The Senior Class: NL Power Rankings – Week 0.

Throughout the year, I’ll be separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings won’t be dependent on record alone – despite my current NL leader – and will factor in such aspects as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. Normally too, I shall write in-depth about the fares of 3-5 teams per week; given how it’s Opening Week however, over today and tomorrow I’ll briefly hit upon every team before they’ve played a game. I’ll begin with my NL rankings.

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (2-0) → PECOTA loves them, they dominated the Diamondbacks in Australia, and will soon have back key cogs Zack Greinke and Matt Kemp – it’s not a bad time to be a Dodger fan. Clayton Kershaw’s balky back has landed him on the DL, though the move right now is considered to be more a precautionary measure than anything; in the meantime, L.A. can roll out Hyun-Jin Ryu, the aforementioned Greinke, Dan Haren, and Paul Maholm during the first week of games (in which they’ll face intradivision foes San Diego and San Francisco). With Josh Beckett and Chad Billinglsey soon returning too, and top prospect Zach Lee on the way, Don Mattingly’s squad boasts plenty enough starting pitching depth to cover for Kershaw for a short while. 
  2. St. Louis Cardinals →  Speaking of depth… In Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez, St. Louis might just have two of their most talented starters in 8th and 9th inning roles, while their Triple-A Memphis outfielders – Oscar Taveras, Stephen Piscotty, and Randal Grichuk – would be starting in the majors for many other squads. Having retooled their roster over the winter, the Cards had just about a perfect Spring Training in assimilating their new pieces. With no injuries thus far, the Redbirds seem primed to make another World Series run
  3. Washington Nationals → Sure, last year was a tremendous disappointment, but #Natitude is back for 2014. Skipper Davey Johnson is gone, replaced by the regimented Matt Williams, who will bring a new focus to a talented roster. The 21-year-old Bryce Harper has been widely tipped to win the NL MVP award, but Washington’s biggest strength will be their pitching; new addition Doug Fister (once he overcomes his lat strain) will join Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann in forming a formidable front four which should be the envy of the Senior Circuit. With the NL East flailing, the Nats should stroll to the division title.
  4. Atlanta Braves  There is a huge divide between numbers 3 and 4 in these ranks; the top 3 are clearly elite, whereas the group below all have obvious flaws. Perhaps only the Texas Rangers had a worse spring than Atlanta in terms of injuries; rotation members Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen are both headed for their second Tommy John surgeries, and staff anchor Mike Minor will begin the season on the 15-day DL. The Braves added Ervin Santana though, and with the same offense – albeit a rather more expensive incarnation thanks to their extension spree – that led them to 98 wins last year, and aside from Washington, a horribly weak division, Atlanta should be okay at least. 
  5. Cincinnati Reds → The great unknown Billy Hamilton will replace the on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo atop a lineup that has suddenly gone stale (Ryan Ludwick looks to be the 5 hitter behind Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, which says it all). With a surprisingly weak lineup then, the Reds’ rotation will be key in pushing them to a third straight playoff berth; With Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Mat Latos in place already, Tony Cingrani will step into a full-time slot after riding his fastball to small sample size success last year, and the healthy return of Johnny Cueto should further be a boon to Cincinnati’s chances. Get well soon Aroldis!
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates → After finally ending their postseason drought, the Pirates did pretty much nothing in their push to start a playoff streak. A.J. Burnett left under curious circumstances and the Edinson Volquez transformation project seems to have failed, meaning the Bucco’s will be largely dependent on Geritt Cole reproducing the success of his rookie year, and Francisco Liriano continuing his resurgence. With Gregory Polanco on the way, Pittsburgh should have a more than serviceable offense (and a ludicrously good outfield), but it will be the call-up of Jameson Taillon which perhaps shapes their season most.
  7. San Diego Padres  Can there be a four-way tie between the remaining four NL West clubs? No you say? Ah. Well, the Padres have a team full of breakout candidates on offense (a group highlighted by Everth Cabrera, Yonder Alonso, and Jedd Gyorko), a seemingly solid pitching group, and a talented group of impact youngsters on the way to Petco Park, so they can head the pack chasing Los Angeles. If Tyson Ross is for real, or Chase Headley returns to his 2012 form, they might just challenge for a Wild-Card spot.
