As we prepare to embark upon another glorious Major League Baseball season, it is time to begin my 11th season of the Official Power Rankings. Truth be told, these very last installments of the rankings just before the season begins are easily my favorite. As I work through them, there are competing factions in my brain regarding the unknown and just what a great thing hope can be for any fan base.
Let's break down why.
Look, we're always going to have general ideas. We could all be given a list of players, tasked with guessing whether or not each individual will have a good year and we'd end up correct on many of them. It's also not a huge leap to pretty firmly say right now that the Dodgers will have a better record than the Orioles in 2022.
There is just so much we don't know, however.
Just take the 2021 Braves. Remember, it was an ongoing storyline here that they kept getting to exactly .500 but couldn't get above water. For months. The first time they were above .500 all season was Aug. 6, when they moved to 56-55. This was weeks after losing their best player to a torn ACL. They were eight games out of first place in the middle of June. And then they won the World Series.
How about the Giants winning 107 games after being expected to win somewhere in the range of the mid-70s? Or the Fun Differential Mariners winning 90 games? The Cubs were in first place in late June and were trading everyone with value in late July. Only six teams had a better record than the Padres on Aug. 10, but they ended up finishing four games below .500.
How about the blistering season Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had? And yet, the AL MVP was still, correctly, unanimously awarded to Shohei Ohtani. Robbie Ray had a 6.62 ERA and 1.90 WHIP in 2020. He won the 2021 Cy Young.
And just so, so much more. The unknown is a beautiful thing.
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Hope is a good thing
The unknown cannot possibly match hope, though. As I often like to do this time of the year, I'll borrow from my favorite movie and remind everyone, again, that hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. Andy knew it. Red learned it. Heading into every baseball season, it would behoove fans of every single fan base to embrace it.
We can, again, point to the Braves. Ronald Acuña Jr. tore his ACL on July 10. The Braves lost the following day and headed into the All-Star break 44-45, 4 1/2 games out of first in the NL East. There were 17 teams in baseball with a better record at the break. Worse, they knew Acuña wasn't coming back. The chances of the Braves winning the World Series in 2021 at that point were incredibly poor.
And yet, if we could travel back in time and send some non-spoiler regards to Braves fans, the message would center on hope. There's always hope.
Your favorite team below is ranked in the 20s? Don't let me bring you down. You have hope. There will be plenty of unknown this baseball season, so grab hold of that hope for dear life and squeeze until your heart is content. Every team is 0-0 right now. Hope and the unknown could always converge for a special season, much like they did with the 2021 Braves. Don't let anyone tell you not to believe in hope right now for your 2022 season.
|This will be the Dodgers' 10th straight season in the playoffs. The 1991-2005 Braves hold the record at 14.||--||111-51|
|I'm calling a monster season from Matt Chapman.||1||92-70|
|Despite losing a franchise icon, the Braves did some pretty damn impressive work once the lockout ended. I love the Matt Olson deal and how weird will it be to see Kenley Jansen closing out games in a non-Dodger uniform?||2||101-61|
|Surely they'll have better fortune with position-player injuries this time around. Yasmani Grandal (93 games played), Tim Anderson (123), Luis Robert (68) and Eloy Jimenez (55) all missed a good chunk of time last year. And the White Sox still won the AL Central by 13 games.||--||81-81|
|Shane Baz and Pete Fairbanks have joined Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos and Nick Anderson with serious injuries to the pitching staff. I won't be surprised if they find a way around all this -- that's what they do -- but the depth is a serious concern heading into the season.||3||86-76|
|There are questions all over the place, but if they somehow get the good versions of Anthony Rizzo, Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson and Gleyber Torres that is one scary lineup.||3||99-63|
|Bet on a big Justin Verlander season.||--||106-56|
|How many teams enter the season with three bona fide Cy Young candidates? You can start right here, with Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta.||2||86-76|
|A lot to like here, but also plenty of question marks. For example: It's pretty fun to dream on a 1-2 playoff punch of Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. What if they're both hurt, though?||3||101-61|
|Perhaps the most unpredictable team heading into this season. There just doesn't look like playoff-level talent here, but we can't totally discount what happened last year. The organization obviously knows what it's doing in extracting all it can from the talent it has.||2||81-81|
|I like the Trevor Story signing, but it's also worrisome they are setting the table to be cheap with Xander Bogaerts. Hopefully Bogaerts staying at shortstop and Story moving to second means I'm wrong to let my mind wander down that path.||1||78-84|
|This will be one of the most entertaining teams to watch in 2022. Power. High-upside rotation. Awful defense. Possibly leaky bullpen.||1||87-75|
|So much attention will be elsewhere, but let's not ignore Joe Maddon has a strong back-end of the bullpen now with Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup and Mike Mayers setting up for Raisel Iglesias (and Archie Bradley is capable of joining the fray).||5||73-89|
|Holding out hope that the Fernando Tatis, Jr. injuries to this point have just been a freaky fluke and we'll soon be done with them. Hope. Remember? It's good.||3||89-73|
|Getting the best they can on a run prevention basis has been a calling card of this team, but, man, that pitching staff is worrisome right now.||4||93-69|
|The Carlos Correa deal was shocking. They'll hit the ball. Can they pitch, though?||2||78-84|
|Eugenio Suarez hit 49 homers in 2019. He's still just 30 years old. There's plenty left in the tank there.||2||90-72|
|Jose Ramirez's ridiculously team-friendly deal has a club option for $13 million next season. He's worth more than double that. If the Guardians fall out of the race, get ready for rumors overload here.||2||92-70|
|Jon Gray pitched better in Coors Field than on the road last year, but I'm of the mind that Coors Field messes with player performance no matter where they are. I'm pretty intrigued to see how things go with Gray having a new home.||--||68-94|
|This is one of the must-watch teams. It's fully in "fun upstart" territory, All-Fun Team superstar Javier Baez has been added, wunderkind slugger Spencer Torkelson will debut early and Miguel Cabrera is only 13 hits from 3,000. It's been a minute since anyone said this, but the Tigers are must-see TV.||1||66-96|
|There's certainly a route to being a contender here with this team, but an awful lot has to go pretty perfectly.||2||69-93|
|Catch the Seiya Suzuki fever!||2||74-88|
|Couldn't possibly love the Zack Greinke reunion more. Hopefully he has a good year.||3||65-97|
|Such a weird offseason that saw them unloading and then adding. In the end, kudos to them for the Hunter Greene promotion.||2||62-100|
|Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, and Sean Manaea are gone. Frankie Montas is slated to start Opening Day and could wave goodbye at the trade deadline.||3||60-102|
|I was about to say something like "Juan Soto deserves better," but he just won the World Series in 2019. He'll live.||1||55-107|
|Introducing the new Blake Street Bombers: Kris Bryant, Randal Grichuk, C.J. Cron and Ryan McMahon.||--||68-94|
|There's plenty of focus elsewhere (Cedric Mullins, Adley Rutschman, etc.), but Ryan Mountcastle hit 33 homers at age 24 last season.||--||83-79|
|I love the Ketel Marte extension. He's a centerpiece for the rebuild. How long will it take, though?||--||74-88|
|Remember how the players wanted to fight against service-time manipulation here in the new CBA? Watch what happens with Oneil Cruz this season, just in case anyone was under the misconception the players won anything in this specific battle.||--||62-100|