Baseball is back, Opening Day is on the horizon, and with that comes another time-honored tradition: guessing which teams will dominate their divisions, weeks before a single regular-season pitch is thrown.
When we last met, the Braves were crowned champs, the Giants shocked the world with a 107-win season and the Mariners took the American League Wild Card race right down to the wire, hinting that they are nearing completion after a long rebuild.
Though Spring Training is almost underway, there’s a lot more work to be done. Star free agents such as Freddie Freeman and Carlos Correa need to find homes. Dozens of viable free agents remain on the market. Players have a finite amount of time to shake off the rust after a long layoff and prepare for an April 7 Opening Day.
The first installment of the 2022 Power Rankings reflects some of what happened in 2021, with a few predictions for ’22.
Power Rankings Top 5
The Dodgers landed where they usually do when we put out our first unscientific, preseason rankings of the year -- No. 1, based on their never-ending depth and success in the prior season. The Dodgers lost key players to free agency, including Corey Seager and Max Scherzer, but Trea Turner moving back to his natural position at shortstop should help solidify the infield situation. The Dodgers could use some starting pitching help, and they partly addressed that by reportedly re-signing one of their own, Clayton Kershaw, to a one-year deal.
2. White Sox
When the biggest question surrounding a team is, “Will this be the year they win the World Series?” it’s easy to understand how the White Sox landed so high in the first Power Rankings of the year. The Sox do have questions to address: Who will play right field and second base? Should they add more pitching? But with most of the ’21 playoff team returning, and a solid rotation that starts with Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Lance Lynn, the Sox look to be in good position to nab another AL Central title with ease.
The Rays are coming off the only 100-win season in their history, and, unsurprisingly, they’ll largely rely on a young, unproven group of pitchers to piece together another campaign. Ryan Yarbrough and Josh Fleming are set to return, with Yonny Chirinos and Tommy Romero hoping to help at some point. But there are others to keep an eye on: Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz, Drew Rasmussen and Luis Patiño. This group is long on talent but short on experience, the latter of which could change in ’22.
The Yankees have two main questions they need to answer in the short-term: Who will play shortstop? Do they have enough pitching? Their bullpen is considered a strength, but they could use at least one more starter. For now their rotation would consist of Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Domingo Germán. Of the group, Severino is seemingly the most vulnerable, having made just seven Major League appearances since he signed a four-year contract in spring 2019.
The Mets were among the most active teams in the free-agent market before the lockout began, and it’s unclear whether they’ll continue to add to a roster that already looks deep enough to make a push in the National League East. Manager Buck Showalter is on a long list of “new” Mets that includes Max Scherzer, outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha, and infielder Eduardo Escobar. The Mets would like to add another starting pitcher and a lefty reliever; the only question that remains is how much more they’re willing to spend.
The rest of the field of 30:
Voters: Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince, Paul Casella, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, David Venn, Brett Blueweiss