The marathon that is the MLB season is upon us. The incredibly memorable 2016 season was capped off by a 108-year World Series drought going up in flames. What can 2017 possibly give us for an encore?
To answer that, we should figure out just what to expect from each and every team.
Is any team ready to challenge the Cubs? Which long suffering fans are in for a fun summer? Which immensely talented players are in for another long year?
Entering 2017, every one of MLB’s 30 teams falls into one of seven tiers. Who falls into what tiers, and with the season fast approaching, who are the best and worst teams?
How do we rank MLB’s 30 teams in 2017?
Tier seven: Is it 2018 yet?
30. Los Angeles Angels
With Mike Trout, the Angels have baseball’s best player. After Trout, though, they have baseball’s worst team. Maybe full-time DH Albert Pujols can put another good season together.
— Angels (@Angels) March 26, 2017
Maybe Kole Calhoun can elevate himself to All-Star level. But even then, the Halos’ pitching is a long way from being mediocre, let alone good.
Prediction: 65-97, fifth place, American League West
29. Cincinnati Reds
There’s some reason to be optimistic about the future in Cincinnati, but the Reds still started their rebuilding project two years too late. Like the Angels, pitching is the issue. Brandon Finnegan needs to show that he can throw strikes. Anthony DeSclafani will open the year on the DL and while Tommy John surgery isn’t on the table yet, it looms as the elephant in the room. Cincinnati is turning a corner, but is still at the very beginning of what will be a long turnaround.
Prediction: 64-98, fifth place, National League Central
28. Minnesota Twins
Like the Reds, the Twins may be beginning to turn the corner. A full season of Max Kepler and an emerging Byron Buxton will help add to the offense. But it’s hard to see how Minnesota will prevent runs from being scored. The starting rotation is simply not Major League caliber. Ervin Santana likely wouldn’t even compete for a No. 5 spot with any of baseball’s 10 best teams, and he’s the No. 1 contender to get the ball on opening day. That’s a problem.
Prediction: 68-94, fifth place, American League Central
27. Miami Marlins
If nothing else, Miami’s games will be entertaining. With Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and Justin Bour, the Marlins have an offense that can score runs. But like Minnesota, we have to wonder how Miami is going to prevent runs. Edinson Volquez is a middle of the rotation guy. Dan Straily is a back end starter. Yet, those two front the Marlins’ rotation. Miami will score a lot of runs but will allow even more.
Prediction: 70-92, fifth place, National League East
26. Arizona Diamondbacks
The good news for Arizona is that a full season from A.J. Pollock will make Arizona slightly better in 2017 than it was in 2016. The bad news? That’s not saying much. The Diamondbacks are the west’s version of the Marlins. The Paul Goldschmidt-led offense will score plenty of runs, but the pitching will allow signifcantly more. Even off of a bad year, we’ll give Zack Greinke the easy edge over Volquez, so Arizona slots in ahead of Miami. But don’t look for many great things in 2017.
Prediction: 72-90, fifth place, National League West
Tier six: On the right track, but still in for a rough season
25. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays differ from the previously mentioned teams in one big way. They can pitch. At least the starters can. The bullpen is a different issue. Additionally, Tampa’s offense has Evan Longoria, Kevin Kiermaier and a lot of guys who would be No. 6 or 7 hitters in a contending lineup. Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb figure to make the Rays a popular source of rumors around the trade deadline. With guys like Jose De Leon, Blake Snell and Brent Honeywell, the future is bright in Tampa. But 2017 will feature more losses than wins.
Prediction: 73-89, fifth place, American League East
24. Philadelphia Phillies
It’s not that the Phillies don’t have good pieces in place to be a good team. Odubel Herrera, Tommy Joseph, Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp could all be in a contender’s lineup. Likewise, Jeremy Hellickson, Clay Buchholz, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola could all fit somewhere in a contender’s pitching staff. But none of these guys are right for the roles they’re in. Philadelphia doesn’t have the true middle of the order star or top of the rotation arm necessary to be any better — at least not in 2017.