  8. San Francisco Giants → Perhaps I’m too down on the Giants, it is an even-numbered year after all. Led by Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and a newly-minted Hunter Pence, their offense should be fine; their pitching though… I’m not so sure. With Matt Cain’s first-half struggles putting his status in question, Madison Bumgarner must now be considered the ace of the staff. Behind that pair however, there’s really very little – Tim Lincecum certainly isn’t TIM LINCECUM any more, and the pixie dust which fueled Ryan Vogelsong‘s magical stretch has long run out. I’m betting GM Brian Sabean wouldn’t have parted with Zach Wheeler for a two-month rental of Carlos Beltran in hindsight.
  9. Arizona Diamondbacks (0-2)   I apparently always detest Kevin Towers’ managerial moves – that Mark Trumbo did this in the Australia series provided me with plenty of opportunity to smirk at his roster construction. Paul Goldschmidt alone will give the D’Backs offense some credibility, but after losing Patrick Corbin for the year to TJ surgery, Arizona has some real pitching issues; Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, and Wade Miley are all no. 4 types, while the freshly signed innings-eater Bronson Arroyo is already hurt. If the Diamondbacks are going to reach the top of the 76-86 win spectrum I’m assigning to this entire NL West group, they’re going to need Archie Bradley to have a Jose Fernandez-like impact.
  10. Colorado Rockies   Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are healthy, their pitching still stinks. Move along, nothing to see here. That is, unless Nolan Arenado becomes the stud hitter equivalent to his awesome defensive skill, or Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler arrive and dominate. Until then, as you were.
  11. Milwaukee Brewers  With Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Jean Segura leading the way on offense, and a solid group of middling starters, the Brew Crew aren’t going to be bad. But considering how their biggest winter acquisition Matt Garza has pitched like hot garbage at times during spring, and Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds will be making up their first base platoon for the year, Milwaukee likely won’t be making any waves in the stern NL Central either. Like last year, if injuries (or suspension) take away Braun – or Gomez now, considering his 2013 8.9 WAR –  without much in the way of depth on the farm, things could go south in a hurry. 
  12. Miami Marlins   I can hear the naysayers already: ‘12th! They lost 100 games last year!’ Admittedly, no one is buying the Marlins’ assertion that the presence of either Rafael Furcal or Garrett Jones will force anyone to pitch to Giancarlo Stanton, but Miami nonetheless has some nice young pieces in place ready to show out this year. Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick should boost the offense, while 97mph-throwing portsider Andrew Heaney could join Cy Young contender Jose Fernandez, Nate Eovaldi, and Jacob Turner in forming a sneaky-scary rotation (backed by a cavernous home park). Jeffrey Loria may still be despicable, but his rapid promotion policy makes for drastic change; in 2014’s NL East, his fledgling squad might stay relevant longer than a lot would think.
  13. New York Mets  Despite what Jonah Keri coined the “Never-ending Wilpon Financial Quagmire of Despair,” the Mets added Curtis Granderson and Chris Young over the offseason in order to shore up the previously horrific outfield. The signing of above-average innings-eater B.F. Bartolo Colon and his steady diet of fastballs won’t hurt either, but rather reflects the current state of the Mets; the club is very much in a holding pattern of mediocrity until Matt Harvey returns and Noah Syndergaard is called up, and unable to really spend until the Wilpons’ money woes are exorcised. Unless Zach Wheeler is pitching, you’re likely not watching.
  14. Philadelphia Phillies → AMMMAAAAARRRRROOOO! Despite the water being around his waist, Philadelphia’s GM remained blissfully unaware of the sinking ship he’s captaining; with little in the way of young talent, he refused to start the rebuild project by trading either Cliff Lee (who will retire when his contract is up) or Cole Hamels (who is now hurt) over the winter, and instead brought in Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett to join Ryan Howard and the 30+ gang. In an early start to a season of inevitable ugliness, the Phillies were just dreadful during Spring Training, with veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins markedly making himself comfortable in Ryne Sandberg’s doghouse. Buckle up Philadelphia fans, this situation could get very bumpy, very quickly.
  15. Chicago Cubs → Javier Baez looked like the best player on the Cubs during Spring Training; unfortunately, he won’t be appearing at Wrigley Field until mid-summer. Chicago have a ton of position player prospects (and money) for the future, but in the present they’re merely fodder to the rest of the NL Central. What new manager Rick Renteria can salvage from Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo will be a storyline worth watching though.


  1. Pingback: The Designated 15: AL Power Rankings – Week 1. « The Dugout Perspective
  2. Pingback: Recognize (Hyun-jin) Ryu. « The Dugout Perspective
  3. Pingback: The Senior Class: NL Power Rankings – Week 2. « The Dugout Perspective

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