MLB preseason Power Rankings: Incomplete hot stove season leads to uncertainty

Easy is always a relative term, especially when we get into the "easier" and "easiest" variations. 

Applying this logic to the Official Power Rankings, putting the teams in subjective order 1-30 is never easy. There are frankly some nights I flip two teams back and forth upwards of a dozen times. Sometimes it'll be a handful of teams I keep reordering over and over until I have to put my foot down -- yes, directed at myself -- and say I have to leave something. 

Again, it's not easy and I often end up kicking myself just a few hours later about some team's ranking. 

I say this because the first entry of the season should be the easiest. Not easy, but the easiest. 

The rankings are always subjective, but when there's a body of work I have to weigh against my personal opinions, it's a lot harder to balance. When there's no 2018 body of work, I'm all subjective. I usually end up changing my mind before the start of the season, but for the most part, we already know how the teams are going to look. 

Sure, there might be a 2016 Dexter Fowler late signing (of course, I already had the Cubs No. 1 two years ago). Kyle Lohse once signed with the Brewers in late March. There was the time Kendrys Morales went into the regular season without a job. 

Right now, though? Get outta here. We don't need to rehash all the big-name free agents, much less the lesser-name players who could perfectly fill a hole on a fringe contender. There are loads of difference-making type players still sitting on the free agent market. The free-agent tracker looks like it's supposed to in about mid-December

What can we do here? We have no choice but to rank based upon what we have. The free agents right now are irrelevant. I have to have faith that anyone who wants to down the road criticize these rankings pays attention to the timestamp. I don't know where J.D. Martinez or Jake Arrieta or Mike Moustakas or any other unsigned free agent is going to end up. At least we've seen some movement lately between the Yu Darvish and Eric Hosmer signings, but this is still an incomplete offseason. 

It's entirely possible between now and my late-March power rankings that several teams could make huge leaps without playing a game. That hasn't happened before, but it's a different climate right now. 

I'll be back to update the rankings the Monday before the regular season begins. Hopefully we'll have a bit more clarity by then. In the meantime, you can yell at me via email ( or Twitter (@MattSnyderCBS). As always, if we disagree it obviously means that one of us is biased and/or stupid and it isn't me. 

