Over the last two days, SABR Toothed Tigers has released our 2013 MLB Preseason Power Rankings 30-21 and 20-11. Today, we complete the series and take you all the way through number one.
Remember, this list is designed to represent the expected performance of each team in 2013, but not necessarily the win totals of each team. For example, I project the Red Sox to be a better team than the Pirates but I expect the Pirates to win more games as a function of their league, division, and better relationship with an almighty deity than the team from Boston. Check back tomorrow for my Preseason Standings Prediction.
10. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are a very deep team with talent at about every position. The middle infield is a bit iffy going forward but those are two of the less important offensive positions and the rest of their lineup more than makes up for it. The rotation is a good mix of veterans and talented youngsters and the bullpen has a lot of exciting pieces. Nothing about the Cardinals makes me say “wow!” but everything about them makes me think they’re a very good team. I also can’t ignore the incredible comebacks/magic/voodoo/etc of the last two seasons. It’s usually not right to expect weird things to keep happening like that, but I’m not really looking to tempt fate.
9. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are an interesting team because I can talk myself into a lot of different places on this list for them. Probably more so than any other team expect the Dodgers. They added Josh Hamilton, but lost Torii Hunter who was worth more than Hamilton in 2012. They’ll have an everyday role for Peter Bourjos who is among the very best defensive players walking the Earth and Albert Pujols likely won’t struggle as much as he did last April in any month of 2013. In just looking at the offense and defense, I would imagine the Angels should be about as good in 2013 as they were in 2012. But the pitching looks a lot worse. Jered Weaver should be the same as always and CJ Wilson likely won’t improve upon his 2012 numbers because he simply isn’t that good. After them, instead of Greinke or Haren, you have Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, and stuff. This rotation is pretty good if you want to win 80 games, but I think it’s awful if you want to win 95 like the Angels do. This team has the best player in the league (Trout), the best player of his era (Pujols), and a player with an impossibly high ceiling (Hamilton), but I just can’t bring myself to bet any higher on them with such a suspect pitching staff.
8. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays did excellent work this offseason adding Melky Cabrera, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, RA Dickey, and others. They are a much better team than they were in 2012 and could also get a full season from Jose Bautista. Even with expected regression from Edwin Encarnacion, this should be a team that scores runs and pitches well. I think they’ll be right in the thick of the AL East race and should also contend for a wild card. My reservations about placing them higher deal with a lot of injury question marks. Bautista is recovering from a wrist injury and hand and wrist injuries tend to have a negative effect on power. I’m not saying he’ll have a down season, but I think it’s more likely than it was before he got hurt. Additionally, while I think Josh Johnson is fantastic, he is also very fragile. Who knows what Melky Cabrera can do without the help of PEDs? Brandon Morrow missed significant time last season. Something was obviously wrong with Ricky Romero, right? So while on paper this is a talented team with a great chance at October baseball, there are concerns large enough to keep them at number eight.
7. San Francisco Giants
The Giants return an excellent pitching staff and good defensive club. A full season of Scutaro and Pence should be a marginal improvement, but losing the great “wind-aided” performance of Melky Cabrera will hurt with no clear replacement lined up. If Pablo Sandoval is healthy and Brandon Belt is allowed to do his thing without interference from a silly manager, this team should be on par with last year’s division winning club. It’s a good bullpen and the park tends to work in favor of the team’s design, so I’m willing to bet the Buster Posey led Giants are making another deep run into the postseason.
6. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds should have no trouble winning the NL Central if they are able to remain as healthy as their counterparts. They have the amazing Joey Votto at first and an average to above average player pretty much everywhere. They rotation remained perfectly intact last year and Aroldis Chapman is coming to help them out even more in 2013. With the addition of Choo, the maturing of Cozart and Fraizer, and the continued success of Bruce and Phillips, I can’t really see a glaring whole other than defense in centerfield. This is an all-around good club.
5. Texas Rangers
A lot of people are down on the 2013 Rangers because they didn’t sign or trade for any of their big offseason targets, but I think that means they’re very underrated. If we look at the 2012 Rangers as a pretty true 93 win club who had a bad week at the end, when we compare them to the 2013 version, they hold up great. The pitching should be essentially the same with perhaps a better performance by the adapting Darvish. On offense, they dropped Michael Young’s negative WAR at DH for Lance Berkman and will return everyone else except Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli. Top prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt can easily combine with Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin to approximate the ~4WAR season of Josh Hamilton and AJ Pierzynski steps in to replace Napoli who had a down year on a team that won 93 games. While it can be said that the Rangers missed out on getting a lot better, they also failed to really get worse. This is the overlooked team of the year if you’re into making those types of wagers.
4. Atlanta Braves
The Braves added a lot this offseason (see: Uptons, all) but they also lost a good amount in Chipper Jones and Martin Prado. I like Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman to breakout in compliment with Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers. The starting pitching is deep and the bullpen is second to none. The Braves aren’t the most exciting team in the league to me, but I think they have the highest floor. It’s hard for me to imagine them having much worse than an upper 80s win season.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
I’m higher on the Rays than most because I’ve seen them over-perform too many times not to believe. Their starting pitching is in the top five and their bullpen always works. They’ve added Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar on offense and are hoping for a full season of Evan Longoria to go with the soon to be called up Wil Myers. Top to bottom, the Rays are probably in the 6-10 range as far as talent goes, but they are so well run from top to bottom, that they will get more out of that talent than the other teams on this list.
2. Detroit Tigers
The 2012 Tigers underperformed and won 88 games. In 2013, they will add Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter and a full season of Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. They lost nothing of substance from the roster should get at least modest bounce back seasons from Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila. That is all by way of saying, it’s hard to see how they aren’t one of the surest bets in the league for 2013. 90 wins should be safe and 95-100 is a real possibility given the level of competition they face. They own baseball’s best rotation 1-5 and their only weaknesses are infield defense questions and bullpen uncertainty. And almost everyone has bullpen uncertainty so I can’t really hold that against them. Looking at the Tigers on paper, it’s hard to see how the defending AL champs won’t get a shot to play in October once more.
1. Washington Nationals
The Nationals earn this spot through logic similar to that which put the Tigers at number two. They added Denard Span, Rafael Soriano, and Dan Haren and lost only Edwin Jackson. With an unlimited Stephen Strasburg and a more experienced Bryce Harper, there isn’t an argument to be made that the Nats got worse for 2013. Granted, any team can collapse and underperform, but there is no reason to think the Nationals are any more likely to do so than any other team on this list. If the Nationals stay as healthy as their competitors in 2013, they should once again be baseball’s best team.
Tell us what you thought of the 2013 Preseason Power Rankings series in the comments, on Twitter, on Facebook, or via the United States Postal Service. Check back tomorrow for STT’s projected standings.