Prediction: 75-87, fourth place, National League East
23. Oakland Athletics
Even with Sonny Gray’s injury (which you can read about here), the A’s are a tier ahead of the Angels. Khris Davis displayed awesome power in 2016. Ryon Healy was a real shot in the arm. Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton give the rotation real hope for the future. Matt Chapman — who should see significant MLB time in 2017 — could do the same for the offense.
— Oakland A's 🌳🐘⚾️ (@Athletics) March 25, 2017
The problem is that three of the American League’s best five teams share a division with Oakland. It’s going to be hard for the A’s to keep up with them. Still, the A’s are heading in the right direction. If Manaea and Cotton develop well in 2017, a winning season (or better) in 2018 will be realistic.
Prediction: 74-88, fourth place, American League West
Tier five: Rebuilding, but will be fun
22. Milwaukee Brewers
The National League Central is tough, and no matter how we slice it, we just can’t rank the Brewers any higher than this. But the pieces are in place for Milwaukee to be a fun team over the next two years. Lewis Brinson and Josh Hader will likely debut at some point in 2017. Corey Ray and Luis Ortiz are safe bets to see MLB action by 2018. Those guys comprise much of the core group that Brewers fans will enjoy for the next decade. The opening day roster is not great, but it also won’t resemble the team Milwaukee fields at the end of the season.
Prediction: 75-87, T-third place, National League Central
21. San Diego Padres
We’re not going to say that 2017 will be the year the Padres overtake their California rivals and finish ahead of the Dodgers and Giants. But this will be an exciting team to watch. Wil Myers is a star. With youngsters like Austin Hedges, Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot, he now has interesting young pieces to complement him. The pitching will hold San Diego back. But for the first time in a long while, the Padres are clearly headed in the right direction. That’s not something NL West teams outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco could honestly say much this decade.
Prediction: 78-84, fourth place, National League West
20. Chicago White Sox
In two offseason trades, the White Sox lost Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, two of the 2016 team’s best players. But seeing as how the 2016 team was terrible, who really cares? In those two deals, Chicago landed Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech, three of baseball’s top 16 prospects entering the year. All three should see significant Major League time in 2017. We’d also be remiss if we neglected the likely contributions of veterans like Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu.
Flex on ‘em, Jose. pic.twitter.com/m7tynODsuf
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 26, 2017
If nothing else, it will make 2017’s season more enjoyable than 2016’s, which made headlines for all the wrong reasons. We actually expect a slightly better record, as well.
Prediction: 79-83, fourth place, American League Central
Tier four: In flux
19. Pittsburgh Pirates
As things stand heading into opening day, it’s safe to say we’ve underrated the Pirates. If every team holds serve, Pittsburgh is better than No. 19. One problem is that teams don’t hold serve. Another related problem is that the Pirates are just not a playoff team in the crowded National League. If Pittsburgh doesn’t surprise early, the offseason trade rumors swirling around Andrew McCutchen will resume, and with his free agency looming, a deal would make sense. No. 19 might seem harsh now, but that’s the ranking this team is trending towards.
Prediction: 75-87, T-third place, National League Central
18. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies are the polar opposites of the Pirates. Colorado hasn’t enjoyed a lot of success recently but is heading in the right direction. Still, many questions loom. How will Ian Desmond recover from an injury? Can both Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez stay healthy for a full season? Are Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl ready to be a full time players? Will Trevor Story and DJ LeMahieu keep their 2016 magic? Can anyone pitch in that park? The questions are legitimate, but the Rockies’ talent is unquestioned. Colorado can go many ways in 2017.
Prediction: 82-80, third place, National League West
17. Baltimore Orioles
In a way, the Orioles are similar to a lot of the teams that we’ve already gone over. They can hit, but pitching is a real question. But Baltimore’s lineup is more than just guys with potential. Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado are nightmares to even the best opposing pitchers. The Orioles also have a strong bullpen, anchored by Zach Britton. Additionally, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy at least have potential to be top of the rotation guys.
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) March 19, 2017
We expect some regression from 2016’s playoff squad, but the Orioles are a force.
