For several years after taking over the reins of the CBS Sports MLB Power Rankings, the first entry of the season came with an easy introduction. I did not think the champion from the previous season was going to repeat, so I explained that while, yes, ending the previous season as champion meant said champion concluded as the No. 1 team, that did not mean they were entitled to start the next season at the top. It's a clean slate. It wasn't until 2017, when I ranked the Cubs as the No. 1 team to start the season after they won it all. That didn't work.
In fact, it hasn't worked at all for a while, if we're talking repeats in baseball. There has not been a repeat champion since the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000.
Now, the power rankings aren't necessarily a prediction of what is to come. That is to say, just because I have a team ranked first here doesn't mean I'm obligated to predict them to win the World Series. I will say, however, that picking a No. 1 team here wasn't even remotely difficult.
It is the defending World Series champion Dodgers.
They are the best team right now. They were before even bringing Justin Turner back to shore. Shoring that position up is only doing what they should be doing and that is checking every single box possible to make sure there are zero weaknesses heading into a season in which they are the team best suited to win the World Series.
They are. It's not really all that close, either.
The rotation strength sure isn't a weakness with three viable Cy Young contenders at the top in Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and reigning Cy winner Trevor Bauer. Nor is rotation depth, with the likes of Julio Urias, Dustin May and David Price sitting in some order as their 4-6 starters.
The position players include two MVPs in Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts in addition to elite-level candidates Corey Seager and Will Smith. Turner is a steady anchor. Players like Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and A.J. Pollock are also-rans on this team. Youngster Gavin Lux remains a breakout candidate.
As we've grown accustomed with this ballclub and front office, there's roster flexibility and organizational depth.
They are the easy favorite to win the title. The defending champions are the best team heading into the new season.
Of course, we've said that a few times since 2000 and it hasn't happened yet. That's one of the many things that makes baseball so fun.
|If presented with the betting option of Dodgers or The Field for who will win the 2021 World Series, I'd go Field. If I only had one pick of the 30 teams, it's the Dodgers. So it goes with gambling.||--||43-17|
|On one hand, I'd love to say something like "file a petition to move them to the pathetic NL Central," but on the other, a team like this needs a titan to topple, right? Let's make this a SoCal rivalry!||2||37-23|
|The upside of Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon being fully functional and performing to their ceilings all at the same time in the playoffs would make this team a killer. Of course, there's huge variance here because the downside is basically "Cole and pray."||2||33-27|
|Watch the progress of Mike Soroka (surgery to repair torn Achilles on Aug. 7). A fully healthy playoff rotation including him, Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Charlie Morton with that offense is spectacular.||1||35-25|
|There is some legitimate World Series-level upside with the offense and rotation (Noah Synergaard's return presenting an X-factor). Will the bullpen be reliable enough once everything gets settled?||17||26-34|
|There's been turnover at the back of the bullpen, but it'll be for the better. Having Andrelton Simmons at short now only helps the pitching staff, too.||3||36-24|
|Lance Lynn eating quality innings in the middle of a rotation for a contender is the ideal spot for him. He was an incredibly underrated acquisition this offseason.||1||35-25|
|Oh man, I cannot wait to watch this offense do its thing over the course of the season. The arsenal is fully stocked!||5||32-28|
|No more George Springer at the top. At least Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and probably Alex Bregman have something to prove, too, after last season and all the circumstances behind it. Interesting bunch.||3||29-31|
|That rotation ... man, I don't know. Using the cliche, "they always find a way to win" is a misnomer, too, because they don't. They have the last few years, but that doesn't mean they will in 2021. I'm skeptical.||8||40-20|
|There isn't much more prime in a Max Scherzer-Stephen Strasburg-Patrick Corbin trio of aces, so I love Mike Rizzo filling out the offense with Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber. He's trying to go for it without mortgaging much of the future. Great stuff.||7||26-34|
|The front office is desperately trying to keep the club competitive here, but the reported offer to Marcus Semien shows there just isn't any money from ownership. It's pretty worrisome, but the players here are plenty capable.||5||36-24|
|It's been a while since the Cardinals had a prolific offense. Even in their 100-win campaign in 2015, they were 11th in the NL in runs and 8th in OPS. Does that change now behind the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Dylan Carlson?||2||30-28|
|Let's skip past the preseason hope and all that and just focus on something that might make most of us feel old: This is the last year of Albert Pujols' contract. His 10th year with the Angels after 11 with the Cardinals!||10||26-34|
|I feel like they are better than the masses believe -- the Verdugo-Bogaerts-Devers-JD foursome at the top is great -- but I'm not really seeing a playoff-breakout or anything.||8||24-36|
|At least there are Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez to get the Cleveland fans through dealing with the Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco departures (so soon after Kluber, too).||4||35-25|
|There's still plenty of firepower here on offense, at least potentially, but can they actually show it? For a whole season? There are an awful lot of outcomes here.||6||34-26|
|They are mostly running back the same group that missed the playoffs. What gives!?! Well, keep in mind it was only 60 games. They showed themselves really streaky, too.||1||28-32|
|Lots of questions to be answered here from the likes of Lorenzo Cain, Keston Hiura, Daniel Vogelbach, Corbin Burnes and several more (hell, even Christian Yelich, at least sligthly), but the pieces are here for another playoff run. Kudos to these small-market owners for not gutting the team after a pandemic year.||3||29-31|
|It's too bad with this club we didn't get a full 2020 season. They were one of the biggest disappointments for a lot of it. They then won 11 of their last 14. There was enough talent to believe that run was real. Instead, just two games against the mighty Braves and it was over. They come into 2021 worse off, personnel-wise.||6||31-29|
|Tommy La Stella was one of my favorite signings of the offseason. I like the offense overall, actually. We'll see on the pitching.||4||29-31|
|Zac Gallen allowed 22 earned runs in 12 starts last season. Exactly half those earned runs came in two of those starts -- and those were back-to-back. He's a very interesting case, as a lot of advanced metrics don't like him and yet he doesn't often get pegged for many -- if any -- runs.||3||25-35|
|A somewhat common theme here is I'll praise the front offices that actually tried, even when constrained. Good on Dayton Moore for adding Carlos Santana, Mike Minor, Andrew Benintendi and more (even a Wade Davis reunion!).||2||26-34|
|A very fun season has paved the way for the nasty ol' backslide. It is coming, yes, but they'll compete far more often than not. It's not a traditional Doormat Marlins team.||14||31-29|
|It's very unlikely the Mariners are a playoff contender, but this will still be a very fun season in Seattle in terms of seeing what they have from youngsters both at the big-league level and in the high levels of the minors. Perhaps a "year before the year" team I've discussed many times before (such as the 2019 Padres).||5||27-33|
|It's going to be weird to see them without Elvis Andrus, right? I do love the power combo potential of Joey Gallo and a possibly-but-hopefully-not-washed Khris Davis, though that ballpark seemed tough on power last year.||2||22-38|
|I love the Robbie Grossman signing. He's an under-the-radar guy to just leave atop a batting order with his on-base chops.||2||23-35|
|You know what? Trey Mancini being back is a feel-good story we can all rally around. You go, Trey.||1||25-35|
|The nadir of the offseason wasn't the awful Arenado trade. It was the ensuing horror show of a press conference where general manager Jeff Bridich and owner Dick Monfort did everything opposite of covering themselves in glory. I'd love to put them 30th. Alas ...||3||26-34|
|They might not end up with the worst record in baseball, thanks to being in the worst division, but they are the worst team.||--||19-41|