As is tradition for the pre-spring training version of the internet's only Official MLB Power Rankings, we need to discuss the defending champions. Hello, Atlanta Braves.
It's long been customary in the rankings world for people to either automatically rank the defending champions No. 1 -- accompanied with something like "until someone proves otherwise, they remain on top" -- or to yell at the rankers for not putting them number one.
It's always seemed like silly logic to me. Things change every offseason and it's not like the champion was definitely the best team from the previous season anyway. Lots of things have to break right to win it all and those aren't necessarily going to carry over to the next season.
In case you haven't figured it out by now, no, the Braves are absolutely not going to be my No. 1 team.
From their important contributors in the World Series, the following players are currently free agents:
Charlie Morton is recovering from a broken leg. He's also 38 years old. Ronald Acuña Jr.'s return to the lineup will be a boost, but he probably won't be back until sometime in May. Who knows what they'll get out of Marcell Ozuna in his return from injury and a domestic violence suspension.
Now, the Matt Olson trade happened -- after we published this initially -- and that's a big win for the Braves. Still, he's a replacement for Freeman. They still look to start Drew Waters and Guillermo Heredia until Acuña can return. And they were only an 88-win team anyway.
This isn't to say the Braves are going to be terrible. They're still a good team. A very good one. They might even repeat as champs. It's absolutely possible. I'm only explaining all the reasons that they aren't No. 1 to start the year, because they absolutely do not look like the best team in baseball heading to the 2022 season.
(Note: The Padres dropped from No. 13 to No. 16 after it was revealed Monday that Fernando Tatis Jr. could miss up to three months with a fractured wrist. The Mariners' and Reds' rankings are also altered to reflect the Jesse Winker trade.)
|Lots of question marks with the roster, but still incredible organizational depth. The main question will, once again, be if they can get things done in October.||1||44-26|
|Before last season, the Rays had never made the playoffs three straight seasons or won 100 games in the regular season. Both of those items have been checked off the list. A World Series title would be next.||4||39-32|
|The Jays went 25-11 in Rogers Centre last season and 22-22 in their other "home" games. They'll get a full season in Rogers this time around. Playoffs? I'd bet on it.||7||40-31|
|Losing Carlos Rodón hurts, but Michael Kopech is immensely talented. This is a strong, well-rounded ballclub.||7||33-37|
|I love the Olson deal for them, but I also think they should have just paid Freeman what it would've taken to make him a Brave for life.||4||42-31|
|They've made splashes both before and after the lockout and it's too bad more owners don't operate their teams the way Steve Cohen does.||14||47-26|
|Are they really going to hand the keys at shortstop to Jeremy Peña? He's only played in 30 games in Triple-A and none in Double-A.||3||45-26|
|A big theme in the Official Power Rankings last season was that I gave up questioning how the Giants were doing it and just embraced that they would keep doing it. Do they have an encore? I trust Farhan Zaidi and his staff enough to believe it's possible, even if there's no chance they win 100+ games again.||5||39-32|
|The Josh Donaldson acquisition would be exciting if he can play a full season. They could still use a lefty-swinging power hitter at first base, too.||--||52-20|
|Before 2019, the Brewers had never been to the playoffs in consecutive seasons. They've now been four straight years. To make it five, they'll ride a ridiculously talented Big Three in the rotation, but will Christian Yelich bounce back to lead the offense?||3||41-33|
|The Cardinals went 13-1 in Adam Wainwright's last 14 regular-season starts last year. He had a 2.28 ERA in 94 2/3 innings in that time. Does he have another year like that in the tank at age 40?||3||41-33|
|Surely they aren't going to use Michael Wacha in the rotation over Tanner Houck for long, right? Go with the upside.||7||41-31|
|Kris Bryant is a great fit. Make it happen!||1||38-35|
|I'm not greedy so I won't ask for 150-plus. Can we please, pretty please, Baseball Gods, get at least 130 games from Byron Buxton?||8||40-33|
|I love the Robbie Ray signing, but they could still use a middle-of-the-order bat. Time to capitalize on their late-season momentum with their fan base. HEY! I wrote that and then they went out and added Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez. Nice work.||3||34-39|
|They'll be competitive thanks to that rotation, but the offense is going to be awful.||--||36-31|
|Post-hype sleeper? There's plenty of talent. Playoff-level talent. The Padres haven't made the playoffs since 2006, if we exclude the oddball 2020 season. Of course, I wrote that and less than 24 hours later we learned that Fernando Tatis Jr. has a broken wrist. Uh oh.||--||45-29|
|Can the stars stay healthy? If so, there's playoff potential. Shohei Ohtani, Noah Syndergaard and Patrick Sandoval as a top three in the rotation has nice upside.||--||34-40|
|I love what they've done so far this offseason, but they just had so many holes to fill.||9||34-36|
|Bobby Witt, Jr., opening day starter, please.||3||26-44|
|At 77-85 last season, the Tigers were one of the biggest surprises, relative to expectations. Can they take another step forward? Also, when do we get to see Spencer Torkelson?||2||28-43|
|The sell-off is underway. Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas are next. And so is a down period after three straight playoff seasons.||9||24-49|
|Love that rotation, but the offense could sure use a big bat. If they don't want to pay Nick Castellanos, maybe Anthony Rizzo?||2||32-38|
|Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks and Wade Miley were all in the top 20 in groundball rate last season, so the Andrelton Simmons signing makes sense, though I'm not sure he's an everyday starter at this point. Maybe he'll be Carlos Correa's backup? (Doubtful.)||--||27-45|
|It's kind of baffling when you realize Juan Soto is still only 23 years old.||1||26-48|
|The Reds would have made the playoffs last year under the new format, but they've already unloaded nearly 300 innings from their rotation without getting back any MLB help. Oh, and they also traded a mid-prime stud in Winker along with someone who is still only 30 and hit 49 homers in 2019.||11||24-47|
|The Rockies have been rumored to be looking at free agents like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Michael Conforto. Fresh off trading Nolan Arenado and letting Trevor Story walk, it's a head-scratcher. On the flip-side, gimme some Schwarber in Coors Field.||6||31-41|
|Does it sound silly to be excited to see how a ballpark plays? Because I am. Oriole Park is getting a facelift that moves the left-field fences back around 30 feet and raises them to around 12 feet.||2||34-39|
|Did something click for Daulton Varsho? He hit .292/.329/.521 in his last 40 games and he now heads to his age-25 season.||--||32-41|
|Only Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis had more Fangraphs WAR than Bryan Reynolds among NL position players last year. He's under Pirates' control through 2025 and it would be a shame if this organization traded him.||3||29-42|