Prediction: 78-84, third place, American League East
16. Kansas City Royals
Maybe no team defines “in flux” better than the Royals. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain are all in free agent seasons. If Kansas City starts poorly, look for the trade gates to open. A small market team will want to get something for players like that. If the Royals start strong, it’s important to remember that while 2016 was a disappointment, those guys made up much of the nucleus of the 2014 and 2015 teams that made consecutive World Series appearances and won the whole thing in 2015. This season will go very good, or very bad.
Prediction: 82-80, third place, American League Central
15. Detroit Tigers
Right now, we actually like Kansas City’s team slightly more than Detroit’s. But the Royals are far more likely to blow things up. We could conceivably see the Tigers competing for a playoff spot. Detroit is a talented team. But with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Justin Verlander on the roster, it’s also an aging team. It would not be unprecedented for an aging team to go from decent one year (the Tigers were 86-75 in 2016) to below average the next. We know the nucleus in Detroit. But what it can still do over 162 games is very much up in the air.
Prediction: 81-81, second place, American League Central
Tier three: Near contenders
14. St. Louis Cardinals
You might want to take a picture of this. The Cardinals wont often be this low in anyone’s power rankings. Entering 2017, we see St. Louis as a good team that could make the playoffs, but it’s not a real championship contender anymore. Adam Wainwright’s best years appear behind him. We can say the same thing about Yadier Molina. Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal once looked like cornerstone arms. But entering 2017, both have massive question marks around them.
In general, that applies to the whole team. The Cardinals are not bad by any means. But it will be an uphill battle to even make the playoffs, let alone compete for a championship.
Prediction: 83-79, second place, National League Central
13. Atlanta Braves
Atlanta, meanwhile, is a team on the rise. The Braves steadily improved throughout 2016 and played at a 93-win pace following the promotion of star prospect Dansby Swanson. We expect Atlanta to compete for (and even earn) a playoff spot, but even if that can’t quite happen, a leap is in the cards.
Not only did the Braves improve throughout 2016, but they improved in the offseason, as well. Matt Kemp and Brandon Phillips aren’t superstars anymore, but they are solid veteran bats. Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey will, if nothing else, provide veteran leadership to a young rotation. Atlanta has been down for a while but enters 2017 with a solid roster.
Prediction: 85-77, T-third place, National League East
12. Toronto Blue Jays
Focusing on the positives, Toronto still has one of baseball’s better starting rotations. With Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista anchoring, the Blue Jays also have a potent lineup. But Edwin Encarnacion is now gone. That’s an issue and not a small one, either.
From 2012-2016, Encarnacion hit 193 home runs while slashing at .272/.267/.544. Over the same stretch, Kendrys Morales — the man replacing Encarnacion in Toronto — hit 105 bombs and slashed at .268/.328/.448. Again, the Blue Jays can certainly pitch, but Toronto’s rebirth has been aided greatly by its offense. That offense is now missing one of its key bats.
Prediction: 82-80, third place, American League East
11. New York Yankees
After years of relying too much on over-the-hill veterans, the Yankees are back and must be taken seriously in 2017. Gary Sanchez is a stud. Greg Bird is back, and by the looks of his spring training he is picking up right where he left off in 2015 before his injury.
So about the @Yankees’ first base job …
Greg Bird's got it.
HR No. 1: https://t.co/Jdo1mk3WYW
— MLB (@MLB) March 22, 2017
Bringing Aroldis Champan back was controversial for his off-field past, but there’s little doubt that he and Dellin Betances are one of baseball’s best late inning 1-2 combos.
The starting pitching is the issue and why we can’t rank the Bombers any higher. Outside of Masahiro Tanaka, we just can’t depend on anything good from New York starters. Not for 162 games. The lineup and bullpen will make the team respectable. But for the Yankees to go to the next level, the starters will need to be much better than we’re expecting.
Prediction: 86-76, second place, American League East
10. Seattle Mariners
No team has a longer postseason drought than the Mariners. This roster could (and should) change that. Danny Valencia, Jean Segura and Jarrod Dyson are strong additions to a potent lineup that already included Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano. The Felix Hernandez-led starting rotation is also solid, even if King Felix isn’t quite what he was a few years ago.
