Power Rankings

2021 Opening Day MLB Power Rankings

The long wait for Major League Baseball in 2020 has made every baseball fan grateful for the following words: April 1st, MLB Opening Day, is upon us. With it comes the tradition of attempting to rank all 30 teams in Major League Baseball, no small feat – and also something that we’ll likely be pretty wrong about. Nevertheless, it’s fun to try, and try we did.

Rankings are based on votes from 36 of our writers. Next to each team’s ranking in parentheses are where we ranked them at the beginning of the off-season and how many spots they’ve moved up or down since then. Without further ado, here are our rankings, headlined by a team that won’t surprise anyone:

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (1, -)

In 2020, the Los Angeles Dodgers played at a 116-win pace. Now, with the 162-game season returning in 2021, they will get the chance to challenge the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners for the most wins in a single season. Coming off of their first World Series championship since 1988, the Dodgers are in prime position to run the table yet again in 2021. The acquisition of reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, among others, puts this team in the discussion for the best in the history of the franchise, and possibly the greatest in MLB history. – Arrick Joel

2. San Diego Padres (4, ↑2)

Following their elimination in the NLDS last October, the San Diego Padres got to work on addressing their greatest weak spot: starting pitching. The Padres made deals to add Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove to their rotation in 2021, surging into the conversation for World Series contenders. With the help of superstar hitters such as Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, San Diego may be just a few months away from their first title in franchise history. – Arrick Joel

3. New York Yankees (3, -)

As has been the case with the Yankees for a while now, health will be paramount to the team’s 2021 success. The offense carries over plenty of firepower once again, the bullpen remains loaded, and the rotation now features Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber to back up Gerrit Cole (now imagine for a moment hearing those words in 2018). The Yankees are the best team in the American League, and they might just mash their way into challenging the Dodgers as the best team in baseball. – Ryan Ruhde

4. Atlanta Braves (5, ↑1)

After falling one win short of a World Series appearance, the Braves brought in some rotation help by paying Charlie Morton the $15 million that Tampa Bay wouldn’t and handing embattled left-hander Drew Smyly a one-year, $11 million deal after a seeing big spike in velocity and strikeout rate during his abbreviated 2020 season. On offense, the team has gotten the proverbial band back together by signing Marcell Ozuna to the longest free agent contract in the Alex Anthopoulos era. The departure of Mark Melancon and Shane Greene leaves the bullpen a little thinner than it was in 2020, but if the new-and-improved rotation stays healthy, this should mostly be a nonissue. Expect Atlanta to be in a divisional dogfight with their deep-pocketed rivals from New York come September. – Holden Phillips

5. New York Mets (19, ↑14)

The Mets are seeking to bounce back from a poor 2020 behind a new star in Queens. Francisco Lindor will lead what should be one of the best offenses in baseball, without a hole 1-8 in the lineup. On the pitching side, deGrom will now have help from a bolstered rotation that includes Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker. Overall, the first season of the Steve Cohen era projects well, as the busy off-season has the Mets looking like a top-five team in baseball with real World Series aspirations. – Jonah Keehn

6. Chicago White Sox (6, -)

The White Sox finally have the rebuild in the rear-view mirror. The South Siders are legit contenders for the American League Pennant in 2021. While the recent news of Eloy Jimenez’s injury is devastating, the offense is still extremely deep with the likes of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu. The bullpen has the potential to be one of baseball’s best, and the rotation will be bolstered by the newly added workhorse Lance Lynn. – Andrew Horwath

7. Minnesota Twins (8, ↑1)

The Twins have an exciting offense going into 2021, led by the ageless Nelson Cruz, which should keep mashing home runs as they have recently. With the offseason addition of Andrelton Simmons, their defense will be much improved as well. With the rotation lead by Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda once again, this team should be able to win a ton of games in 2021. You’ll see a lot of people taking the White Sox to win this division, but don’t sleep on Minnesota; they can easily take the AL Central crown as well. – Diego Franco-Carreno

