MLB NL Power Rankings
#1 – Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have done enough work this offseason to merit the top spot on this list, mainly because of their addition of SP Yu Darvish. Their rotation is locked in with each pitcher more than capable of keeping their ERA in the 3.00-3.80 range. The signing of Darvish also helped the bullpen by pushing Mike Montgomery from a starting role back to a long-relief/swingman type. The team also added Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek to solidify the backend of the bullpen. Youngsters Ian Happ and Javier Baez figure to earn more at-bats this year as they continue to blossom and with no significant losses, the 2016 World Series Champs look poised to make another postseason run.
#2 – Los Angeles Dodgers
Had the Dodgers re-signed Darvish, I would have had them as #1. The team lost some starting pitching depth in the trade that sent SPs Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir in exchange for OF Matt Kemp. Star Clayton Kershaw seems to be susceptible to back injuries every year, Rich Hill is now 37 years old, Alex Wood is coming off of his first full year starting and faded badly down the stretch, Kenta Maeda was in the bullpen for a good chunk of the season due to poor performance, and Hyun-jin Ryu is unreliable and injury prone. If these problems do not occur, then they could have a passable rotation, but I expect big midseason moves for an arm with this team.
The Dodgers also did not lose any of their position playing starters and project to have a very solid lineup. It is especially good that they jettisoned Adrian Gonzalez off the roster to free up a roster spot since he would have been rendered useless with the emergence of NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger.
Their lineup also features 2016 NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, the consistent Justin Turner, breakout utilityman Chris Taylor, and the exciting Yasiel Puig. Their bullpen was also one of the best in MLB last year and they project to be good again this year with star closer Kenley Jansen leading the way.
#3 – Washington Nationals
The team that perennially disappoints its fans by losing in the first round of the playoffs comes in at the three spot. Once again, they are projected to have a very strong team and remain a serious contender. They are all but a lock to win the NL East pennant, however they need to do more damage as Bryce Harper enters free agency after the season. They have all but one of their starting position players returning and outfielder Michael Taylor is expected to be an upgrade over departing Jayson Werth. They also have top OF prospect Victor Robles waiting in the wings.Their bullpen is largely unchanged and is also projected to be solid. The only change in the starting rotation is that since Joe Ross is recovering from Tommy John surgery, A.J. Cole is likely to get the chance at starting the season as the #5 starter.
#4 – Arizona Diamondbacks
After the top three teams, which will most likely repeat as their respective division champions, it’s really a toss up of who will get the Wild Card spots. I believe Arizona has the best shot mostly because of their rotation and bench depth.
Their rotation consists of Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin, and Zack Godley, all of whom were very productive last season. The bench depth comes from super utilitymen Daniel Descalso and Chris Owings who can play all over the diamond if a starter succumbs to injury. They look likely to go with Archie Bradley as their closer and I expect he will be in contention for the best closer in the league based off his numbers (1.73 ERA, 1.04 WHIP in 63 games). Unfortunately, they did not have the money to bring back slugger J.D. Martinez, but they found a suitable replacement for his power in a trade with the Rays for OF Steven Souza Jr.
#5 – Milwaukee Brewers
Last year, it was their starting pitching and fantastic closer, Corey Knebel, which carried them to a surprising competitive season. This year, it is going to have to be their offense for a while and I believe with the acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain they can achieve that. Their additions to the rotation have been lackluster giving out a guaranteed offer to Jhoulys Chacin and non-guaranteed offers to Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley. Whoever the #5 starter is needs to keep the rotation treading water until their ace Jimmy Nelson comes back around midseason from his shoulder surgery. I was surprised that they are giving those guys a comeback chance though because they have a very capable young starter in Brandon Woodruff. He will probably end up starting a decent amount of games before Nelson comes up due to ineffectiveness of the other options. The Brew Crew will have a hard road to the postseason, but I believe they can make it if that rotation holds up.
#6 – Colorado Rockies
Another team with an explosive offense (led by 3B Nolan Arenado) who has a great chance to make the postseason, the Rockies will try to improve on their season last year getting knocked out in the Wild Card game by the Diamondbacks. They also have rotation depth this year with more capable starters than they have spots. With injuries always hampering rotations, they are well equipped to deal with it in-house. Their bullpen also will help carry them this season as they signed three great relief pitchers in closer Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee.
