Any of you who have followed my MLB power rankings throughout the past decade know I usually do two or three power rankings leading into the season. This year, with the lockout and players flying all over the landscape, I took the approach that any attempts at early mocks were quite simply a waste of time.

Now that a good 75 to 80 percent of free agents have landed somewhere, it’s time to try to unpack how this will now play out over the next 26 weeks.

I am first going to predict the order of finish for each division, then do a team-by-team ranking with comments on all 30 big league clubs.

AL East

1. Boston Red Sox
2. Toronto Blue Jays
3. New York Yankees
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Baltimore Orioles

AL Central

1. Chicago White Sox
2. Cleveland Guardians
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Minnesota Twins

AL West

1. Houston Astros
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Los Angeles Angels
4. Texas Rangers
5. Oakland Athletics

NL East

1. Atlanta Braves
2. New York Mets
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Miami Marlins
5. Washington Nationals

NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Pittsburgh Pirates

NL West

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies

Now, here are my power rankings. Next to each team, you’ll see its record last season and where it finished in my final power rankings ahead of the playoffs.

1. Atlanta Braves (88-73, No. 11): You’ll notice the Braves finished the 2021 season as just the 11th-best team. They hardly looked World Series-worthy going into the playoffs, but that’s why they play the games. The rotation after a top three of Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Charlie Morton is iffy, although Huascar Ynoa becomes mighty important as the season commences. GM Alex Anthopoulos made two very strong additions to the ‘pen in super chess piece Collin McHugh and stud closer Kenley Jansen. Matt Olson will fit in nicely and be a seamless substitution at first base in place of Freddie Freeman. The big news here is that Ronald Acuna (torn ACL) is expected to return in early May, initially splitting time between designated hitter and the outfield.

2. San Francisco Giants (107-55, No. 2): The Giants’ key pickups include lefty Carlos Rodon, right-hander Alex Cobb and outfielder Joc Pederson. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is one smart cookie. His low-risk additions on the pitching side were brilliant and he may not be done. One big-time bat is still out there in former Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, but he doesn’t want to sign until he’s 100 percent after an offseason shoulder injury. The Giants will most likely battle the Padres for his services.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (106-56, No. 1): The only additions to the starting rotation were the retention of Clayton Kershaw and the very early signing of Andrew Heaney. That won’t cut it, plain and simple. It’s doubtful Trevor Bauer ever sees the light of day from his paid administrative leave. The Dodgers are ranked this high with the confidence that by mid-May they’ll have swung a trade for someone to lift that rotation. This is a perfect landing spot for John Means if he gets off to a hot start. They lost shortstop Corey Seager in free agency but had Trea Turner in house. Their big addition is the bat of Freddie Freeman. But let’s be clear — they need Mookie Betts to get back to his old self and they need Cody Bellinger to get back to even 65 to 70 percent of his old self. Bellinger has been a ghost post-shoulder surgery. The recent pickup of Craig Kimbrel helps the back end.

4. New York Mets (77-85, No. 20): No team in baseball has had the makeover that the Mets have gone through since Steve Cohen was approved as owner in January 2021. The general manager’s position is now solid with Billy Eppler. Buck Showalter is one of the true difference makers in the dugout. He always points the compass True North when he takes over. But let’s be candid — the stress reaction to Jacob deGrom’s shoulder and then the news that Max Scherzer (hamstring) might not make his Opening Day start have probably cast a pall over Mets Nation. Showalter won’t be seen moping about. He’ll create wins other managers can’t coax out of their teams. To get this horse out of the gate, Showalter will need the real Francisco Lindor to show up immediately. Through 30 spring at-bats, Lindor has four homers and 11 RBIs while slashing .333/.382/.800. Right-hander Chris Bassitt, acquired in a trade with Oakland, has to help out early, as do fellow vets Taijuan Walker and Carlos Carrasco.

5. Houston Astros (95-67, No. 5): The big loss here is shortstop Carlos Correa. Rookie Jeremy Pena replaces Correa. Pena needs to be solid on defense and be a contributor on offense. This lineup still includes Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker, making it one of the few in the game that can withstand a loss like Correa. On the pitching side of things, they get back future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. The rest of the staff is solid, although they will miss Lance McCullers, who could be out a while.

