MLB power rankings: The 2020 MLB season is almost here. It’s been a slow offseason, with free agency slowed down significantly, leaving marquee talents available for the taking. With spring training right around the corner, it’s time to dive into our MLB power rankings for 2021.
The Los Angeles Dodgers deserve the top spot. Not only are they the defending World Series champions, but there’s a case for them as one of the best teams in recent memory. It’s not like they lost talent this offseason either, signing Trevor Bauer and still having the resources to do even more. Fortunately for MLB fans, the San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Atlanta Braves will be gunning for them this season.
As for the American League, that’s where things get a little more intriguing. The New York Yankees made a few moves this offseason, but the Toronto Blue Jays showed far more aggressiveness. Not to be outdone, the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins brought in key pieces they hope will help them become World Series contenders.
The COVID-19 pandemic will likely still influence the 2021 season, but everyone should be happy about seeing baseball return in April with a much bigger schedule. The road to the World Series starts now and there’s plenty to get excited about for each team this upcoming season.
Let’s dive into our MLB power rankings before spring training begins.
UPDATED: Feb. 21, 2: 50 PM EST
MLB power rankings: 2021 World Series contenders
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Finally, the Los Angeles Dodgers got the World Series monkey off their back. While it might just be a piece of metal to Rob Manfred, capturing that elusive franchise meant everything to that clubhouse and this franchise. Oh, they are positioned well for a repeat in 2021. Even without Trevor Bauer, the Dodgers’ rotation gave San Diego competition for baseball’s top pitching staff. With Bauer, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, Los Angeles now boasts a potentially historic starting rotation.
The Dodgers are loaded beyond measure and there’s always a chance they add even more. This lineup is even better, with two MVP candidates (Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger) and All-Star talent around them. Oh, Justin Turner is also back for some extra pop at third base. After holding the No. 1 spot in our MLB power rankings throughout the entire 2020 season, we could see the same in 2021. There’s zero doubt who is the best team in MLB.
2. San Diego Padres
Talk about a front office being aggressive. Just trading for Blake Snell would have been enough to elevate San Diego into World Series contention, but this front office wanted more. So, it went out and acquired Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove. The Padres now have a dominant rotation, one that features Chris Paddack as the No. 5 starter and MLB’s top pitching prospect (MacKenzie Gore) waiting in the wings. That will complement a lineup that scored the third-most runs (325) in baseball last season. Don’t sleep on this bullpen, which just added Mark Melancon. If not for Los Angeles signing Bauer, there might have been a case for these two teams being closer. Barring a response from San Diego, it grabs a distant No. 2 spot behind Los Angeles.
3. Atlanta Braves
The Braves have been relatively quiet this offseason, but that’s acceptable factoring in the club’s overall talent. Adding Charlie Morton gives this rotation a No. 2 starter and makes it one of the most underrated pitching staffs in baseball. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a lienup featuring Ronald Acuña Jr, Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna and Ozzie Albies. We also can’t ignore this team’s impressive depth, with Jake Lamb, Ender Inciarte and Jason Kipnis providing a variety of tools for different in-game situations. If the Braves decide to go for it, a move their farm system would allow, they can jump right into the mix with the Padres.
4. New York Yankees
Disappointment in the playoffs s becoming a familiar theme for the New York Yankees. Fortunately, the talent still exists for this club to win a World Series. New York’s lineup is loaded with DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge both capable of competing for AL MVP. When healthy, Giancarlo Stanton is still outstanding, Clint Frazier could be a star in the making and Gleyber Torres’ bat is dangerous. It will all come down to the rotation. If Corey Kluber stays healthy and Jameson Taillon performs, coming off his second TJS, New York has a quality playoff trio.
For now, the Yankees are the top AL team in our MLB power rankings. With that said, this team isn’t better than the ones that kept falling short. The Chicago White Sox are a real threat and we’ve seen the Tampa Bay Rays own the Yankees before.
5. Chicago White Sox
Meet the best professional sports team in Chicago. As the Chicago Cubs begin to plummet, the White Sox are poised to be the new kings of The Windy City. The lineup features Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenéz, Yoán Moncada, Luis Robert and José Abreu. They are each All-Star candidates and this is also a deep batting order with Yasmani Grandal, Nick Madrigal and Adam Eaton. Look at that rotation, featuring three strong starters (Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Dallas Keuchel). The pieces are in place for the White Sox to be insanely entertaining in 2021 and beyond.