#7 – St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals made some good moves during the offseason, like acquiring outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. They also signed SP Miles Mikolas from Japan and acquired a few relievers, but they are not really difference makers. They are largely in the same place as last year, except they lost SP Lance Lynn. Youngster Luke Weaver is going to take his place in the rotation and has shown his promise in limited MLB action. They are going to need continued excellence found last year from Paul DeJong and Tommy Pham if they hope to make the Wild Card game.
#8 – San Francisco Giants
The Giants are largely in the last years of their window of contention. They did not care about loading up on older, established players like Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen while trading away one of their best prospects, Christian Arroyo.
They will still have a very expensive core intact for the next few years, however they have no minor league talent to supplement it. That is their big problem this year especially if they want to stay below the luxury tax threshold, which I don’t see being possible if they want to really compete. If they expect to be in the playoffs this year they will need to make a big splash for a starting pitcher and possibly a relief pitcher during the season and probably compete with the Dodgers for said pitcher. They’ll lose that battle due to their lack of a farm system.
#9 – New York Mets
The Mets did a respectable job of filling the holes in their roster with Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Jason Vargas. Nothing flashy, but they made some solid moves. I questioned bringing Jay Bruce back because they already had an outfield lockjam, but I assume the Mets feel Michael Conforto can play centerfield or that Bruce can play more first base. If the Mets young arms hold up, which is a HUGE if, they could compete for a Wild Card spot. It falls largely upon Noah Syndergaard staying healthy for the whole season and Matt Harvey returning to a semblance of his former self.
#10 – Atlanta Braves
The stock is rising on the Braves this year. Their young talent is either on the roster, or just on the cusp. I’m expecting them to end up close to .500 this year as long as there aren’t any significant injuries. They have good pitching depth since they acquired Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir from the Dodgers and many near-MLB ready starters on the farm. Also, everyone is on the edge of their seats waiting for uber-prospect Ronald Acuna to get called up after the first few weeks of the season. With Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies together, this will be a tell-tale year for the Braves to see if they should spend big next offseason or if they need to still sit tight and allow more development.
#11 – Pittsburgh Pirates
Even though they are on the downward trend, the Pirates still have respectable pieces on their roster. They’ll probably be gone by year’s end, but for now they can help the team win. They have Josh Harrison, Felipe Rivero, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, and two promising young players in SP Joe Musgrove and 3B Colin Moran they received in a trade of their former ace Gerrit Cole to the Astros. These players can help them not be the bottom dwellers of the Central, but some of the older players may not be on the roster for long.
#12 – San Diego Padres
The Padres are also among the young teams trending upward. They improved at two positions with the signing of 1B Eric Hosmer because it pushes Wil Myers back to the outfield, where he would be the best on the team.
They also have gotten some solid one year additions (SS Freddy Galvis, 3B Chase Headley) to be placeholders until a top prospect like Fernando Tatis Jr. arrives. They also have a lot of starting pitching depth, it is not rife with skill except for the prospects, but the pure volume of starters is good for potential injury problems.
#13 – Philadelphia Phillies
Even with the additions of SP Jake Arrieta and 1B Carlos Santana, they are not yet ready to compete. They will be in a year or two and this season will show how long. Their youngsters are almost all on the roster now: OF Rhys Hoskins, SS J.P. Crawford, OF Nick Williams, 3B Maikel Franco, C Jorge Alfaro, SP Aaron Nola, and 2B Scott Kingery is almost ready. This is the work of the rebuilding plan for the Phils and it is evident that it is coming to a close with their two big signings of the offseason. It will be an interesting season to watch for Phillies fans as they get a close look of their future.
#14 – Cincinnati Reds
The team has a pretty solid offense with multiple significant hitters like Joey Votto, Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall, Eugenio Suarez, and Scooter Gennett.
The problem with the Reds and it has been the past few years, is the pitching. Their two most promising starters missed almost the whole year combined in 2017 in Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan and they’re both starting 2018 on the DL. Now, the rest of their young arms will get a look in the beginning of the season and it looks like it will be a rotating door in the Cincinnati rotation again this year.
#15 – Miami Marlins
The Marlins intentionally put themselves at the bottom of this list. Trading almost all of their best players in order to basically start over under Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter. A good amount of their lineup does not deserve to hold a starting role on another team, but that is how thin they’ve made the roster. They only have two locks in their rotation in Dan Straily and Jose Urena, the rest are up for grabs. This is going to be a dismal year for Marlins fans, if there are any left.