6. Boston Red Sox (92-70, No. 9): This is a solid lineup. The one big head-scratcher was the swap of Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley, but I guess top decision-maker Chaim Bloom felt he needed to add a lefty bat and improve the outfield defense. Bloom made moderate pickups in the starting pitching area in Michael Wacha and Rich Hill. Chris Sale was placed on the 60-day injured list with a stress fracture of a rib. They’ll count on Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck to man up until the reserves are ready. Trevor Story adds a strong stick at second base. It looks like Matt Barnes is making the necessary adjustments to regain the edge as closer, with Garrett Whitlock looming.

7. Toronto Blue Jays (91-71, No. 10): Team president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins continue to bring the Blue Jays back to prominence. The big assist goes to ownership — in this case Rogers Communications — which has green-lighted the expenditures that have placed the Jays in the thick of things. A rotation of right-handers Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah and lefties Hyun Jin Ryu and Yusei Kikuchi is as good as it is diverse. The bullpen is solid with Jordan Romano and Yimi Garcia at the back end. The lineup is as dangerous as any in the game with the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel, Matt Chapman and George Springer. If this rotation stays healthy and productive, the rest of a tough AL East will have trouble keeping the Jays at bay.

8. Chicago White Sox (93-69, No. 7): Well, we’ll finally get a look at the powerhouse lineup the White Sox can throw out there every night. Eloy Jimenez suffered a torn pectoral at the end of spring training in ’21 and Luis Robert a torn hip flexor in May, so we never really got to see a fully healthy White Sox lineup. This is a formidable group that also includes Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Yoan Moncada and now AJ Pollack. The bullpen has a nice array of power arms in Liam Hendriks, Kendall Graveman, Aaron Bummer and Joe Kelly, but Craig Kimbrel (just traded to the Dodgers) and Garrett Crochet (Tommy John surgery) are now gone. The biggest concern is the rotation. Dallas Keuchel has been awful all spring, and No. 1 starter Lance Lynn (knee) is out several weeks. Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease are both bordering on great. Michael Kopech is around, too, but not much else. Can the Sox can hold off an improving AL Central?

9. New York Yankees (92-70, No. 8): GM Brian Cashman has made some bold gambles this offseason in acquiring third baseman Josh Donaldson and shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and almost waiving any interest in offense from his catching spot. But perhaps his biggest gamble was not upgrading his starting pitching. The rotation as presently constituted will be Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes and Jameson Taillon and a gaggle of fringe-looking prospects. Severino is the key. All bets are off as to if he is fully back to what he was before Tommy John surgery.

10. Tampa Bay Rays (100-62, No. 3): Maybe I am just jealous of the results skipper Kevin Cash gets out of being a contrarian. So despite the fact that the Rays won 100 games a year ago and will now have Wander Franco for a full year, I see them dropping back by seven or eight wins. They are, however, still in the top 10 but the fourth team in the stacked AL East. I’ll stand back in astonishment as Cash gets more out of his versatile, deep starting nine. Then he seems to always have that one extra arm to stem the tide of an opponent’s key rally.

11. St. Louis Cardinals (90-72, No. 6): The biggest change here is the man running the show. Gone is Mike Shildt after 451 games of .559 ball. In comes first-time skipper Oliver Marmol. He takes over a Cardinals’ team that seems at once to be a contender and homage to the past. The Cards just signed Albert Pujols to play one more season and already had right-hander Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina. Marmol inherits a team with two great two-way players in third baseman Nolan Arenado and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. However, both players may be just beyond their best, which means this club might have to scramble for runs. And that makes the loss of right-hander Jack Flaherty for the start of the ’22 season even more problematic. Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson and Steven Matz should be a solid quartet with which to start. The bullpen has a big injury, too, as Alex Reyes is down with a frayed labrum in his pitching shoulder. But the Cards do get the big right arm of Jordan Hicks back in the ‘pen.

12. Seattle Mariners (90-72, No. 13): GM Jerry Dipoto just keeps on keeping on. He spent big to bring big-time lefty Robbie Ray on board to lead a really dynamite rotation that also includes Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen, Logan Gilbert and rookie Matt Brash. This bullpen has multiple late-inning threats with Diego Castillo, Drew Steckenrider, Pat Sewald and Ken Giles (although Giles will open on injured list). Dipoto is banking on two right-handed bats in outfielder Jesse Winker and third baseman Eugenio Suarez, both of whom came in via a deal with the Reds. The M’s will be in fine shape if the two aforementioned pieces along with youngsters Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez can ascend into everyday contributors.

