an injury depleted team that still managed to win 89 games and you are bound to see an improvement. Add to that an elite power bat in first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and a complete all around left fielder in Carl Crawford and you have one of the best offensive teams in the game that can certainly hold their own defensively. Still not convinced? Extra reliever depth in Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler make it hard to distinguish a strength for this team, as they are strong in many aspects. Is a 100 win season too high of an expectation?
2. Minnesota Twins– I have had the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins in this spot, and have ultimately decided on the Twins due to track record. Manager Ron Gardenhire just knows how to get it done. Perhaps the best managed team in the league with the most underrated starting rotation, the Twins seem to win despite always being counted out. I am not making the mistake of counting the Twins out this season.
3. Oakland Athletics– Oakland addressed its offensive needs nicely this offseason, adding a pair of outfielders with something to prove in Josh Willingham and David DeJesus and a proven DH in Hideki Matsui. Last season the A’s won 81 games on the strength of their starting rotation–they posted the best ERA in the league–and there is no reason that won’t continue in 2011. A few extra runs will go a long way in returning GM Billy Beane’s club to the post season.
4. Tampa Bay Rays– It is no secret the Rays lost a lot of pieces to their 96 win, 2010 puzzle. For most of their losses however they have an answer. They even signed Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon as insurance just in case their answers aren’t as quick to perform. Jeremy Hellickson could even be better than the departing Matt Garza. Relief pitching is where the real questions are, and this will make or break the Rays. If they can turn some of their minor league pitching talent into bullpen relief, then the Wild Card and 92-94 wins is a possibility.
5. New York Yankees– The Yankees can’t fall too far down any list. Cliff Lee chose not to sign with the Yankees because they are too old. All you need to do is look at the left side of their infield, a 36-year-old Derek Jeter and a 35-year-old Alex Rodriguez. Sure, A-Rod can still put up decent numbers and they do have Robinson Cano (29 HR, 109 RBIs and .319 average in 2010) and Mark Teixeira (33 HR and 108 RBIs), but beyond CC Sabathia they have big question marks in the starting rotation.
6. Texas Rangers– Last year’s American League Champions will miss the services of Cliff Lee. Centre fielder Josh Hamilton was superb in 2010, but he is too injury prone to expect to duplicate that. As a result, the Rangers will be unable to match last season’s 90 wins and a world series berth. The Adrian Beltre contract (6 years $96 million) may end up hurting the Rangers.
7. Detroit Tigers– The Tigers added Victor Martinez to protect Miguel Cabrera in the lineup, and with a healthy Magglio Ordonez getting on base before them the Tigers will have a very strong middle of their batting order. The starting rotation looks like it could be as good as any in the division, but it isn’t without question marks. Team defense also is somewhat dubious.
8. Chicago White Sox– The addition of Adam Dunn makes the White Sox lineup pretty impressive. On the pitching front, they lost a couple key relievers in JJ Putz and Bobby Jenks but still have good bullpen depth. Their starting rotation lacks a top end guy, although Jake Peavy is having a strong spring campaign and could once again be the dominating Cy Young-caliber pitcher he was in San Diago. If that happens, expect the White Sox to rise in the rankings.
9. Toronto Blue Jays– The Blue Jays’ reality is the curse of the AL East. They could easily challenge for the Central and West divisions, but must contend with perennial big boys in Boston, New York and Tampa Bay. The Jays have a well-balanced team with no real weaknesses. They ran away with the league lead in home runs last season (with 257) and have a lot of promising talent in their young pitching staff. The additions of Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel and Frank Francisco add some much-needed bullpen depth.
10. LA Angels– The Angels weakness last season was on the offensive end. A mended leg for first baseman Kendry Morales (34 HR, 108 RBIs and a .306 average in 2009) and the addition of Vernon Wells could help fix these weaknesses. The top of their rotation is strong–headed by Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana–but the other two spots in the rotation are sketchy at best. How much would you trust Fernando Rodney as your closer?
11. Baltimore Orioles– The Orioles revamped their infield and now can battle any team with their bats. New to the infield are power bats Mark Reynolds (third base) and Derek Lee (first base) along with shortstop JJ Hardy. A breakout year from catcher Matt Wieters is also due to come eventually. Pitching on the other hand is going to be a major concern. They do have some young pitching talent in their system and a decent bullpen, so all is not lost. It may take a few more years to crack the top teams in the AL East.
12. Clevland Indians– The Tribe could easily be in the 13th or 14th slot as well. They are in rebuilding mode, although they do have some talent to work with. Catcher Carlos Santana had a good start to his career before suffering a knee injury. The 24 year old has a lot of upside just like 25 year old starting pitcher Justin Masterson.
13. Seattle Mariners– The M’s had the best starting pitcher duo in the Majors the beginning of last season. One (Felix Hernandez) went on to win his first Cy Young award while the other (Cliff Lee) was traded to the Rangers and led them to the World Series. This season King Felix is returning, and Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki will get over 200 hits.
14. Kansas City Royals– The Royals have a promising farm system with a lot of talent that should be mature and make the team competitive in a few years. Unfortunately these are rankings for the upcoming season and first baseman Billy Buttler will have to wait for the bats within the system to develop to have protection in the lineup. They traded two of their best players away in the offseason–David DeJesus and Zack Greinke–and will be hard pressed to come close to the 67 wins they had last season.