The problems come in the bullpen, especially when bridging the gap to Edwin Diaz. Guys like Dan Altavilla and Marc Rzepczynski aren’t exactly going to make people forget about Kansas City’s championship relievers in 2014 and 2015. Also, we can’t ignore the age issue. Cano is 34 and Cruz is 36. Power tends to be the last thing to leave hitters. Still, both men are hitting an age where declining isn’t exactly an unrealistic possibility.
Prediction: 87-75, third place, American League West
9. Texas Rangers
We expect to see the Mariners in the playoffs in 2017, playing the Wild Card Game in Texas. There’s a lot to like with the Rangers. They have a lineup filled with guys who can hit 20 or more bombs. They have a good mixture of youth (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, Mazara) and veterans (Mike Napoli, Elvs Andrus, Adrian Beltre). The front end of Texas’ rotation is also strong, with Cole Hamels and Yu Davish leading the way.
But after Darvish, the rotation drops in a big way. As if that wasn’t enough, the bullpen can’t be depended upon at all. The Rangers are a likely playoff team again in 2017. But if they’re thinking about a deep run, filling both of those holes is a must.
Prediction: 88-74, second place, American League West
Tier two: World Series threats
8. Washington Nationals
As you can see, we’re not 100-percent sold on the Nationals. Max Scherzer’s injury isn’t serious, but it’s worrisome. Stephen Strasburg is talented, but it’s hard to imagine him staying healthy for a full year. Bryce Harper is good, but he needs to find his 2015 form, especially if Daniel Murphy comes back to earth at all.
Still, it would be foolish to ignore how talented this team is. Scherzer is a two-time Cy Young Award winner. Harper is a past MVP. Murphy was second in MVP voting a season ago. Anthony Rendon is one of baseball’s best young players. Adam Eaton isn’t a superstar but is simply very good at everything he does. Even if the Nats do have some questions that need to be answered, they have a great deal of talent. We’re not totally sold on Washington, but this team must be taken seriously.
Prediction: 85-77, T-third place, National League East
7. Boston Red Sox
Like the Nationals, the Red Sox have questions. What happens if David Price doesn’t bounce back? What if Rick Porcello regresses, even just a little? Can Chris Sale handle the Boston media? Can David Ortiz’s bat be replaced?
The thing is, not all of those questions need to be answered in a positive way for the Red Sox to contend. This is one of baseball’s most talented teams. The lineup is strong, even if Ortiz is not adequately replaced. The pitching could be a problem. But the odds don’t exactly point to Price, Porcello and Sale all struggling. Even with some uncertainty, Boston is the unquestioned team to beat in a competitive American League East.
Prediction: 92-70, first place, American League East
6. New York Mets
It would be a mistake to judge the Mets for their second-half struggles a season ago. That team, and especially the starting rotation, is vastly different than the one we’ll see this season. Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey will be back to compliment Noah Syndergaard. Steven Matz eventually will be, as well. Offensively, Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes will provide ample power, as will Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson. The potential addition of Amed Rosario makes New York even more intriguing.
Of course, like every team issues persist. The pitchers are talented but have generally been guarded. How will their arms respond to more innings? How will Jeurys Familia come back after a disappointing end to the season and an ugly off of the field incidnt (to say the least) in the offseason? The questions are there, but even still the Mets enter 2017 as one of baseball’s best teams and a real championship threat.
Prediction: 90-72, first place, National League East
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles has won four straight NL West titles. We’re stopping short of saying that the Dodgers will make it five, but they should land a playoff spot with ease. The Los Angeles offense is stacked and the addition of Logan Forsythe will only make things better. Yasiel Puig is a never ending question, but even if he flames out the Dodgers’ outfield is deep with other options.