Biggest Movers
18 Giants
13 Royals
1 Astros I've got a big six here where I feel like you could make arguments for any of the six (with number seven rounding out my obvious best teams). We'll give the champs the nod based upon getting a full season from Justin Verlander, my confidence in their front office data people bringing out more from Gerrit Cole, a full season of health for Carlos Correa and even more growth from Alex Bregman. Yes, I'm talking about the real possibility that the 101-game winning World Series champions will be better. 20-0
2 Yankees Do they really want to go with rookies Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres at third and second, respectively? If not Torres at second, it would be Ronald Torreyes. It probably doesn't even matter. The offense and bullpen could both be scary-good. 60-0
3 Dodgers Great team and obviously a World Series contender, hence the high rank. They'll be back in the playoffs, but ... Uh oh. Here it comes. Is their rotation really *that* trustworthy? The best pitcher in the world is still that, but he's had back problems the last two seasons. Rich Hill is 38 this year, has the blister history and hasn't topped 136 innings since 2007. Alex Wood wasn't very good in the second half and he's had his share of arm issues. Hyun-Jin Ryu has had plenty of injury issues. Julio Urias is coming off shoulder surgery. Kenta Maeda looked more suited to relief duty last year. Then we're onto the prospects, like Walker Buehler. Great talent and depth, but question marks abound. 10-0
4 Cubs Nearly everything that could have reasonably gone wrong pre-All-Star break last season did. The Cubs won 92 games and got to the NLCS. Now they look better. They do need to figure out who to hit leadoff and bullpen will have to answer plenty of questions, but overall this is an incredibly strong team with a good shot to take its second World Series in three seasons. 20-0
5 Nationals The bullpen issue should be solved while the rotation and lineup are in great shape (welcome back, Adam Eaton!). Really would've liked to see an upgrade at catcher. Still, legitimate World Series contender again. They just have to find a way to get past the divisional round. 10-0
6 Indians Really feels like last year was supposed to be their year, but there's enough here to get back to the World Series, this time winning it all. 50-0
7 Red Sox The Red Sox were 14th in the AL in slugging and 15th (that's last, guys) in home runs last year. The offense doesn't look substantially different (though a full season of Rafael Devers could alleviate some concern). If only they could sign a free agent with power to help ... (MESSAGE SUBJECT TO CHANGE!) 20-0
8 Angels There's good talent in the stable of starters. They just need some luck with health and growth throughout. The upside is heading to the playoffs with a very good rotation (something like Shohei Ohtani, Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs). The downside is ugly, though. I really like the positional starters, at least for this coming season (after this, age really starts to become a factor in several spots). 50-0
9 Diamondbacks Pitchers are generally better at home than on the road. Last year, MLB pitchers had a 4.13 home ERA versus a 4.60 road ERA. The Diamondbacks were actually better on the road (3.55) than at home (3.79) and now they are putting in a humidor for the baseballs. Buy stock in D-Backs pitchers, pronto. 20-0
10 Cardinals Their closing situation seems like the biggest issue (though the rotation could stand to be a bit more sturdy), but that's something that is often solved in season. Gotta love the upside in a Marcell Ozuna-Tommy Pham-Dexter Fowler outfield. 20-0
11 Giants They were probably already going to get better health and production from the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and now they've added Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. The back-end of the rotation is likely bad while the bullpen looks shaky, but there are reasons for optimism here. 180-0
12 Mariners Time is running low on Nelson Cruz (37 years old), Robinson Cano (35) and Felix Hernandez (31 with over 2,500 innings on his right arm). Now or never with this group breaking the playoff drought? 60-0
13 Brewers I'm really excited for the offense here, but that Jimmy Nelson injury remains a crushing blow to the rotation. Sure, there are wild cards in Jhoulys Chacin, Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley and Junior Guerra behind Chase Anderson and Zach Davies, but they need a lot of things to go right with that questionable group in order to compete with the Cubs in the Central. Wild Card is more likely. 20-0
14 Rockies The Rockies hit .248/.312/.390 away from Coors Field last year. It's difficult to wrap your head around this issue when knowing they led the NL in runs, but they actually need to hit better. Remember, everything is relative. 40-0
15 Blue Jays The 2015 Blue Jays led the AL in runs scored. The 2017 Jays were last in the AL in runs. The lineup is a bit reworked, but is it substantially better? I'm not sure there. I like the rotation, though. --0-0
16 Twins I love the position players and I'm fully on board with this being Byron Buxton's offensive breakout season, but it's hard to trust this rotation as it currently stands, especially with the Ervin Santana injury. 70-0
17 Mets This is probably the sweet spot of respecting the talent in the rotation while acknowledging the injury pratfalls. If Michael Conforto can return to form once he's back, the offense has good potential. 70-0
18 Rangers Cole Hamels will be 34 this season. He had a 4.20 ERA (112 ERA+) last season with a 1.20 WHIP. He figures to be worse this season. He also figures to be the Rangers' best pitcher. 10-0
19 Athletics They need a lot to go right, but I feel like there's sneaky sleeper potential here. We know about Khris Davis' power, but Matt Olson and Matt Chapman also add strong punch. I like a Stephen Piscotty bounce back now that he's with his family and there's good, young talent in the rotation. 10-0
20 Rays Swapping out Corey Dickerson for C.J. Cron in the starting lineup earned them a two-spot demotion. And they couldn't get more back for Jake Odorizzi? Terrible. 40-0
21 Phillies Here's my NL sneaky sleeper. Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera and an Aaron Altherr/Nick Williams were all already good and underrated. Now throw in Carlos Santana, Rhys Hoskins proving last year was legit with Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford playing up to their talent and there's something brewing. They could definitely use a veteran starter via free agency to stabilize the rotation, though. 70-0
22 Pirates Windows of contention close. It happens to all teams, even the mega-market Yankees. It's just the reality of sports. It has to be a bitter pill to swallow for Pirates fans, though, that the Andrew McCutchen era never included even an NLCS visit. This team isn't going to erase any of those negative vibes, either. --0-0
23 Reds The younger nucleus is starting to take shape while Joey Votto is still an offensive force on his own. The problem is the top three teams in the division aren't going anywhere and don't appear to be moving any time soon. This is obvious to die-hards, but a heads-up to casual fans: Try to watch Luis Castillo pitch this season. He's fun. 30-0
24 Braves Sign Mike Moustakas and make Johan Camargo the utility backup already, Braves. Jeez. He's sitting right there! I'll balance the complaint with a positive that I'm just as excited as Braves fans for the arrival of Ronald Acuna. Dude looks like a beast. 10-0
25 Padres Clayton Richard is a fine human being and hails from the great state of Indiana, much like myself. He's also the Padres' No. 1 starter heading into 2018. That kind of sums up nicely why I can't rank the Padres any higher. I'm glad they signed a big-name free agent, though. That's always good for baseball to see a small-market team pull that off. The farm system is strong, too, but we're only ranking the Padres for 2018. 20-0
26 Orioles Absent a shocking first half performance from the very flawed rotation, this isn't a contender and will instead be a seller in July. Free agents after the season? Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach. The team could get bad enough that Buck Showalter departs after the season, too. 2018 will mark the end of an era in Baltimore. 70-0
27 Royals Two pennants and one World Series title from a wonderfully-likable nucleus. Flags fly forever. See the Tigers comment for the alternative, Royals fans. 130-0
28 White Sox Not just yet, but they're coming. 10-0
29 Tigers Had the 2012 Tigers been able to get the job done in the World Series, this rebuild would be much easier to bear for Tigers fans. It'll probably take a while, too. 10-0
30 Marlins "The more things change ... " "Meet the new boss ... " What a joke. 90-0
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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