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6. New York Mets
The New York Mets have put their fans on a rollercoaster this offseason. It started with the good, Steve Cohen taking over as team owner, followed shortly after by the blockbuster Francisco Lindor trade. Adding Lindor and James McCann to a lineup with Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo and Pete Alonso is outstanding. Plus, the rotation now features Carlos Carrasco. Of course, this team also faces questions about team president Sandy Alderson’s hiring process following stories that came out about former GM Jared Porter and manager Mickey Callaway. At least from an on-field perspective, this team will be easy to root for in 2021. With Taijuan Walker added on a two-year deal, the Mets can make a strong case for having a top-five rotation in MLB when everyone is healthy.
7. Minnesota Twins
Minnesota is making a greater commitment to defense this season. The Twins added Andrelton Simmons, giving them at least four players capable of being Gold Glove Award finalists. This lineup won’t lack pop either, with Max Kepler, Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, Niguel Sanó and Alex Kiriloff. Just like in 2020, it all comes down to this rotation. José Berrios and Kenta Maeda can be dominant, but big questions around them keep the Twins from being higher in our MLB power rankings.
8. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays will return to Toronto this season – at some point – and there’s a lot more than that for fans to get excited about. The core of Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio are poised to take those next steps forward as players. Meanwhile, Marcus Semien joins the fold at second base and George Springer will provide All-Star production. If they can just find a No. 2 starter to put behind Hyun Jin Ryu, we’ve got a dark horse to win the AL East.
8. Tampa Bay Rays
Some will argue the defending American League champion, a team that took the Los Angeles Dodgers to Game 6 in the World Series, should be higher in our MLB power rankings. We predicted this team to reach the WS last season. It’s hard to be that optimistic this time around. Blake Snell and Charlie Morton are gone, leaving two huge question marks in the middle of Tampa Bay’s rotation.
Suddenly, a team that relied heavily on its pitching becomes more volatile. Collin McHugh and Rich Hill will help, additions that pushed the Rays up from No. 11 to this spot. But there isn’t one starting pitcher in this rotation who you absolutely trust. Instead, the Rays will hope the rotation of a thousand paper cuts leads them to success. We love the Rays’ farm system, especially Wander Franco, but ownership’s desire to not spend will prove costly this season.
10. St. Louis Cardinals
It’s nice to see someone in the NL Central wants to compete in 2021. With the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs selling off key pieces, the Cardinals seized on an opportunity. Nolan Arenado might not be quite the player we saw a few years ago, but he remains one of the best third basemen in MLB. Joining a lineup with Dylan Carlson, Paul DeJong and Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis should receive fairly consistent run production. The rotation looks pretty iffy, outside of ace Jack Flaherty, but there’s enough here to play in October.
MLB power rankings: Postseason hopefuls in 2021
11. Oakland Athletics
Being tight with spending usually means missed opportunities to compete for the World Series. Oakland’s rotation has a chance to be dominant, especially if A.J. Puk stays healthy and Frankie Montas returns to the form we saw in 2019. There’s also still reason to feel good about the top of a lineup with Ramón Laureano, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. But losing closer Liam Hendricks and shortstop Marcus Semien hurts. While signing Trevor Rosenthal and Sergio Romo will help the bullpen, this is still a team that faces some real questions.
12. Philadelphia Phillies
Disappointment and the Philadelphia Phillies are close friends. Big moves in the 2020 offseason didn’t yield a playoff spot last season, nor a .500 record. A bullpen with the fourth-most blown saves (12) and the worst ERA (7.06) played a starring role in this team’s failures. Philadelphia added Archie Bradley and José Alvarado this offseason, which should help this relief corps. Maybe, just maybe, this becomes a postseason threat in 2021.
13. Washington Nationals
The 2019 World Series run took a toll on the Washington Nationals this past season, which was expected. With a full offseason to rest, coming off a shortened 60-game campaign, there’s more reason for optimism. The Nationals addressed their hole in left field (Kyle Schwarber), first base (Josh Bell), closer (Brad Hand) and added Jon Lester to the rotation. They are still a No. 5 starter and another impact bat away from World Series contention, but expect the Nationals to rebound in 2021 and that’s why they are higher in our pre-spring training MLB power rankings.
