ESNY’s 2021 MLB Power Rankings: Opening Day Special

Clayton Kershaw

All 30 teams are ready for Opening Day, but how many have a chance to win it all?

Josh Benjamin

All MLB teams have had their final dress rehearsals in spring training. Opening Day is upon us, so now it’s time to see where each squad shakes up as the 2021 season is officially underway.

It was another relatively quiet week… until the Mets signed Francisco Lindor late last night. While he’s getting ready to earn north of $200,000 today, let’s dive right in with the latest ESNY MLB power rankings.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

The defending World Series champions are ready to go for a repeat in 2021, and they brought Trevor Bauer this time. The rest of the core is intact, though the bullpen is a bit shaky. Still, Los Angeles is the best team on paper, hands down.

2. New York Yankees

No Luke Voit? No problem! The Bronx Bombers are more than happy to stick Jay Bruce at first base while Voit recovers from knee surgery and will enter 2021 with the AL theirs to lose. Hopefully, they can get through the first week of the season without the injury bug striking yet again.

3. San Diego Padres

Even with some key players like Dinelson Lamet and Trent Grisham injured, the Padres are still the most anticipated team of 2021. Fernando Tatis Jr. is already in the NL MVP conversation, and Yu Darvish and Blake Snell form a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. AJ Preller moved mountains to build a team that can succeed. Now, all this group has to do is win, win, and win some more.

4. Atlanta Braves

Atlanta’s pitching could be touch-and-go early, but the good news is Mike Soroka is expected back from an Achilles injury soon. In the meantime, Max Fried and veteran Charlie Morton will occupy the top of the rotation. Throw in a scrappy lineup headlined by a returning Marcell Ozuna and perennial MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, and the Bravos could win the NL East once again.

Francisco Lindor
Courtesy Twitter: @mets

5. New York Mets

Speaking of the NL East, the Mets have new life under new owner Steve Cohen and could easily make some noise in the division. Francisco Lindor gives the lineup a fantastic boost and, as we mentioned, last night he got the bag. Like their crosstown rival Yankees, the Mets’ success is tied to health and so long as everyone stays off the IL, they’ll compete for a playoff spot.

6. Minnesota Twins

Minnesota has some more competition this year, but should still win the AL Central. The lineup is loaded with big bats from Max Kepler to the ageless Nelson Cruz. Kenta Maeda headlines what could be an underrated pitching staff and while the Central isn’t a tough division, the Twins have the talent to win it by a wide margin.

7. Chicago White Sox

The ChiSox are serious this time and can’t wait to show off rookie Andrew Vaughn. Like their rivals the Twins, Chicago has a lineup that has the potential to do some damage. However, the back end of their rotation has some question marks, and Tony La Russa could prove to be a controversial hire. A lot has to go right for the South Siders to have a good season.

8. St. Louis Cardinals

MLB’s version of the San Antonio Spurs has a shiny new toy in Nolan Arenado, an automatic in the MVP conversation. Injuries could test the Cardinals’ pitching depth but with Yadier Molina behind the plate, everything will be just fine. Oh, and did we mention Dylan Carlson?

9. Oakland A’s

Call this writer crazy, but this Oakland team has big Moneyball vibes. Billy Beane hasn’t built the prettiest roster but as he’s proven before, it’s just crazy enough to work.

Bo Bichette
Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP

10. Toronto Blue Jays

One way or another, the Blue Jays will score lots of runs this year. The pitching is another story, though, and already losing Kirby Yates for the season hurts.

11. Tampa Bay Rays

The defending AL champions lost two key arms in Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. The lineup is loaded with potential, namely Randy Arozarena, but it’ll be interesting to see how the analytics fill the holes in the rotation.

12. Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee espouses blue collar baseball, so count on the team to be a factor in the race for the NL Central. Former Christian Yelich is in line for a huge bounceback season. There’s no telling what the pitching might do, but only a fool sleeps on the Brew Crew.