8. Tampa Bay Rays (2, ↓6)

We have the Rays ranked 8th, which seems a little high at a glance. They lost two elite starters over the winter, just saw Nick Anderson go down for months, and generally spent no money. Yet, they’re still the Rays. Their depth is laughably rich—I identified 50 MLB-caliber players in their organization. They’re going to deploy that in advantageous ways like they always do. And they’re going to get the most out of every pitcher they possibly can. It’s just what they do. They’ll struggle with a much tougher division this year, but the Rays are good. They’re always good. The question is whether they’ll clever their way into being great again. – Sean Huff

9. Toronto Blue Jays (12, ↑3)

The Blue Jays are an exciting young team that is overall just fantastic for baseball. With the offseason additions of George Springer and Marcus Semien, they’ve added another pair of big bats to an already impressive lineup. With a young core consisting of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Blue Jays will be looking to wreak havoc on opposing pitchers. They also added Steven Matz and re-signed Robbie Ray to pitch in the rotation behind Hyun Jin Ryu, who has shown he can be the ace that Canada needs. – Diego Franco-Carreno

10. Houston Astros (10, -)

When a 29-31 team loses George Springer, you don’t expect much for the following season. When a team within a game of the World Series adds Yordan Alvarez, one of the best young sluggers in baseball, you expect great things for the following season. The disconnect between the two explains the Astros ranking of “maybe great, maybe not good?” A lot remains to be seen from Houston this season. – Michael Shopoff

11. St. Louis Cardinals (14, ↑3)

Ah, how appropriate that the St. Louis Cardinals are smack in the middle of the pack, the median of Major League Baseball. With a corner infield featuring Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals must be good, right? Well, sort of. A “fine” outfield, an “okay” middle infield, and an “acceptable” number three, four, and five starting pitchers hold back what should be a contesting ballclub. Leaning on the big bats at first and third, along with Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright headlining the rotation, the Redbirds will be beak-deep in competition for the crown in the half-hearted NL Central, but beyond the Midwest… How about we just enjoy Arenado defying physics and mashing baseballs in Cardinal red. – Ethan Deimeke

12. Oakland Athletics (7, ↓5)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the A’s look to be a contender in the AL West this year on the strength of their Matts (Chapman and Olson) and a great bullpen. While many of the pieces are still there from a 97 win campaign in 2019, Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks are two huge losses from that team that will prove difficult to replace. There’s plenty of potential for pop in the lineup even beyond the Matts, but it’s certainly also conceivable that this team struggles to get going offensively, especially in the bottom half of the lineup. They have their work cut out for them to make the playoffs in an American League that’s stacked with Wild Card-caliber teams, and they’ll likely have to outshine both the Astros and the… – Ryan Ruhde

13. Los Angeles Angels (17, ↑4)

The Angels weakest link was upgraded on Monday night after acquiring Steve Cishek and Tony Watson to add to a bullpen that also features new closer Raisel Iglesias. Still, the Angels bullpen and rotation can at best be considered middle of the pack. The offense looks elite, with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon leading the way. Shohei Ohtani‘s spring has sparked optimism after last season’s dud, but can he stay healthy throughout the 162 game slate? In an AL West that took a step back this offseason, the Angels could be a sleeper team and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. – Connor O’Brien

14. Milwaukee Brewers (15, ↑1)

In 2020 the Brewers had a double-sided season. The pitching staff was particularly good as the rotation was led by Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes and the bullpen led by Rookie of the Year Devin Williams and Josh Hader. On the other hand, the offense was an absolute disaster. Everything that could go wrong went wrong at the plate for Milwaukee. Headed into 2021, the Brewers will be joined by three key defense-first players in Kolten Wong (2B), Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF), and Lorenzo Cain (OF). Those additions should help the defense immensely while giving the offense a steadier presence, and the Brew Crew should expect a return to MVP form from Christian Yelich. – Andrew Horwath

15. Washington Nationals (16, ↑1)

The Nationals land just inside the top half of the rankings, which makes sense given they are projected to finish slightly above .500. While the top of the NL East got significantly better, the Nats did just enough to give themselves a shot if everything goes right. The first base platoon of Josh Bell and Ryan Zimmerman was scorching hot during Spring Training, and the former Cub duo of Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber was also impressive in a limited time. They’ll need that to keep up during the regular season to complement Juan Soto and Trea Turner if they want a shot at postseason baseball. – Matthew Penn