14. Houston Astros
George Springer is gone and Justin Verlander will return from Tommy John surgery in October if everything goes perfectly. Those are two big losses, especially when looking at the outfield and the back of Houston’s rotation. Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker are still a great core and we like the top of Houston’s batting order. There just isn’t enough to consider the Astros one of the top teams in the American League.
15. Cleveland Indians
Francisco Lindor is gone, a gutshot to this clubhouse and Cleveland’s lineup. While Eddie Rosario’s addition provides a slight boost for an outfield desperate for a boost, it’s not enough. There’s a reason for excitement about a rotation with Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac and Triston McKenzie, plus the bullpen could be electrifying. There’s always the chance for Cleveland to surprise, but this feels like a fringe postseason contender.
16. Chicago Cubs
The band is being broken up. Kyle Schwarber, Yu Darvish and Jon Lester are gone, while Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant might not be long for Chicago. It’s evident ownership wants a rebuild, shipping out star players headed for big contracts. For now, there is still enough talent to compete for a wild-card spot. The key, can Chicago get enough out of its rotation to realistically compete? If Bryant and/or Contreras are traded, Chicago will slide much further down our MLB power rankings.
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17. Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels should be better in 2021 than they were last season, slightly. Anthony Rendon, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani should all be healthy, a big boost for the lineup. Just as crucial to this team’s potential success, it added Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb to the rotation and Dexter Fowler will get some starts in the outfield until Jo Adell is ready. Of course, the Angels would greatly benefit from adding another high-end bat or a front-line starter. Without either of those additions, this is a playoff team only if there is postseason expansion.
18. Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers are intriguing. If you catch this team on the right day, you can witness Brandon Woodruff or Corbin Burnes throw a gem. Likewise, Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura are always capable of doing something marvelous with the bat. Defensively, we like a team with Wong, Lorenzo Cain and Orlando Arcia. There’s also a bullpen that features Josh Hader and Devin Williams, two outstanding arms. Outside of those select players, this team is bad.
19. Boston Red Sox
When the Boston Red Sox hired Chaim Bloom, a retool was inevitable. Ownership clearly wants to operate with a much smaller payroll and we’ve seen the results. Fortunately, there are a few reasons to be a little more optimistic about the upcoming season. Eduardo Rodriguez will return, following a frightening battle with heart issues caused by COVID-19. Boston signed Garrett Richards to bolster its rotation, re-signed Martin Pérez. It also added Enrique Hernández and Hunter Renfroe to the lineup. With Chris Sale back, this team should be more competitive in 2021. The Andrew Benintendi trade was likely the best return the Red Sox could have landed. Franchy Cordero might actually offer more upside than Benintendi, but recent history suggests he will never reach that ceiling.
20. Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds took a win-now approach for one season and bailed on it after a disappointing 2020 campaign. Trevor Bauer is gone, Raisel Iglesias was traded and there’s a shot either Sonny Gray or Luis Castillo is eventually moved. A dominant rotation gets worse, a suspect bullpen becomes shakier and one of MLB’s least productive lineups hasn’t improved. It probably won’t be long before the Reds launch another full rebuild.
MLB power rankings: Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants build for bright future
21. Miami Marlins
Credit to Miami for blowing past everyone’s expectations in 2020. This team overcame a COVID-19 outbreak, with young players and MLB castoffs finding ways to help this team rack up victories. Of course, this team did fade down the stretch and we can’t help but wonder if that slide would have continued in a normal season. Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lòpez and Sixto Sánchez offer immense upside for an underrated starting rotation, but holes in the lineup will likely mean the Marlins finish lower in the standings. Quite frankly, it wouldn’t be surprising if they ended the year at the bottom of MLB power rankings.
22. Detroit Tigers
Get hyped about Detroit’s future. Top pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal made their MLB debuts and while both experienced some bumps, they have front-line rotation potential. If the Tigers use a six-man rotation this season, both are strong candidates to make the Opening Day roster. Oh, Matt Manning isn’t far behind either. Get that rotation trio together, and pair it with No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson, who has MVP upside; this becomes a must-see team a year from now. As for 2021, the Tigers must learn to walk before they can run.
