Power Rankings

Way Too Early 2021 MLB Power Rankings

We’ve officially seen the end of the strangest season in MLB history, with the Los Angeles Dodgers finally being crowned champions after a 60 game season and an expanded playoff that somehow still resulted in likely the best team from each league meeting up in the World Series and the best team in baseball taking the crown. With 2020 in the books, we’ve taken the liberty of looking ahead to next season far too soon (forgive us, for we have nothing else to do once the World Series ends). There are still many factors that will have massive impacts on the 2021 season up in the air, but we’re attempting to predict as many of them as we can to give you our best guess of how MLB’s 30 teams will shape up come late March of 2021.

Teams are ranked based on which team would be expected to win in a head to head match up – so in an ideal world, each team would come out ahead of every team below it in an “ideal series” (sufficiently long to demonstrate a team’s true talent and without complications such as injuries). To account for some of the inaccuracies that inevitably arise with predicting next season before many free agent signings and trades that will take place in the coming winter, we’ve also grouped the teams into tiers that generally reflect their current standing as they look towards next season. Without further ado, here’s our best guess at way too early power rankings for the upcoming MLB season.

Tier 1: The Dodgers

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

World. Series. Champs. The Los Angeles Dodgers have put together one of the best teams in baseball history, and their core doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. With only Blake Treinen, Joc Pederson, Kiké Hernandez, and Justin Turner hitting free agency, the Dodgers are well-positioned to run it back next year, and they remain in a tier of their own. -Adam Koplik

Tier 2: The Top Title Contenders

2. Tampa Bay Rays

Despite falling just short of the ultimate goal, the Rays certainly don’t appear to be done, as one of the best teams in the league going forward into 2021. The Rays did everything well in 2020, and with no major pieces hitting free agency, expect them to be competitive again next year. Normally, a team like this would be expected to go after a bat this winter, but the Rays have a pretty good one already set to arrive next year in top prospect SS Wander Franco. Perhaps Tampa Bay will indeed pursue some additional pop in their lineup, but with a historically fiscally conservative franchise, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Either way, the Rays project as a top 5 team in 2021, and could certainly make another deep run into the postseason. -Joey Bohley

3. New York Yankees

The New York Yankees season came to a crushing end after Mike Brosseau’s solo shot in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the ALDS continued their now 11-year World Series drought. It was an up-and-down short season for the Yanks, who couldn’t find their footing as they fought through numerous injuries all year (sound familiar?). The Yankees are still loaded, in case you forgot, but one burning question will mark their offseason: how will they fill out their roster following the departures of MVP-candidate DJ LeMahieu and 3/5 of their starting rotation to free agency? -Adam Koplik

4. San Diego Padres

Slam. Diego. The Padres were an electric factory in 2020. Fernando Tatis Jr. is quite possibly the new face of the game. A rotation fronted by Dinelson Lamet, Mike Clevinger, and Zach Davies will be as tough as any in baseball. Not to mention they still have #3 overall prospect McKenzie Gore, who can break through and make that rotation absolutely unfair as early as Opening Day in 2021. The Padres are finally the challenger for whom the Dodgers have been waiting for the top spot in the NL West. -Diego Franco-Carreno

5. Atlanta Braves

After an exceptional offensive season in 2020, the loss of Marcell Ozuna from the best 1-2-3 offensive combo in baseball seems to impact the Braves next season much more than it actually will. Dansby Swanson took a big step forward, Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies are still under contract for a long time, and the Braves have at least one more year of likely MVP Freddie Freeman, too. Mike Soroka will return next season, and along with Max Fried and Ian Anderson he makes up one of MLB’s best and youngest trios to top a rotation. The Braves will likely dip into free agency to solidify their roster around the edges, but they already threaten to deal damage in 2021 regardless. -Ryan Ruhde

Tier 3: The Next Big Threats

6. Chicago White Sox

This team missed winning the division crown by one game, then lost the first round in a nail-biter against the A’s. They have no crucial free agents, and their young core should continue to improve together. You’re looking at the likely favorites for next year’s AL Central, though their offense will need Jose Abreu to continue his resurgence in order to be the same juggernaut it was in 2020. -Michael Shopoff

7. Oakland Athletics

The A’s have a lot of good pieces moving forward into next year; they could have even gone much deeper in the postseason in 2020 had they not lost superstar third baseman Matt Chapman. Oakland is the favorite to win the AL West next year and possibly for several seasons beyond that as well. Depending on what they decide to do in the offseason, the A’s can certainly be in the discussion as one of the best teams in baseball. -Diego Franco-Carreno