13. Milwaukee Brewers (95-67, No. 4): Just like my preview of the Rays, I am not quite sure how manager Craig Counsell had the Brewers playing well-above-.500 baseball three of the past four years. Christian Yelich, one of the best players in baseball from 2015-2018, has seen his career wrecked by a broken kneecap injury. That said, Counsell will still have three of the NL’s best starters in Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta. If his pedestrian offense gets a lead, Counsell has two late-inning guys (closer Josh Hader and setup man Devin Williams) to put another W on the board. How Nelson Cruz chose Washington over this situation is beyond me, and that decision will probably cost both Cruz and the Brewers a far more enjoyable season.

14. San Diego Padres (79-83, No. 16): GM AJ Preller, 44, has quite a reputation already. Aside from his 30-game MLB suspension in 2016 for holding back health information on a trade he made with the Red Sox, what has he really done? There always looks like lots of smoke, but the Padres seem to always be spinning their wheels. He has been allowed to now hire three managers — Andy Green (2016-2019), Jayce Tingler (2020-2021) and now Bob Melvin, the most accomplished of the group. Just in the past couple of days he was trying to erase his Eric Hosmer mistake by pawning him off on the Mets, but Billy Eppler backed away from the deal. Do I smell bait and switch? Sure, the Padres have been beset with injuries, but lots of teams have them. If Fernando Tatis Jr. doesn’t come back in time to bail out Preller, this GM may not get another managerial hire.

15. Philadelphia Phillies (82-80, No. 12): It’s not surprising that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has talked his ownership group into spending beyond its comfort zone. In signing designated hitter/outfielder Kyle Schwarber to a four-year, $79 million deal and Nick Castellanos to a five-year, $100 million deal, Dombrowski has made two excellent pickups. But did he move the needle enough? He’s got Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola at the front of the rotation, but he doesn’t have enough behind them to get his club past the Mets and Braves.

16. Cleveland Guardians (80-82, No. 17): During my White Sox preview, I mentioned the crunching up of the AL Central and here it comes in Nos. 16-19. Terry Francona is back at the helm in Cleveland and apparently in good health. Hopefully, Francona will have his ace Shane Bieber back on the hill for 30-plus starts. This newly-named squad has quite an upside in the rotation with two sons of former big league pitchers Cal Quantrill (dad is Paul) and Zach Plesac (dad is Dan). The other two don’t have the pedigree, but Aaron Civale and Tristan McKenzie have big-time upsides. The Guardians are always a fascinating watch, as GM Mike Chernoff and Francona try to keep the small-market team one step ahead of the Joneses.

17. Detroit Tigers (77-85, No. 18): On the face of it, I could see Tigers fans insulted that a team that made tremendous strides in 2021 and then spent significant dollars in free agency to pick up lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and shortstop Javier Baez has only moved up one measly spot. Honestly, the Tigers are poised to make another move, but all the other teams are trying as well. The White Sox belong at the top of this division, but the injury to Lance Lynn could bring all five teams within calling distance of one another. A.J. Hinch will handle a deep ‘pen with great acumen. The real difference will be if Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize truly become solid major league pitchers. At that point, they could inch closer to top-10 status.

18. Kansas City Royals (74-88, No. 21): The Royals got out of the gate last year at 16-10 before going on a 12-game losing streak. Skipper Mike Matheny is a grinder and somehow in his first true full season at the helm of the Royals, he never let his team get swallowed up. Part of the reason for that is that this club has some real talent percolating both in the majors and minors. GM Dayton Moore is as smart a baseball man as there is and he understood how one simple move of adding a defensive star in Michael Taylor could make his pitching staff better. Now this year he gets to add uber prospect Bobby Witt Jr. into the mix at third and short. He’ll start out as the third baseman, at least until shortstop Adalberto Mondesi gets hurt. They also have near-ready prospects at first base (Nick Pratto) and catcher (MJ Melendez). Lefty Asa Lacy is moving fast as well. They need to get their starting staff in gear, and the decision to bring Zack Greinke back was a stroke of genius with what he can give a young staff.