16. Cleveland (9, ↓7)

Lost their second-best position player. Lost their second-best pitcher. Losing their team mascot. Didn’t get much of anything back for the first two, and didn’t replace the third with “Spiders”. Their former pitching coach is embroiled in sexual harassment accusations and the team’s culture has been roundly criticized as part of it. Oh, and Eddie Rosario (non-tendered by a division rival) is their best outfielder. But a team with Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez should always be reckoned with. – Michael Shopoff

17. Chicago Cubs (11, ↓6)

The Cubs have been one of the more dynamic teams in our power rankings over the past several seasons, rising to third place as recently as May of 2019 and now falling down to 17th. The off-season trade of Yu Darvish fueled much of this decline, but the Cubs still retain much of their roster and have the potential to climb back up the rankings pretty quickly with a lot of middle-of-the-road teams sitting between 10th and 20th. This is still a team that should challenge for the NL Central division title, but even if they make the postseason, don’t count on them to make noise there. – Ryan Ruhde

18. Philadelphia Phillies (18, -)

It was an interesting offseason for the Phillies. They managed to spend large amounts of money without making many improvements to the team. Instead, they merely restored it to the team it’s been the past two seasons, ready to run it back. And that’s not a bad team, though not a particularly good one either. Over the past two seasons, they have a combined record of 109-113 with a -25 run differential. Yes, the bullpen will be better. Yes, the back-end of the rotation is improved. Yes, they’re getting a full season of Alec Bohm. FanGraphs still projects that they’ll be 15th in team fWAR. They’ll be a very watchable team, having a lot of stars and fun players. They’ll likely contend for a wild card spot for a while too. But at the end of the season, they’re still just fine. We have them 18th. That sounds about right. – Sean Huff

19. Boston Red Sox (25, ↑6)

The Red Sox enter the season right where they belong in our rankings at 19th, right near the middle of the pack. Coming off of a miserable 2020 season, there are a lot of question marks about this squad, but there are a lot of things to be excited about. A busy offseason brought in veterans such as Garrett Richards and Kiké Hernandez. Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale are both expected to pitch this season after neither appeared in 2020. A lot of things will need to break the Red Sox’s way for the team to be playing October baseball in 2021, but they should be far from the bottom feeders we saw last season. – Matt O’Halloran

20. Cincinnati Reds (13, ↓7)

Cincinnati took advantage of their first playoff appearance in seven years by scoring no runs in a swift postseason exit and losing two of their best pitchers in the off-season to follow. The pitching staff carried an offense that was bad (but also quite unlucky) in 2020, but losing their closer and their Cy Young Award-winning starter means the offense will have to pick up a lot more slack, and that’s far from a sure bet. They’re lucky to play in baseball’s weakest division, but after sending three wild card teams to the playoffs in 2020 it’s looking like the NL Central will send only its division winner to the playoffs this season, and the Reds will need improvement across the board to be that team. – Ryan Ruhde

21. Kansas City Royals (27, ↑6)

The Royals have easily had the most improvement of any of the teams in the bottom third of the league last season, but even if this team is as good as it can be, there’s a lot to prove in Kansas City before they’re seen as a legitimate threat. Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi round out the lineup nicely, and the pitching was already solid last year. It’s difficult to expect this team to explode out of the gate without growing pains, but there’s plenty of talent that will make things interesting for the Royals as they attempt to accelerate their climb out of the cellar. – Ryan Ruhde

22. San Francisco Giants (22, -)

The Giants are a team that is tough to predict. They play in a top-heavy NL West with the Dodgers and the Padres having excellent teams heading into 2021. They have several strong pieces in their offense, as Mike Yastrzemski has emerged as a late-blooming star of the league, and Brandon Belt finally put up an impressive, fully healthy 2020. This team has its questions surrounding the pitching and how they will perform. The offense will be about league average at worst, so if the Giants want to sneak into the playoffs, they are going to need the pitching to step it up. – Diego Franco-Carreno