8. Minnesota Twins

If Byron Buxton finally broke out this season for good, the improvement in production he provides in center field will only make the Twins an even bigger threat in the American League. They’re still not quite a complete title contender, and they’ll need to focus especially on reinforcing their pitching staff. The Twins have shown a willingness to spend, giving Josh Donaldson $92 million over 4 years last off-season. If they are willing to spend that kind of money on some pitching and Donaldson stays healthy to boost the lineup, they can bounce back next year and make a deep playoff run. -Diego Franco-Carreno

Tier 4: Still Holding On

9. Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Baseball Team ended the season red-hot, finishing as the four-seed in the AL. The streak ended their though, as they were swept in the Wild Card Series by the Yankees, capped off by a crushing Game 2 loss. Looking ahead, the Indians will continue to fight with the Twins and White Sox in the contentious AL Central, and the biggest question mark on the Cleveland offseason sits above the head of star shortstop Francisco Lindor, who owner Paul Dolan has told fans to “enjoy while you can”. -Adam Koplik

10. Houston Astros

The Astros had a textbook mixed bag season, pulling out a fourth straight ALCS appearance despite a losing record, losing Justin Verlander for 2021, and finding several young pitchers around whom they can build. George Springer‘s free agency will be one of the key factors determining whether this ranking goes up or down for 2021. -Michael Shopoff

11. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs notorious position player core was confounding in 2020, with Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo all seeing their offensive production fall off a cliff from prior years. The Cubs standing in 2021 will depend heavily on these three, as the Cubs fielded their best pitching staff since 2017 and Ian Happ and Jason Heyward showed hope as offensive depth moving forward. Perhaps yet another new hitting staffer can come up with a way to score runs in September that none of the other hitting experts figured out previously. -Ryan Ruhde

Tier 5: Hoping For More Expanded Playoffs

12. Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto (Buffalo) Blue Jays put together a surprising run, sneaking into the expanded playoffs as the AL’s eight-seed. A young offense featuring Teoscar Hernandez, Vladmir Guerrero Jr, and Bo Bichette paired with a solid rotation of veterans and young stud Nate Pearson to put together a pretty good year for the Blue Jays. As their core’s championship window opens, the Blue Jays could be big buyers in the offseason, where they’ll likely look to bolster a pitching staff that had the fifth most runs allowed in 2020. -Adam Koplik

13. Cincinnati Reds

It was an interesting year for the Reds in 2020. While they did make the playoffs thanks to a late-season surge, their offense was nonexistent as they were swept in the Wild Card round. The story of the Reds last year was their pitching staff, which was among the best in baseball. Trevor Bauer will be a massive loss to the 2021 squad, as most reports indicate he probably won’t be back in the Queen City next year. Even with the lost of Bauer, the rotation is still pretty formidable. Expect the Reds to be in the market for another bat this offseason, as their success next year will rely on their offense stepping up to the plate more. -Joey Bohley

14. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis made the playoffs despite the weakest offense this side of the Pirates. With Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright pondering retirement, the last of the old guard may move on – but they still have one more year before they can move on from Dexter Fowler‘s contract. They’ll hope for the continued performance of youngsters to keep them on the upper end of the NL Central. -Michael Shopohff

Tier 6: In Need of Depth

15. Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers joined the Astros as MLB’s first sub-.500 playoff teams since the 1981 Royals in a season which also featured unique playoff rules. They face a decision on whether to pick up Ryan Braun‘s option, but otherwise return most of their team intact – good thing, because their minor league system has no apparent impact prospects for the near future. They certainly still have a shot to make it out ahead of an NL Central with no clear favorite, though. -Michael Shopoff

16. Washington Nationals

The 2019 World Series Champions had a pretty rough go of it in 2020. Injuries and a lack of offensive depth plagued the squad from wire to wire. While Juan Soto was impressive, the rest of the offense was disappointing. Perhaps most concerning was CF Victor Robles, who regressed both offensively and defensively compared to 2019. Washington has a number of veterans headed for free agency, so expect GM Mike Rizzo to be aggressive on the market this winter, especially in pursuit of an impact bat, such as George Springer, and perhaps a back-end rotation piece to compete with the likes of Erick Fedde, Joe Ross, and Austin Voth. Depending on how this offseason goes, I could see the Nationals final standings position ranging anywhere from first in the NL East to dead last. -Joey Bohley

