I understand, this a little late, as Opening Day was Thursday, and the Red Sox didn’t look so great Thursday even though they are a part of this Top 6. But I figured I’d finish this series since there’s only one article left.
Welcome to the final article of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings. This season, you could argue the Super Seven that was discussed a few years back still exists, except with different teams. The Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees have remained elite, and despite declines by the Nationals, Indians, and Dodgers (probably) , new powerhouses in this league have arised. The Braves should be regular contenders now, the Cardinals could make a run with 1B Paul Goldschmidt here for the long run, and the Phillies should be competitive with Bryce Harper. But Philadelphia isn’t quite on the level of these other teams. So unless the Dodgers do stay elite after all, I think the Super Seven will become a Super Six. I will be discussing those six today and pointing out the Achilles Heel of each team. Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):
2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:
Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel
Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?
Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?
Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?
Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?
I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!
6. St. Louis Cardinals
The Case for the Cardinals
The Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, sure. But the veterans they kept around from their last playoff run, like Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina, are still reliable contributors. They have also boosted the team with younger talent, including SP Jack Flaherty, OFs Harrison Bader and UT Jose Martinez, and SS Paul DeJong. After adding star in Goldy, the Cardinals have the tools they need for contention. But how far can they go in such a tough division? They will have to get past their division rivals that are also contending, the Cubs and Brewers.
The Achilles Heel
The Cards’ rotation looks alright and its young core will keep the rotation elite for a long time. But right now they lack an ace. I don’t believe they can be a World Series contender without one. Whether they need a trade to find an ace or someone steps up as time passes, this could hold them back from serious contention and should be priority #1 for GM Steve Keim. Maybe Martinez could be a good trade piece now that 1B Paul Goldschmidt is on board.
Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in NL Central
5. Boston Red Sox
The Case for the Red Sox
The defending World Series champions had a relatively quiet off-season. They did retain most of the team from 2018 that won 108 games. But the bullpen has been their biggest issue, even with Craig Kimbrel. Without Craig Kimbrel, there is even more pressure on the rotation to succeed. This is especially true regarding Chris Sale and David Price. After Sale’s extension, both will be expected to to shine every start in order to be worth the money. Each start costs about $1 million dollars. Regardless of this pressure, the Red Sox should at least secure a Wild Card spot if they can’t beat out the Yankees in the AL East. They are still one of several powerhouses in the league.
The Achilles Heel
With Craig Kimbrel on the way out, the closer role is up for grabs. But if you look at the active pitchers on the roster, it’s hard to imagine any of them as a consistent closer. If the Red Sox wanted to repeat, they would’ve invested more in this bullpen rather than focusing so much on the rotation. They need to add a closer unless Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, or someone else steps up soon.
Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in AL East
4. Atlanta Braves
The Case for the Braves
The Braves’ rebuild began to pay off last season as their younger players broke through. This off-season seemed quiet, but they filled a gaping hole at third by adding Josh Donaldson. They also brought back OF Nick Markakis, and they have reportedly been targeting a reunion with CL Craig Kimbrel. This small series of moves could make a big difference in Atlanta. These moves, alongside development of OF Ronald Acuna Jr. and 2B Ozzie Albies among other should transform the Braves from solely a division contender into a World Series contender. The Braves are my World Series winner this year. I expect 1B Freddie Freeman, Albies, Donaldson, and others to combine to make for one of the best lineups in the league.
The Achilles Heel
Health is definitely a concern, especially considering the fact that Atlanta will start the 2019 season with two starting pitchers on the IL. Donaldson is also injury prone, and if he goes down, Johan Camargo is the next best option at third base. I don’t trust Camargo as a starter. If the team stays healthy in the long run, they could be serious contenders. Otherwise, they could be in a bit of trouble.
Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st in NL East
3. Chicago Cubs
The Case for the Cubs
The Cubs may have been quiet this off-season, but a healthy Yu Darvish will boost the rotation, the bullpen has plenty of depth despite questions at closer, and the lineup is looking pretty solid. Their decision to move Javier Baez to shortstop full time and put Ben Zobrist at second is very smart, as SS Addison Russell was inconsistent and had some character issues. The Cubs have dominated in the National League ever since their World Series winning year in 2016, but with a health a concern and the division getting tougher, will the Cubs be able to keep up the good work?
The Achilles Heel
The Cubs were unable to do much this off-season, and they could have used another outfielder. LF Kyle Schwarber and RF Jason Heyward are viable starters, but they are very streaky and inconsistent. Albert Almora Jr. is the best option in center field. Chicago should have added another center fielder to start over Almora some days and fill in for Heyward and Schwarber during slumps.
Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in NL Central
2. New York Yankees
The Case for the Yankees
After pairing new slugger Aaron Judge with Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees underperformed in 2018. Yes, they made the playoffs and won 100 games. But they were overshadowed and eliminated by their bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox. This year, the Red Sox will be without their star closer, while the Yankees fixed up a problematic rotation and built one of the most stacked bullpens in history. This will allow the Yankees to propel past the Red Sox and win the AL East. But in Boston and New York, it’s all about championships, and the Yankees aren’t will have to work for a World Series victory, even with the stacked roster.
The Achilles Heel
The Yanks have some nice pieces in their infield. But if Troy Tulowitzki and Greg Bird fail to stay healthy, they are left with D.J. LeMahieu as their best infielder. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have not reached their prime yet, and Luke Voit must still prove that 2018 was not a fluke. So I’m a bit concerned in terms of infield depth for the Yankees.
Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in AL East
1. Houston Astros
The Case for the Astros
The Astros are two years removed from their World Series victory, a result of a 5-year rebuild that made the Astros one of the MLB’s worst for a good 2-3 year span. Now, the Astros are still one of the league’s elite teams, but they lost some of their starting rotation depth this off-season, forcing two starter-turned-relievers back into the rotation. They did bring in OF Michael Brantley and UT Aledmys Diaz, filling the hole UT Marwin Gonzalez left. Though Houston took a slight step back this off-season, I still have them as my AL West winners and the team with the best regular season record. Considering the young core they have put together in the last several years, they should be elite for a long, long, time now.
The Achilles Heel
Evan Gattis is no longer on the team, which means Tyler White must be trusted as Houston’s regular DH. This could be a prove-it situation for White, but if White struggles, what then? They could bring Gattis back, or they could just put Diaz back there. They could even call up Kyle Tucker to play DH. This one’s an easy fix, just something to keep an eye on.
Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL West
That’s all for this year’s preseason MLB power rankings. Come back at the end of April for my first 2019 set of monthly power rankings.