With the obvious exception of Clayton Kershaw, the starting rotation is worrisome. Kenta Maeda did fine in 2016 but struggled at the end of the season. Rich Hill was fantastic in 2016 but is also 37. But even if those concerns prove valid, the Kenley Jansen-led bullpen is awesome and will cover a lot of the issues up. So, the worst case scenario for Los Angeles is that it ends up in a Wild Card Game. Say what you will about Kershaw’s playoff stats, but would you really want to see him facing your team in a winner-take-all scenario?
Happy birthday, @ClaytonKersh22!
We’ll just leave this here… pic.twitter.com/k64iMomFZy
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) March 19, 2017
Good luck with that.
Prediction: 89-73, second place, National League West
4. San Francisco Giants
The Giants get a slight edge over the Dodgers because their rotation is deeper and because of a few missed playoff appearances. They haven’t had as much wear-and-tear over the last four seasons. But in truth, very little separates these rivals.
San Francisco’s issue remains its bullpen, which was almost impossibly bad in 2016. But guys like Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez are now gone, and while those players were cornerstones of three World Series wins, their best days are behind them. Those departures will help the Giants. Additionally, the signing of Mark Melancon will provide stability in the late innings. Like Los Angeles, San Francisco’s worst-case scenario is a one-game Wild Card showdown. Based on his history, who in their right mind would volunteer to go against Madison Bumgarner.
Prediction: 91-71, first place, National League West
3. Cleveland Indians
The Indians have unfinished business in 2017. Fortunately for Cleveland, it has the necessary pieces to take that last step. The starting rotation will get a jolt with the returns of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. The bullpen will now get to enjoy Andrew Miller for a full season. Additionally, Encarnacion will bring those awesome numbers to Cleveland from Toronto.
The Indians are not a team with many holes. Not many teams have come closer to winning a World Series without actually doing so than Cleveland did a season ago. We wouldn’t be even remotely surprised to see the Tribe there again.
Prediction: 91-71, first place, American League Central
2. Houston Astros
Admittedly, this seems a little out of left field. How can we rank the Astros ahead of such strong playoff teams like the Indians and Red Sox? Well, consider this. Houston started 2016 1-0, but didn’t get to above .500 again until almost halfway through the season. At one point, the Astros were 17-28. Still, they won 84 games. Houston was young in 2016 and maybe needed to crash down to earth after 2015’s playoff year, but the Astros are still very good.
It doesn’t get much better than Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Houston’s offense will get another jolt with a full season of Alex Bregman. We believe in George Springer. We also love the offseason acquisitions of Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. When it comes to finishing games, Luke Gregerson and Ken Giles are well above average. The Astros are abundantly talented. Look for that to show throughout the 2017 regular season and expect a deep playoff run to follow.
Prediction: 94-68, first place, American League West
Tier one: The Cubs
1. Chicago Cubs
Many of the aforementioned teams are close. But if a 2017 MLB ranking has a team other than the 2016 champs in the top spot, it’s author is kidding him/herself. This team belongs in its own tier.
No team is better than the Cubs. In fact, no team is close. Nearly every other team we’ve detailed can have their chances significantly hurt with one or certainly two injuries. Chicago has the depth across the roster to overcome all of that.
If the Cubs stay healthy, all we can do is wish the rest of the league luck. With a nucleus that includes Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Wade Davis, Chicago fields what amounts to an All-Star team. Mind you, we didn’t even include Kyle Hendricks, Kyle Schwarber or Willson Contreras.
Big Willie Style. pic.twitter.com/gPUYjh1MNO
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 28, 2017
This is the best team in the league by a wide margin. That doesn’t mean that Chicago is a guarantee to repeat. We all know that in a five or seven-game series, anything can happen. But over 162 games, no team can compete with the Cubs.
The Red Sox broke a long World Series drought in 2004, won again in 2007 and again in 2013. The Giants broke a long drought in 2010 and followed that up with wins in 2012 and 2014. This Cubs team is in significantly better position than either of those teams were following their triumphs.
No team has repeated since the Yankees’ three-peat from 1998-2000. In the National League, the 1975 and 1976 Reds were the last repeat champs. The Cubs are better positioned than any we’ve seen in a while to break those streaks.
Prediction: 96-66, first place, National League Central