19. Minnesota Twins (73-89, No. 23): The start of the 2021 season for the Twins was almost the exact opposite of the Royals. The Twins were No. 5 to start 2021. After the first nine games, they were 5-4. No reason for alarm. They then went on a 7-16 stretch, and as the old lady says on the TV commercial, “I have fallen and I can’t get up.” It’s hard when the best player on your team continually misses large swaths of the season, as is the case with center fielder Byron Buxton. Now he is joined by shortstop Carlos Correa, so the team may gain some swagger back. But how quickly they fell apart last season is not always easy to remove from your memory bank. Joe Ryan, whom the Twins picked up in the Nelson Cruz deal a year ago, helps the rotation, as does solid innings eater Sonny Gray. But Dylan Bundy? Seriously? What analytics table coughed that up?

20. Los Angeles Angels (77-87, No. 19): Season-ending injuries to Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon really crippled Joe Maddon’s offense in 2021. But what was the excuse for the starting rotation a year ago? It was so bad and the system wasn’t offering much help. As such, GM Perry Minasian OK’d the drafting of 20 pitchers in the 2021 draft. That’s every single pick. The rewards of that draft are years away, so the Halos added former Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard and former Reds pitcher Mike Lorenzen. The rotation should be better if prospect Reid Detmers is the real deal. Maddon has to keep his fingers crossed for health and keep them crossed that the starting pitching will improve.

21. Miami Marlins (67-98, No. 21): I’m not exactly sure what transpired for Derek Jeter exit his job as CEO, but it’s hard to see that this still isn’t a messy situation. Owner Bruce Sherman does still have a more than capable woman at the helm. GM Kim Ng was brought in by Jeter, but she is highly thought of throughout the industry. Ownership approved two solid free agents in outfielder Avisail Garcia and outfielder/designated hitter Jorge Soler. But, the real optimism has to be around a rotation of young power arms, this despite the continuing absence of injured right-hander Sixto Sanchez, the key piece the Marlins got from the Phillies in the deal that sent star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies. He had surgery to repair a tear in his posterior capsule of his pitching shoulder last July and may be ready by midseason this year. In the meantime, manager Don Mattingly tries to grow some everyday players out of what he has on hand.

22. Chicago Cubs (71-91, No. 22): For the Cubs, the battle to get back to respectability is underway. They stepped up and outbid all the others for Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki and snuck away with free-agent starter Marcus Stroman. Additionally, they signed catcher Yan Gomes, outfielder Clint Frazier, and former Orioles infielder Jonathan Villar to give the roster some depth. They also have second baseman Nick Madrigal, who was picked up in the trade with the White Sox for Craig Kimbrel. For Skipper Davis Ross, it’s about starting to build up a winning mentality, so when the talent matches the aspirations something positive can happen.

23. Cincinnati Reds (83-79, No. 15): I feel a bit sorry for manager David Bell. Sure, his bosses are probably are communicating with him, but trading away talent like right-hander Sonny Gray, outfielder Jesse Winker and third baseman Eugenio Suarez from a team on the margins already has to hurt. Lefty Brandon Williamson, the pitcher they got back from the Mariners for Winker and Suarez, seems to an ace in waiting, but that could still be two or three months away. Chase Petty is just 19, so the return in the Sonny Gray is probably three or four years away from the big leagues. The Tommy Pham signing makes up a bit for the loss of Winker.

24. Texas Rangers (57-99, No. 28): I wasn’t sure the Rangers would stick with Chris Woodward as manager for a fourth season, but the fact that they went from 78-84 to 60-102 from Year 1 to Year 3 is a sign that club president Jon Daniels knows he had torn down the level of talent to the point that wins and losses really didn’t have much to do with a manager. So, Woodward is back. The club went out and committed $561 million to the likes of shortstop Corey Seager, second baseman Marcus Semien and pitcher Jon Gray. But let’s be real. With a starting rotation featuring Gray, Martin Perez, Dane Dunning, Taylor Hearn and Spencer Howard, how do the Rangers really think this will turn out this season? There is a time and place to spend luxuriously. This didn’t seem to be that time. It’s hard to see this team winning more than 70-73 games.

