Free agency is pretty much all but wrapped up, and I’m sure the national media will continue to discount the juggernaut offense that Atlanta has built. Although the NL won’t have the DH in 2021, I think it’s a real possibility for the 2022 CBA negotiations. For now, Atlanta may take a step back in 2021. I think Atlanta’s rotation ranks among the best in baseball as well, but this is only taking the starting eight fielders (and possible DH) into account. I’ll do my best to put bias aside and give an arbitrary ranking of the lineups across the majors going into Spring Training.
10. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
This was honestly a really close call between Los Angeles, Washington, and St. Louis. I give the edge to the Angels because they have the best player in baseball. You can sub in any of those teams and I wouldn’t cry about it, I think Juan Soto is the frontrunner for the NL MVP and Trea Turner is one of my favorite players.
Anthony Rendon had a solid 2020, but the Angels can really solidify this spot if he plays like 2019 Anthony Rendon. Mike Trout laughably had a “down” year by his standards in 2020 with a .824 OPS, and he will continue to be the best player in baseball. Jo Adell is the x-factor, he has the potential to be elite. With Albert Pujols’ contract expiring after 2021, they could get one last ride out of him. Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani are question marks, but they have to be great if Mike Trout is going to finally get back to the postseason.
9. New York Mets
This may be a tad low, but the national media is doing a good enough job of hyping up the Mets for all of us. Franky Lindor was a great pickup, and I think James McCann and Jonathan Villar were sneaky good free agency signings. Personally, I really like Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto — they’re both very underrated. Pete Alonso has to get back to his 2019 form for the Mets to truly get back into the mix, but they have a solid lineup top to bottom. Their pitching is what makes them dangerous, but they have some really good pieces to form a top ten offense.
8. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays took a minor step back, but they still have weapons up and down their order. Willy Adames is a stud, and Randy Arozarena is a budding star. Francisco Mejia still has potential. I’m a really big Austin Meadows fan, and who doesn’t love Ji-Man Choi? I think Tampa will be back in contention in the American League, but losing Blake Snell will obviously make that much more difficult on this lineup to carry the Rays back to the Fall Classic.
7. San Diego Padres
This may be a bit low, but don’t take this as a knock on the Padres — they’re a fantastic team with an elite rotation. Fernando Tatis Jr & Manny Machado are great players, but Slam Diego traded away a lot of big offensive pieces to bolster their rotation. I think they still have enough with guys like Jake Cronenworth, Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, and Trent Grisham to get it done in the regular season and push the Dodgers.
6. Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto is one of the more improved team this offseason, but I think they were a top ten candidate before adding George Springer and Marcus Semien in Free Agency. Vladdy Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio are all awesome players. I think Danny Jansen can make a big leap in what looks to be his first full season in the majors. Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel were both great in limited action in 2020, so the Jays could be a dangerous team going into 2021. They have a pretty decent rotation, but their young guys on offense will have to make a big leap if they want to dethrone the Yankees and Rays.
5. Chicago White Sox
I absolutely love what the White Sox are building, and while I don’t think Tony La Russa is the right guy for the job, they are stacked top to bottom. Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson, and Yoan Moncada is one of the best hitting infields in baseball. I like Zack Collins’ potential as well. Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert look destined for stardom, and guys like Adam Eaton and Blake Rutherford can play nice complementary roles. Tim Anderson is one of my favorite players, and it would be awesome to see Chicago get back to the postseason.
4. Minnesota Twins
This was a close call between Chicago and Minnesota, but I have to give a slight edge to the Twins since they have actually put it on paper so far. While the White Sox have more potential, I think Minnesota is more dangerous right now. They get offensive production out of almost every guy on the entire squad, and Josh Donaldson should be back healthy this season. The ageless wonder Nelson Cruz is back, and I think Alex Kirilloff is going to be an MVP candidate in short order. I like Brent Rooker’s potential as well. Byron Buxton has to keep being 2020 Byron Buxton, but this is a fantastic team all over each position.
3. Atlanta Braves
I don’t think this is biased or unfair, and you could possibly argue Minnesota over Atlanta — but I think the Braves have improved this offseason. Losing Adam Duvall sucks, but without the DH — he’s replaceable. Subbing out Tyler Flowers for William Contreras and replacing Ender Inciarte with Cristian Pache could be dangerous, as both guys are serious NL Rookie of the Year candidates. The main thing for the Braves is staying consistent. Dansby led all shortstops in WAR in 2020, Marcel Ozuna had a career year, Freddie Freeman was the MVP, and Travis d’Arnaud was the steal of the offseason. I think Ronald Acuña Jr and Ozzie Albies will be better in 2021, so it’s going to be interesting to see who stays hot in a competitive NL East. My money is on the Braves to win their fourth straight NL East title.
2. New York Yankees
I think you could slot any of the teams from 2-5 and make a case, but the Yankees have a little too much firepower to move them from this spot. Now that DJ LeMahieu is back, surrounding him with a healthy lineup of Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Gio Urshela, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton is a lot of firepower. Clint Frazier could be an x-factor — if he finally carves out a role, I think he’s going to be a fantastic player.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
I mean we all knew this was coming, right? I’m not gonna sit here and harp on how great the Dodgers are, but I really like Will Smith, Keibert Ruiz, and Gavin Lux as breakout candidates. If Corey Seager plays like he did in the postseason in 2021 — watch out for his name to pop up in MVP discussions.