23. Miami Marlins (20, ↓3)

The Marlins surprised the baseball world last year by making the playoffs after most of their roster contracted COVID. Headed into 2021, the team can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, the Marlins are still probably a year or two away from being legit contenders. They have an exciting young rotation headed by Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Sixto Sanchez. The offense has solid contributors like Brian Anderson, Adam Duvall, and Starling Marte, but lacks the star power that a competitive team would have. – Andrew Horwath

24. Seattle Mariners (21, ↓3)

Speaking of exciting teams, the Mariners have plenty of top-tier prospects who are starting to crack the Major Leagues, making this a team that’s poised to shoot up the rankings in the near future. They have the reigning AL Rookie of the Year and plenty of guys that could challenge for the same award in the years to come, and they’re tons of fun, too. The bullpen remains a major concern for the team, and they appear now to be comfortably seated in the 4th place spot in the AL West, but that could certainly change in a hurry. – Ryan Ruhde

25. Arizona Diamondbacks (23, ↓2)

The Diamondbacks will start the 2021 season without their best position player or their best pitcher from 2020. Kole Calhoun is still recovering from knee surgery and will be out at least a few more weeks, and Zac Gallen is out indefinitely as he recovers from a stress fracture in his throwing forearm suffered while taking batting practice (DH now, please!). Certainly not ideal given the difficult path the club will face to make the playoffs. – Tyler Prime

26. Detroit Tigers (28, ↑2)

The 2021 Tigers come in at 26th in our Opening Day Power Rankings, up three spots from where we had them last year (29). This increase is modest but comes with good reason. The Tigers will have top pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal on the Opening Roster, with Matt Manning likely to join them at some point later this summer. Young hitters like Willi Castro started to come into their own last year, and franchise cornerstone Miguel Cabrera will actually be starting at first base on Opening Day, a sign that his athleticism could be somewhat returning, and hopefully some offensive production along with that. They still aren’t very good now, but this team, unlike some of the others in the bottom third of our rankings (ahem, Rockies) actually has a solid direction and a bright future ahead of them. – Joey Bohley

27. Baltimore Orioles (24, ↓3)

According to Fangraphs, every team has at least a 0.1% chance to make the postseason this season…except for the Orioles. That could partly be due to the strength of their rotation, or lack thereof, which has Matt Harvey as the number 2. After a promising start to his career, Harvey has a 6.09 ERA across the last four seasons on four different teams and is likely the worst 2nd starter in MLB. The good news is Trey Mancini is back, Ryan Mountcastle has a shot at AL Rookie of the Year, and Adley Rutschman, one of the top prospects in baseball, could make his debut. – Matthew Penn

28. Texas Rangers (29, ↑1)

Texas ranks 28th in our first Power Rankings of 2021 after starting 2020 at number 22. The Rangers will look pretty different this year, with Lance Lynn, Mike Minor, Rougned Odor, and Elvis Andrus gone from last year’s squad. In their places will be a mix of young prospects and veterans, including Brock Holt, Mike Foltynewicz, Dane Dunning, and Nick Solak. The Rangers farm system only ranks 21st according to MLB Pipeline, so any veterans or pending free agents who are performing well come July 31 will likely be shipped off for prospects. The Rangers aren’t going to win very many games this year and will be focusing on developing and acquiring young talent for their next competitive window. – Joey Bohley

29. Colorado Rockies (26, ↓3)

The Colorado Rockies are not going to be a very good baseball team. They lost both David Dahl (#DahlToDetroit, never forget) and Nolan Arenado, two of their best players, for almost nothing in return. They still have Trevor Story and German Marquez for the time being, but if the team is doing anything right they will be gone by the trade deadline as well. There really isn’t all too much that is truly exciting about this team, but hey, Coors is a really pretty ballpark and their social media team is pretty great @Rockies. – Diego Franco-Carreno

30. Pittsburgh Pirates (30, -)

After dealing Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, and Josh Bell for prospects this offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates are well into their rebuild. However, the team still has a number of interesting players on their roster to be excited about, namely, NL Rookie of the Year candidate Ke’Bryan Hayes. With the state of the NL Central, Pittsburgh could end up winning more games than many projection systems anticipate, especially when factoring in the growth their youth core will undergo this season. – Arrick Joel

Disagree with our rankings? Let us know how you would change these rankings on Twitter @Diamond_Digest .

Ryan Ruhde

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

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