23. San Francisco Giants
Credit to Farhan Zaidi for quickly turning one of MLB’s worst farm systems into one of the most underrated collections of prospects. San Francisco’s future is bright with Joey Bart, Marco Luciano and Heliot Ramos, but it will be a few years before they are all together. In 2021, there are still some intriguing pieces. Tommy La Stella was a great addition for the infield and should pair nicely with Donovan Solano and Brandon Belt to provide steady production. Mike Yastrzemski has become an unexpected star for the Giants, too. Keep an eye on the rotation, with Anthony DeSclafani and Aaron Sanchez both candidates to post some surprising stats this season.
24. Seattle Mariners
Excitement is brewing in Seattle. The Mariners might lack for marquee talent right now, but that will change in a matter of months. Mitch Haniger, who hasn’t played since rupturing a testicle in June 2019, will be back and is capable of hitting at an All-Star level. But the real reason for joy is the pending arrivals of outfielders Jarred Kelenic, a top-10 prospect in MLB, Taylor Trammell, a top-100 prospect- and starting pitcher Logan Gilbert. Plus, Julio Rodriguez and Emerson Hancock are likely just a year out.
Even the reunion with James Paxton could pay off nicely. If he returns to the version we saw in his first stint with Seattle, posting a 3.42 ERA and 1.18 WHIP across 582 innings, he’ll be a fantastic asset at the MLB trade deadline. This will be the last down year in Seattle before this team makes a leap. By this time next year, Seattle will have a top-18 spot in our MLB power rankings.
25. Kansas City Royals
In a slow MLB offseason, the Kansas City Royals have quietly been making small additions to boost their team in 2021. Mike Minor is a nice piece for the rotation and reunions with Greg Holland and Wade Davis provide some depth for the bullpen. Kansas City’s lineup with Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Carlos Santana and Jorge Soler shouldn’t have issues scoring runs. The acquisition of Andrew Benintendi is interesting, with Kansas City hopeful he returns to the 4.4 fWAR player from 2018. That feels unlikely, but this wasn’t a bad bet by the Royals. With that said, this team still won’t be very good in 2021.
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26. Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona waved the white flag late in the 2020 season, shipping off what assets it could for the best offers that came in. The massive contract given to Madison Bumgarner has already backfired and Caleb Smith’s arrival yielded some ugly numbers. There’s some intriguing, young talent like Daulton Varsho and Zac Gallen. Still, the Diamondbacks would be wise to start trading away Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and David Peralta to further restock their farm system.
27. Texas Rangers
Texas took some swings to improve its pitching last offseason and the moves backfired. Coming off another disappointing season, the Rangers seem on the brink of throwing in the towel. David Dahl and Nate Lowe are intriguing talents with breakout potential, but the Rangers have a below-average rotation and big concerns defensively. If this team starts to slip to the bottom of the MLB standings early in 2021, don’t be surprised if Joey Gallo is traded.
28. Colorado Rockies
It’s a story as old as time. Colorado develops a hitter, watches him develop into a star and then trades him for an underwhelming return. Nolan Arenado is gone and Trevor Story, who is eligible for free agency next offseason, could be a trade target for contenders. Colorado will once again have one of MLB’s worst rotations this season and this lineup is getting worse by the year. It might be time for a full reset, but it’s also hard to trust this organization to identify and develop pitchers.
29. Baltimore Orioles
Will the Baltimore Orioles call up Adley Rutschman in 2021? It’s the only real interesting storyline about this team, given they are in the early stages of their rebuild. Trey Mancini, Freddy Galvis and Anthony Santander look like MLB trade deadline candidates, especially since ownership doesn’t want to spend money. There is some talent in the farm system, including top prospect Grayson Rodriguez, but we’re likely two-plus seasons away from the Orioles being interesting.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
The rebuild is underway. The Pittsburgh Pirates will have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball this year and easily one of the worst rosters. Josh Bell and Joe Musgrove are already gone, while Adam Frazier could be another trade candidate. This season is all about the development of Mitch Keller and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Given Nick Gonzales, O’Neil Cruz and Quinn Priester are at least a year away; there aren’t any Pirates’ prospects to get excited about for a 2021 MLB debut either. Lock the Pirates into the last spot of our MLB power rankings from now until…it will be a while. This will be the worst team in MLB for the next two years.