25. Oakland Athletics (85-72, No. 14): The long-rumored trade of lefty Sean Manaea is just the latest of the A’s big salary purge. Lefty Chris Bassitt, first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman were also dealt. Catcher Yan Gomes, infielder Josh Harrison, outfielder Sterling Marte were allowed to depart via free agency without a hint of engagement from the A’s. This sets up the newest cycle for the A’s, who drew less than 1 million fans in 2021. The club is still stuck in a web when it comes to knowing whether or not they’ll be able to get a new stadium that would allow it to remain in the East Bay area. Manager Mark Kotsay will be severely challenged to even win 70 games with what’s left. Sensitive to the fan’s disgust, the A’s did bring back catcher Stephen Vogt, one of their most popular players in recent years.

26. Arizona Diamondbacks (52-110, No. 29): In the old “Three Stooges” movies, whenever the Stooges were part of an army facing a dangerous mission, the general would ask for three volunteers to take two steps forward. Of course the Stooges stayed put, but everyone else moved backward, making it appear the Stooges had volunteered. That’s the reason I think the D-Backs will take a bit of a small step forward, mostly because the teams I am picking behind them took either no steps forward, or in the case of No. 27, took steps backward. This team truly seems stuck in limbo, unwilling to admit where they are. This can’t be much more than a 67-72 win club.

27. Washington Nationals (65-97, No. 25): GM Mike Rizzo and the Nationals had a terrific run, one that culminated in a World Series victory back in 2019 against the Houston Astros. But in an attempt to keep it real and not sugarcoat things, this is a pretty bad Nationals team. Long gone are Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Also gone is Mr. National Ryan Zimmerman. The 2022 Nats are a shell of those teams that were dangerous year in and year out for close to a decade. Even Stephen Strasburg is on the injured list again after a thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. A once-vaunted rotation now consists of Patrick Corbin, Josiah Gray, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Rogers and Erick Fedde. They do still possess one of the truly great hitters in the game in Juan Soto, but only first baseman Josh Bell and DH Nelson Cruz strike any fear into opposing pitchers otherwise. By mid-May, there will be a bidding war among run-deficient contenders to acquire Cruz.

28. Baltimore Orioles (52-110, No. 30): It’s hard to believe this is already Year 4 of the Mike Elias-led Orioles rebuild. In fairness to Elias and his team, there couldn’t possibly have been a more unlucky time for a pandemic to strike the world and shut down Minor League Baseball. We know that contingency was never contemplated in any meetings deciding the future of this ballclub prior to 2020. One of the guys who was supposed to move rapidly through the minors and almost be ready for big league action by now was outfielder Heston Kjerstad. After missing the entire 2021 season due to myocarditis, he is now sidelined by a hamstring injury. And Adley Rutschman, Elias’ first No. 1 draft pick back in 2019, is still battling back from a triceps strain. He may have made the team out of camp otherwise. But as bleak as things have been, we know at some point this season Rutschman and a few of his friends will join John Means, Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle to start to give Orioles fans a glimpse of the heaviest lifting Elias has ever done. Fan favorite Trey Mancini will most likely be dealt at some point for a couple of future chips.

29. Pittsburgh Pirates (61-101, No. 27): GM Ben Cherington is deep into the same world that Mike Elias has been in for the past couple of seasons. Cherington joined the Bucs in November 2019 and has had his share of the same pandemic-related setbacks that the O’s have suffered through. His team won nine more games than the O’s did a year ago, so why do I pick the O’s over the Bucs? I guess I am just a homer. Plus, I think Cherington might trade away two pieces that will set the Bucs back in the short term.

30. Colorado Rockies (74-87, No. 22): I am a huge Bud Black fan for a team that has enough talent to win, but he has very little to hang a hat on here. Yes, they signed Kris Bryant and I am sure he’ll put up huge numbers at Coors Field. But after that, there isn’t much to like about this Rockies club. And don’t me started on the starting pitching. Of the five projected starters, German Marquez posted the lowest ERA in 2021 at 4.56. The other four projected starters — Kyle Freeland, Austin Gomber, Chad Kuhl and Antonio Senzatela — all posted ERAs above 5.00 in 2021.

Stan Charles

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