13. Houston Astros

The signature Astros lineup is very much intact, and the boo-birds are ready. However, with the team still under the microscope, it’s hard to imagine Houston pulling off yet another miracle run this year. Also, Justin Verlander being out with Tommy John surgery will prove a huge loss.

14. Cincinnati Reds

This may seem a high ranking for the Reds, but manager David Bell knows how to get heart out of his team. This group always plays hard and while more than a few of their wins will be ugly, it’s hard to count them out as a dark horse contender.

javier baez
Courtesy IG: @cubs

15. Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs are still a decent-looking team. Well, at least for now. It seems not a matter of if, but when Kris Bryant is traded. Between that and no traction on an extension for Anthony Rizzo, some Chicagoans are surely eating their feelings at Lou Malnati’s.

16. Los Angeles Angels

It took them long enough, but the Angels finally got Mike Trout some support. Shohei Ohtani is healthy and ready to be a two-way star again, but the Halos still have an uphill battle in the AL West.

17. Washington Nationals

The 2019 World Series seems so long ago, and the Nationals just don’t seem the same plucky squad. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are great enough to keep Washington in the race for a bit, but lineup health and performance are the X-factor.

18. Cleveland Indians

It doesn’t matter how great Shane Bieber was last year or how much great young pitching Cleveland has. The AL Central isn’t a strong division and Francisco Lindor was traded to the Mets. Jose Ramirez will have a great year, but the Tribe’s next rebuild is indeed on the horizon.

19. Philadelphia Phillies

Bryce Harper is always going to be great, but the rest can’t really be said about the Phillies. Archie Bradley and Brandon Kintzler will boost what was a historically bad bullpen, but the NL East is otherwise too competitive.

Xander Bogaerts
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

20. Boston Red Sox

Kike Hernandez adds versatility and Alex Verdugo has stud potential. Unfortunately, the best the Red Sox can hope for is that the lineup to keep up in the hard-hitting AL East. Well, at least Chris Sale comes back from Tommy John at some point?

21. Kansas City Royals

Kansas City is pretty good at finding the balance between paying players and rebuilding, so 2021 is kind of a preview year for them. The Royals won’t make the playoffs, but they have enough bats to be interesting. The pitching, however, leaves lots to be desired.

22. San Francisco Giants

The Giants have a handful of decent names on the team, namely former MVP Buster Posey, but let’s be honest. No one is catching the Dodgers in the NL West.

23. Seattle Mariners

They aren’t a playoff team, but the M’s are loaded with young talent. Jarred Kelenic will debut this season and might give Seattle another Rookie of the Year next to last year’s winner, Kyle Lewis.

24. Miami Marlins

Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sanchez each have high ceilings, but not until the lineup starts performing accordingly. Last year’s run in expanded playoffs was good for the team and nothing should be taken away from that. They’re still a long way from being a true contender.

Ryan Mountcastle
Courtesy IG: @orioles

25. Baltimore Orioles

Even as they battle with the Red Sox for last place in the AL East, the O’s have some fun youth to watch. Ryan Mountcastle is a Rookie of the Year contender, and Trey Mancini’s return from colon cancer will make everyone a Baltimore fan at least once this season.

26. Detroit Tigers

It’s a good thing Miguel Cabrera is still a draw, because the Tigers’ first year under a returning AJ Hinch will be a long one. Thankfully, top prospect Casey Mize gives a look into what is hopefully a bright future in the Motor City.

27. Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona always seems to have a decent lineup, but never the pitching to complement it. Such is the same this year, though Zac Gallen could be a sign of better days once he’s back from injury.

28. Texas Rangers

Jose LeClerc’s Tommy John surgery was just insult on top of injury for the lowly Rangers. Besides Joey Gallo, there’s not much to see in Arlington.

29. Colorado Rockies

After a devastating piece in The Athletic, Colorado must rebuild its reputation as well as its roster.

30. Pittsburgh Pirates

Well, at least Ke’Bryan Hayes will be fun to watch?

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