MLB power rankings: 2021 outlook for every team on Opening Day(1)

MLB power rankings: The 2020 MLB season is here and Opening Day has finally arrived. It’s been a slow offseason, with free agency slowed down significantly, leaving marquee talents available for the taking. With spring training in the books and the real games about to start, 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 as Opening Day begins.

MLB power rankings: Previews for each team on Opening Day

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielders Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts
Jul 9, 2020; Los Angeles, California, United States; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger (35) and right fielder Mookie Betts (50) walk to the dugout before the start of an intrasquad game at Dodgers Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

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

MLB power rankings: San Diego Padres
Oct 8, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (23) reacts and signals safe after a play against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the second inning during game three of the 2020 NLDS at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres core is coming together quickly, thanks to some phenomenal moves by general manager A.J. Preller. Bringing Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove into this rotation provides an incredible amount of stability and talent. San Diego will deploy a six-man rotation in 2021, a wise move given MacKenzie Gore’s innings limit and Dinelson Lamet’s injury concerns.

San Diego boasts NL MVP candidate Fernando Tatís Jr, star Manny Machado and a deep batting order with Austin Nola, Ha-seong Kim, Jake Croneworth, Trent Grisham and Tommy Pham. The Padres have depth, a great bullpen and an outstanding farm system. Everything you could ask for is in place to compete for a World Series. We will see that depth tested early, though, with Grisham and Nola sidelined by injuries.

3. Atlanta Braves

MLB power rankings: Atlanta Braves
Oct 18, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) warms up before game seven of the 2020 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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 lineup 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.

Even without a blockbuster move, the Braves will cause plenty of trouble in the National League. If this rotation stays healthy, which is far from a guarantee, Atlanta could reach the World Series. Let’s also keep an eye out on Austin Riley, who could do some big things this summer.

4. New York Yankees

MLB power rankings: New York Yankees
Oct 9, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a solo home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning of game five of the 2020 ALDS at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Injuries have already struck the Yankees in spring training. Zack Britton will be sidelined multiple weeks after undergoing arthroscopic elbow surgery, Clarke Schmidt just landed on the 60-day injured list and Luke Voit is about to get a partially torn meniscus repaired. It seems like the Yankees bad luck with injuries isn’t going away and that’s troubling with the depth dwindling.

5. New York Mets (6)

MLB power rankings: New York Mets
Sep 27, 2020; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) celebrates with Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) after hitting a two-run home run against the Washington Nationals in the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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. One good thing this new regime already did, sign Lindor to a monster extension.

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. It will be fascinating to see how New York finds playing time for Smith, Nimmo, J.D. Davis, Jeff McNeil and Jonathan Villar without the benefit of the designated hitter.

6. Minnesota Twins (7)

MLB power rankings: Minnesota Twins
Sep 29, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) hits a RBI double in the third inning against the Houston Astros at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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. If Michael Pineda shows the form we saw before his 2019 suspension and J.A. Happ can still keep games close, then we’ll feel a little better about Minnesota.

7. Chicago White Sox (5)

MLB power rankings: Chicago White Sox
Aug 4, 2020; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder Eloy Jimenez (74) hits a two -un home run during the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Losing Eloy Jimenez for the majority of the 2021 season is a huge blow for the Chicago White Sox. The team was already taking a bit of a risk by making Andrew Vaughn its primary designated hitter, given he has never played above A-Ball. This is still a great lineup, featuring Tim Anderson, Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu, Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada. The rotation, now with Lance Lynn, should be significantly better than what we saw in 2020. But losing Jimenez’s bat and energy is significant.

8. Toronto Blue Jays

MLB power rankings: Toronto Blue Jays
Sep 3, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (13) reacts with third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) after hitting a home run against the Boston Red Sox in the tenth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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. If the Yankees can’t avoid injuries, Toronto might win the division anyways.

9. Tampa Bay Rays

MLB power rankings: Tampa Bay Rays
Sep 6, 2019; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; A detailed view of a Tampa Bay Rays hat and glove at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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. But now there are problems in the bullpen. Nick Anderson is out through the All-Star Break with ligament damage in his elbow, depleting the Rays of another key pitcher. Frankly, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Rays missed the playoffs.

10. St. Louis Cardinals

MLB power rankings: St. Louis Cardinals
Sep 2, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) singles in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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.