17. Los Angeles Angels

The 2020 Angels were pretty mediocre in most ways. Luckily for Joe Maddon’s squad, the Halos will be returning two of the best offensive performers over the last decade in Anthony Rendon and Mike Trout, as well as some exciting hitting prospects, most notably Jo Adell and Jared Walsh. Both Dylan Bundy (2.0) and Andrew Heaney (1.4) had 1+ fWAR seasons for a pitching staff that was otherwise largely ineffective. Only two players from last year’s team will be hitting the open market this winter, Julio Teheran and Andrelton Simmons. The Angels could be an interesting team to watch in 2021, especially if they manage to acquire some pitching, but they still need quite a bit of depth to truly compete with their division rivals. -Joey Bohley

18. Philadelphia Phillies

2020 was another disappointing season for the Phillies as they missed the playoffs for the ninth straight season. This off-season, they’ll be one of many teams in a contentious free agent market for the departing JT Realmuto and Didi Gregorios, opening up two holes in the infield and the lineup. Additionally, the bullpen needs multiple upgrades after finishing last in the majors in ERA. The Phillies still have Bryce Harper to build around, but their building certainly needs to get more effective. -Connor O’Brien

19. New York Mets

The Mets have many of the same questions entering 2021 as they did this season: can they stay healthy and build a solid pitching staff around Jacob Degrom? The Mets rotation will likely look different next season with the return of Noah Syndergaard, and they also may be active in the free agent market after the arrival of Noah Syndergaard. It is certainly possible for the Mets to rise up the rankings to a playoff spot, but it will take a lot of things going right. -Jonah Keehn

Tier 7: On the Rise

20. Miami Marlins

The Marlins surprised everyone in 2020 by not just making the playoffs, but also winning a playoff series. Excitement in the fanbase is growing, as they have many young stars on the brink of breaking out on both sides of the ball. The key off-season moves will be to pick up Starling Marte’s contract and to add bullpen depth. This team is deeper than many realize, and as long as they can continue to develop their young talent, this Marlins team can contend every year. This is definitely true for 2021, although they might be a year or two away from being true World Series contenders. -Jonah Keehn

21. Seattle Mariners

With the emergence of an absolute stud in Kyle Lewis and defensive wizard Evan White, the Mariners quietly moved up the standings this season and seem to have a pretty good foundation moving forward into their future. With no significant losses moving into next year, we may see some more young studs such as #9 MLB prospect Jarred Kelenic make the leap into the majors and carry the Mariners up into MLB’s upper echelon. – Diego Franco-Carreno

22. San Francisco Giants

The Giants came down to the very last day of the season before they were eliminated from playoff contention. Gabe Kapler now has a year under his belt in San Fran so hopefully he doesn’t make some of the dumb decisions he did in his first year that likely cost his team several wins (it really wasn’t Trevor Gott’s fault). Mike Yastrzemski has emerged as a true leader and even one of the league’s better players. If this team can figure out their pitching situation and if Kapler can be just an average manager, then the Giants can certainly take a step forward next year. -Diego Franco-Carreno

Tier 8: In Need of Direction

23. Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks had some pretty lofty hopes for 2020, especially coming off a hot last half of 2019. They disappointed largely due to poor or underwhelming performances from the players who were supposed to lead the way. Madison Bumgarner was terrible, as was Robbie Ray before being traded, and the rest of the pitching staff is pretty average outside of rising star Zac Gallen. On the offensive side, Kole Calhoun pleasantly surprised by putting up 1.8 fWAR, but 2019 4th place MVP finisher Ketel Marte took a sizable step back. With no major pieces leaving due to free agency, 2021 is going to be the year for GM Mike Hazen to figure out how to approach the big league roster and their strategy for the next few years, as they do have four Top 100 prospects, all due to arrive in the majors by 2023. -Joey Bohley

24. Baltimore Orioles

Like several other teams that have spent recent years rebuilding, the Orioles began to graduate young talent to the Major Leagues in 2020 and saw it pay off, finishing better than many would have predicted and even remaining in the running for a playoff spot into the season’s last month. Ryan Mountcastle was one notable addition who made a large impact, and he will lead a charge of youth that looks to begin carrying the Orioles to the top of the AL East in the coming years. The Orioles still have Chris Davis under a massive contract for two years, but they’re also far more removed from the days of Chris Davis’s Orioles than many are ready to admit. -Ryan Ruhde

25. Boston Red Sox

Two years after a World Series championship, it was rock bottom this season for the Boston Red Sox. After trading Mookie Betts and getting under the luxury tax threshold, much of the rooting interest for fans this season was a part of the “Tank for Kumar” revolution. Nonetheless, the Red Sox still have a good core in Boston and could look to overhaul a starting rotation that starred Martin Perez this year but will notably return Chris Sale in 2021. – Adam Koplik

