Keep in mind, the offseason isn't over, so these rankings are subject to change before the season starts.1. Texas Rangers
Why they deserve it: They’ve been to the last two consecutive World Series and have the best offense in baseball. They may also add Darvish, Fielder or Madson.
Why they don’t deserve it: They have an average rotation at best, lost their ace CJ Wilson to their biggest rival and initial reports indicate that Darvish and the Rangers are more than 50 million apart.
- In the end, the Rangers are still the two time defending AL champs and may not be significantly worse than they were in the past.
2. New York Yankees
Why they deserve it: They have a power hitting offense in perhaps the easiest park to hit a homerun in the country. Their bullpen is among the strongest in baseball.
Why they don’t deserve it: Their rotation is shaky at best. After Sabathia, there’s literally nothing. Nova has average major league stuff, Burnett has completely lost it and Colon isn’t the answer.
- The Yankees always seem to end up fine despite concerns about their team. They either spend copious amounts of money or get a surprise performance. 2012 should be no different.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
Why they deserve it: Halladay, Lee and Hamels are as good of a 1,2,3 as there is. They should get Utely back healthy and have added Hunter Pence to an already strong lineup. Papelbon in the 9th inning is a relatively sure thing as well.
Why they don’t deserve it: The back end of the rotation is terrible and they have literally no help on the way in their minors as the cupboard is bare not only in AA/AAA but in the lower levels as well. They’ll also have to go without slugger Ryan Howard for a large chunk of the year.
- The Phils have some fierce competition for the next few years, but their combination of pitching, offense and money will make them formidable in 2012.
4. Los Angeles Angels
Why they deserve it: The Angels have arguably the best rotation in baseball. There’s no weakness 1-5 and they have very good depth in AAA. Their offense will add the greatest hitter in baseball in Pujols, plus Kendrys Morales to the lineup. Mike Trout looms large in AAA and there’s no way the Angels will put up with another Vernon Wells letdown.
Why they don’t deserve it: They’ve missed the playoffs the last two seasons in a row and have a shaky bullpen. They blew more leads (25) and saves (10) than any team in the American League. They’ve only managed to add LaTroy Hawkins, who was solid but is universally seen as a depth arm, not one that fixes an unreliable pen.
- The Angels will combine a good offense with great pitching. Their bullpen isn’t proven, but the system is stacked with bullpen arms, so these troubles could pass as early as 2012.
5. Boston Red Sox
Why they deserve it: They have one of the best offenses in baseball and will be getting Pedroia and Youkilis back. Crawford will almost certainly be better than he was in 2011. Getting Buchholz back and adding bullpen depth only makes them stronger.
Why they don’t deserve it: This is largely the same team that completely collapsed to end 2010. They lost highly regarded, young GM in Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona.
- Assuming Francona wasn’t the only reason why this team has been so successful, they look like a potential 95+ win team.
6. Tampa Bay Rays
Why they deserve it: A full year of Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, David Price and James Shields is dangerous. Desmond Jennings appears to be even better than advertised.
Why they don’t deserve it: They still don’t have a DH or 1B. Longoria, Jennings, Zobrist and Upton are a solid core but they’ll need even more offense than that in the AL East.
- Is there any doubt that despite questions about their offense that the Rays won’t at least be in the playoff picture until the very end? They’re an elite playoff caliber team and will be for the next 5 years.
7. St. Louis Cardinals
Why they deserve it: They just won the World Series and have added Carlos Beltran to an already solid offense. Adam Wainwright will give them as much pitching depth as anyone in their division and they boast a core of strong middle relievers that can shorten a game.
Why they don’t deserve it: They’ve lost that one player that made their offense special in Albert Pujols. Holliday and Berkman simply won’t have the same protection. After their first three starters, there’s no starting pitching to speak of. They’ve also lost Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa and will go without the best pitching coach in baseball Dave Duncan for a significant amount of time.
- Can the Cards win without Duncan, LaRussa and Pujols? I’m not so sure they can, but giving the defending World Series champs credit where credit is due makes them a Top 10 team.
8. Arizona Diamondbacks
Why they deserve it: They have an extremely strong young pitching staff. The D-Backs are built to win long term and have a manager that gets the most out of his young players. Adding Kubel and stabilizing rotation will only make Arizona stronger.
Why they don’t deserve it: They’re young and were lucky the Giants lost Buster Posey. Outside of Upton, there isn’t much game changing talent in the field.
- The D-Backs are a well built team. Decent enough offense, good starting pitching, and stronger bullpen and TONS of depth in the minor leagues. They’re a Top 10 team right now, but in 3 or 4 years they could be a Top 5 team. At the same time, they could have a hard time holding off the Giants in the NL West.
9. Detroit Tigers
Why they deserve it: Miguel Cabrera is among the best hitters in the game and Victor Martinez is the necessary veteran leader to stabilize the Detroit offense. They have an above average staff anchored by the best pitcher in baseball, Justin Verlander. They’re also playing in the weakest division in baseball.
Why they don’t deserve it: The offense really isn’t great outside of Martinez and Cabrera. They’ve got enough depth and talent to win the weak AL Central, but they lack the required pitching and offense to make any dent in the playoffs unless they hit an unexpected hot streak at the right time.
- The Tigers are playoff team. Their minor league system isn’t great, but their team is built to be a contender for the foreseeable future.10. Atlanta Braves
Why they deserve it: Like any dangerous team, their strength begins and ends on the mound. They have good starting pitching right now, but have the minor league depth to sustain a solid rotation for the next decade. Their 7th, 8th and 9th inning relievers may be the best in the game. I’m expecting Freeman and Heyward to progress and having Bourn a full season should help.
Why they don’t deserve it: There’s no game-changing talent on the offense. They’re decent enough but unless Chipper Jones goes back in time 5 years and Freeman and Heyward go forward in time 5 years, they may not score enough to win.
- The Braves are a good team, but unless they bring in another good bat, they’re still in danger of losing out on the post season again despite being a very good team.11. San Francisco Giants – Getting Buster Posey back.
12. Milwaukee Brewers – Might lose Fielder and Braun.
13. Miami Marlins – New ballpark, new proven coach with strong Latin American respect, new shortstop, new third baseman, new closer and two new starting pitchers.
14. Washington Nationals – Could be higher if they sign Fielder.
15. Cleveland Indians – Getting better, but not enough to dethrone Detroit yet.
16. Toronto Blue Jays – Better that 2011, but as always is it enough to compete in AL East?
17. Cincinnati Reds – Stronger rotation makes them contender in NL Central.
18. Kansas City Royals – Exciting young team, could be Top 10 in 2 years.
19. Colorado Rockies – Dangerous offense, stockpiling young controllable pitching.
20. San Diego Padres – Great looking team in the future after that Mat Latos trade.
21. Chicago White Sox – Exactly what is Kenny Williams doing? Does he know?
22. Los Angeles Dodgers – Things looking up once team is sold.
23. Chicago Cubs – May be rid of Soriano and Zambrano before season starts.
24. Minnesota Twins – Last year was the first time in 10 years they’d been “bad”.
25. New York Mets – Need a lot of help, won’t be competitive for at least 5 years.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates – Built for long term success, but that won’t be for a long time.
27. Baltimore Orioles – Good offense, decent young talent, but still in AL East.
28. Oakland A’s – Restocking minor league system, will be good again in 5 years.
29. Seattle Mariners – They’ll jump up this list if they land Prince Fielder.
30. Houston Astros – Moving into the AL West won’t help them at all.
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