MLB power rankings: 2021 outlook for every team on Opening Day(2)

11. Oakland Athletics

MLB power rankings: Oakland Athletics
Sep 28, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo (44) and catcher Sean Murphy (12) exchange a high five following a 1-0 victory against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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

MLB power rankings: Philadelphia Phillies
Sep 27, 2020; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Philadelphia Phillies designated hitter Bryce Harper (3) reacts to striking out during the sixth inning of the final regular season game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

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. After missing out on Jake Odorizzi, it’s fair to at least question Philadelphia’s front office.

13. Houston Astros

MLB power rankings: Houston Astros
Jul 27, 2020; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) celebrates his homer with third baseman Alex Bregman (2) against the Seattle Mariners in the bottom of the fifth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

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. Replacing Framber Valdez with Jake Odorizzi was quick-thinking and the addition should help the Astros compete for a playoff spot.

14. Washington Nationals

MLB power rankings: Washington Nationals
Sep 26, 2020; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) throws the ball during the second inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

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. If the early COVID problems are a sign of thing to come, Washington could be in trouble.

15. Cleveland Indians

MLB power rankings: Cleveland Indians
Sep 27, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Indians third basemen Jose Ramirez (11) celebrates while scoring a run during the seventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

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. Milwaukee Brewers

MLB power rankings: Milwaukee Brewers
Sep 21, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich (22) walks from the plate after striking out against the Cincinnati Reds during the third inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

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, there is a lot to like. Even as he ages, Lorenzo Cain is a wizard in center field and adding Jackie Bradley Jr. will make it even harder for hitters to find gaps in the outfield. We also appreciate the commitment this organization is showing to fielding, adding Kolten Wong and moving Hiura to first base. Milwaukee boasts a solid team, but the lack of quality at the back of its rotation prevents it from being higher in our MLB power rankings.

17. Chicago Cubs

MLB power rankings: Chicago Cubs
Sep 2, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) and third baseman David Bote (13) and shortstop Javier Baez (9) and second baseman Nico Hoerner (right) celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. The Cubs won 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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.

18. Los Angeles Angels

MLB power rankings: Los Angeles Angels
Sep 25, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) is greeted at the dugout by catcher Max Stassi (33) and manager Joe Maddon after hitting a three-run homer against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

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. If the rotation stays healthy or the bullpen finds a way to exceed expectations, perhaps Los Angeles competes for a playoff spot.

19. Boston Red Sox

MLB power rankings: Boston Red Sox
Sep 27, 2020; Cumberland, Georgia, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers (11) reacts after striking out against the Atlanta Braves during the ninth inning at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

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

MLB power rankings: Cincinnati Reds
Sep 27, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) throws a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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.