26. Colorado Rockies

The Rockies always seem to be a few pieces away. Who knows what those pieces really are, because they don’t seem to know in Colorado. If they can figure things out pitching-wise and maybe add another quality bat in the offseason, you may see the Rockies start crawling back up in the NL West, but their late season struggles demonstrated that this team is far from a contender. -Diego Franco-Carreno

27. Kansas City Royals

The most important development for the Royals in 2020 was the pitching staff of the future beginning to take place. After abysmal pitching caused some of the team’s worst seasons in 2018 and 2019, Brad Keller, Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, and Josh Staumont all demonstrated the ability to be solid pieces of a good pitching staff, and the Royals still have plenty of talent to come. Adalberto Mondesi remains a huge question mark after one of the most bizarre dichotomous seasons in recent memory, and the Royals would absolutely need more offense to contend, but apparently that’s exactly what the team is hoping for – as soon as next year. We’ll see if they’re really there yet (the answer is almost certainly no). -Ryan Ruhde

28. Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers surprised a lot of people by getting off to a hot start in 2020. However, our writers struggle to see much of an immediate future for this club. While some young, promising pieces are in place, such as SS Willi Castro and top pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, don’t expect a huge improvement out of the Tigers as soon as 2021. However, with Jordan Zimmermann’s big contract coming off the books as he enters free agency, expect Al Avila to start the spending phase of this rebuild, perhaps with some more veteran bats along the lines of what Jonathan Schoop and CJ Cron were in 2020. This team will not be great in 2021, but Tigers fans have a lot to be excited about moving forward, especially if free agency goes particularly well for the club. -Joey Bohley

Tier 9: The Bottom

29. Texas Rangers

Finishing last in the American League, and losing big-ticket acquisition Corey Kluber to a shoulder muscle tear after only one inning pitched were each huge blows to a Rangers team that hoped to end up in a much better position in 2020. They have a consensus bottom-tier minor league system, and missed out on a big revenue boost when the COVID pandemic shut down the opening of their new stadium. They should battle the Pirates for the basement spot throughout 2021. -Michael Shopoff

30. Pittsburgh Pirates

Tank season was in full effect this past season; Kumar Rocker will look nice in the old black and yellow. Ke’Bryan Hayes was a bright spot late in the season for Pittsburgh, but that’s really all that comes to mind. A 19 win season is not ideal in 60 games, and a possible Hayes rookie of the year campaign in his first full season next year is one of few things to look forward to for Pirates fans. -Diego Franco-Carreno

Ryan Ruhde

Cubs, Royals and general analysis writer. Emory University Psychology/Music Performance Major and Pre-Med, class of 2023. Find me on Twitter @ruhdolph

Michael Shopoff

Part-time writer, full-time dad. Unapologetic Astros fan. Please don’t do “Houston, we have a problem” - we can all do better!

Diego Franco-Carreno

@djfc22 on Twitter. Student at Boise State University c/o 2021. Math and baseball.

Joey Bohley

Joey is a junior at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, where he serves as the student-manager for the school's baseball team. Outside of baseball, his hobbies include reading, playing bass guitar, and eating pasta.

Adam Koplik

Hi, I’m Adam Koplik. I am entering my senior year in high school in upstate New York, and live and breath sports. Coincidentally, while I love watching, writing, and talking about sports, I am a deer in the headlights when I’m on a field. I am a die-hard Yankee fan, who loves the hate. However, Aaron Boone, Gary Sanchez, James Paxton, and Giancarlo Stanton hate is not tolerated. Baseball, and sports as a whole, mean so much to me. From the great moments I’ve witnessed in person, highlighted by the Didi Gregorius AL Wild Card home run, to the bonds baseball has created in my family and friends, I owe so much to the great sport. I understand that the sport has changed, and stats like WAR, wOBA, wRC+, and FIP, are understandably changing the game for the better. As a whole, I hope to pretty much give a different perspective in my writing, from a moderate view on analytics and traditional stats, while also being enjoyable. Hope you enjoy!

Jonah Keehn

Jonah is a senior at the University of Central Florida, studying sociology. Although he was raised as a Mets fan, most of his baseball memories involve the Marlins since he grew up in South Florida, giving them a special place in his heart. Jonah has been to Francisco Lindor's house, and can be followed on Twitter @JonahKeehn

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button
Close
Close