Posted: Wednesday February 1, 2012 12:48PM ; Updated: Thursday February 2, 2012 5:36PM
Joe Lemire
Joe Lemire>MLB POWER RANKINGS

With small tweaks, Rangers look poised to seal the deal in 2012

Story Highlights

Texas didn't have much to improve on after missing a title by one strike (twice)

The Yankees, Phillies, Tigers and Angels round out the top five

The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals check in at No. 6

The Hot Stove has cooled. Contract ink has dried. Pitchers and catchers report in less than three weeks. And the first regular-season game is now next month.

In other words, it's time for a special offseason edition of SI.com's MLB Power Rankings.

With nearly every major free agent -- save starting pitcher Edwin Jackson -- having found a new home, we can begin to ably project each team's on-field performance in 2012.
A reminder: This is not a "Winners and Losers" of the offseason but a (powerful) ranking of where each team stands given the transactions of the winter.

Note: Transactions only include expected major leaguers. An asterisk (*) denotes a free agent who has not yet signed elsewhere and thus could return. Last week's rank refers to where teams ended last year's final edition of the rankings, which came out during the last week of the regular season.

MLB Power Rankings
1Texas Rangers
Last Week: 4
Notable additions: SP Yu Darvish, RP Joe Nathan
Notable subtractions: SP C.J. Wilson, RP Darren Oliver

The Rangers were one strike away from a World Series title (twice), so it's hard to say they had any real holes on their club, just a few areas for mild improvement. One was first base, but they didn't match the years and dollars to get Prince Fielder and will be fine starting Mitch Moreland against righty pitchers and either Michael Young or Mike Napoli at first against lefties. The other was the rotation, and they swapped out Wilson for Darvish -- a dominant ace in Japan -- and signed Nathan to allow Neftali Feliz to try to become the third Texas pitcher in as many years, after Wilson and Alexi Ogando, to successfully go from the bullpen to the rotation.
 
2New York Yankees
Last Week: 2
Notable additions: SP Michael Pineda, SP Hiroki Kuroda
Notable subtractions: C Jesus Montero, SP Hector Noesi

The Yankees had the AL's best regular-season record in 2011 and then improved two of its rotation spots with rookie All-Star Pineda and veteran Kuroda, who is fresh off a 202-inning, 3.07-ERA season for the Dodgers. Both will now have to adjust to life in the AL East but should be good enough to turn an area where New York was good-but-not-great (starting pitching) into a strength. While Montero may be a star for his career, the Yankees can surely find replacement production for 2012 by adding a free agent or cycling its veteran stars through the DH spot.
 
3Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 1
Notable additions: RP Jonathan Papelbon, IF Ty Wigginton, 1B Jim Thome, RP Chad Qualls, RP Dontrelle Willis
Notable subtractions: RP Ryan Madson, SP Roy Oswalt*, OF Raul Ibaņez*

The Phillies won't win 102 games again in 2012 as they did in '11. The rotation took a small hit in losing Oswalt and first baseman Ryan Howard, who injured his Achilles making the last out of their season-ending loss to the Cardinals in the NLDS, likely won't return to the lineup until May or June. The bigger issue, though, is that the NL East is emerging as baseball's new super-division, as the Braves, Nationals and Marlins should all be better in 2012. That'll affect Philadelphia's win total but shouldn't change their place in the standings.
 
4Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 3
Notable additions: 1B Prince Fielder, RP Octavio Dotel, RP Collin Balester
Notable subtractions: RP Joel Zumaya

Fielder is a great hitter in his prime and should pair well with Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the lineup. How they pair defensively as corner infielders remains to be seen, but the Tigers have some leeway in 2012 with the DH spot unsettled as Victor Martinez is out for the year with a major knee injury. Dotel will help ease the bullpen burden on Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde, while a full season of starter Doug Fister, who was acquired last July from the Mariners, can't be understated.
 
5Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 9
Notable additions: 1B Albert Pujols, SP C.J. Wilson, RP LaTroy Hawkins, C Chris Iannetta
Notable subtractions: RP Fernando Rodney, C Jeff Mathis

The Angels missed the postseason for the second straight year in 2011 but responded by adding the best free-agent hitter and best free-agent pitcher on one December morning. Pujols will anchor a previously lackluster offense (10th in runs last year) while Wilson extends an already formidable rotation top-three (Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana) into one of the game's best quartets. If manager Mike Scioscia can extract the most out of two positional logjams (DH and outfield) and the back of the bullpen (Hawkins, Scott Downs and closer Jordan Walden) is steady, then the Halos can compete with anyone.
 
6St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 7
Notable additions: OF Carlos Beltran, RP J.C. Romero
Notable subtractions: 1B Albert Pujols, IF Nick Punto, RP Octavio Dotel, SP Edwin Jackson*

The Cardinals lost three major characters in the offseason: Pujols, manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. But they added Beltran, who'll allow Lance Berkman to move to first base, thus saving a few runs defensively and helping minimize the loss of Pujols (who is, in a word, irreplaceable). The dugout staffing change is harder to predict, especially with Mike Matheny being a first-time manager, but new pitching coach Derek Lilliquist gained an ace with Adam Wainwright's return from Tommy John surgery.
 
7Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 10
Notable additions: 1B Carlos Peņa, DH Luke Scott, RP Fernando Rodney, IF Jeff Keppinger, C Jose Molina, RP Burke Badenhop, RP Josh Lueke
Notable subtractions: C John Jaso, C Kelly Shoppach, 1B Casey Kotchman*, OF Johnny Damon*

Owner Stuart Sternberg appeared at New York's BBWAA dinner to joke that he'd be putting Joe Maddon's Manager of the Year and starter Jeremy Hellickson's Rookie of the Year awards up for auction on the fictitious site, "weneedmoneyforpena.com." However the Rays fund Peņa, he hits for power and gets on base, which also should be true of Scott. They provide sorely needed lefty power -- only Peņa and Aubrey Huff have hit more than 20 lefty homers for the Rays in a season over the past decade -- to go along with abundant starting pitching, the game's best defense and a strong bullpen.
 
8Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 12
Notable additions: RP Andrew Bailey, RP Mark Melancon, OF Ryan Sweeney, OF Cody Ross, IF Nick Punto, C Kelly Shoppach
Notable subtractions: RP Jonathan Papelbon, IF Marco Scutaro, IF Jed Lowrie, OF Josh Reddick, SP Erik Bedard, OF J.D. Drew*

The Red Sox are baseball's latent giant. A few names have changed since last season, but it's hard to argue that this club is significantly less talented than the 2011 club hailed by many (including myself) as the preseason favorite. Shortstop may be in worse shape, but Boston can scratch together enough production from Punto, Mike Aviles and maybe Jose Iglesias. Leftfielder Carl Crawford's wrist surgery is troublesome for a player looking to bounce back from a disastrous debut season in Beantown. But this club was only one game away from the playoffs despite losing Kevin Youkilis for 40 games and Clay Buchholz for half a season. Perhaps new manager Bobby Valentine -- or the raw emotions from the collapse in September and the public hits in the offseason -- will rouse the team into an October run.
 
9Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 15
Notable additions: SP Mat Latos, OF Ryan Ludwick, RP Ryan Madson, RP Sean Marshall, IF Wilson Valdez, UT Willie Harris, SP Jeff Francis
Notable subtractions: SP Edinson Volquez, RP Francisco Cordero, SP Travis Wood, 1B Yonder Alonso

Last year's predicted rise to prominence -- I pegged them as a darkhorse NL champ -- was premature on the assumption that all of the Reds' young core would improve with experience. This winter, however, Cincinnati made undeniable external improvements by adding Latos and Madson to replace Volquez and Cordero. Marshall is an excellent eighth-inning reliever, freeing heralded Cuban flamethrower Aroldis Chapman for a possible move to the rotation.
 
10Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 11
Notable additions: IF Jack Wilson
Notable subtractions: SP Derek Lowe, SS Alex Gonzalez

The Braves' most significant offseason move was a salary dump, moving Lowe to the Indians for a low-level minor league reliever and $5 million of payroll relief. But it opened a rotation spot for Atlanta's bevy of pitching prospects. Atlanta could use another dependable bat after scoring just 641 runs last year (10th in the NL) and could, sometime down the road, trade a young arm to fill that need. For now they hope for a bounceback from Jason Heyward and a strong debut from rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky.
 
11Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 6
Notable additions: SP Trevor Cahill, OF Jason Kubel, RP Craig Breslow, RP Takashi Saito
Notable subtractions: SP Jarrod Parker

Looking to build on the Diamondbacks' rapid turnaround from worst in the NL West in 2010 to first in '11, GM Kevin Towers traded Parker, a top pitching prospect, for Cahill and signed Kubel to give Arizona four starting-caliber outfielders. Breslow and Saito further reinforce an improved bullpen. The infield has potential but collectively has question marks: Can third baseman Ryan Roberts repeat his breakout season? Can Aaron Hill, the late-season revelation re-signed to play second base, hit consistently? Can shortstop Stephen Drew return to 100 percent from a broken ankle? Can last year's rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt be an everyday slugger?
 
12Washington Nationals
Last Week: 16
Notable additions: SP Gio Gonzalez, RP Brad Lidge, UT Mark DeRosa
Notable subtractions: SP Collin Balester, SP Brad Peacock, SP Tom Milone

A full season of Stephen Strasburg, at least half a season of Bryce Harper and a has-to-be-better-season from Jayson Werth -- not to mention the addition of starter Gio Gonzalez -- should have the Nationals playing meaningful games in September (especially if the second wild card is implemented). Washington needs better all-around play at shortstop and could stand to add a true centerfielder, but once Werth, Harper and Michael Morse are all there it should have an outfield that can mash.
 
13Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 13
Notable additions: RP Sergio Santos, RP Francisco Cordero, RP Darren Oliver, RP Jason Frasor, OF Ben Francisco, C Jeff Mathis
Notable subtractions: RP Frank Francisco, RP Jon Rauch, UT Mark Teahen

The Blue Jays had the AL's worst save-conversion rate (56.9 percent), so GM Alex Anthopolous remade the bullpen by adding four new arms (well, three and the return of Frasor after a late-season rental to the White Sox). A year ago the Diamondbacks' revamped reliever corps keyed a run to a division title; the AL East may be too tough for Toronto to win but a run at a wild card is possible.
 
14Miami Marlins
Last Week: 21
Notable additions: SS Jose Reyes, SP Mark Buehrle, RP Heath Bell, SP Carlos Zambrano, SP Wade LeBlanc, OF Austin Kearns, UT Greg Dobbs
Notable subtractions: SP Chris Volstad, RP Burke Badenhop

Can the Marlins go from paupers to playoffs in one year? The Marlins were the No. 1 story of the early offseason, committing $191 million to three men (Reyes, Buehrle and Bell) after spending approximately $210 million combined on the past six years of 40-men rosters, but those signings -- and trades for Zambrano and LeBlanc, as well as the addition of manager Ozzie Guillen -- may not be enough to net a postseason berth in the challenging NL East. Unless, of course, Josh Johnson returns from shoulder inflammation to have a Cy Young season and Hanley Ramirez 1) returns from shoulder surgery; 2) returns to his All-Star form; and 3) makes a smooth transition to third base.
 
15San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 8
Notable additions: OF Angel Pagan, OF Melky Cabrera, SS Ryan Theriot
Notable subtractions: OF Cody Ross, OF Carlos Beltran, SP Jonathan Sanchez, RP Ramon Ramirez, IF Miguel Tejada*, IF Orlando Cabrera*

The Giants still have a great 1-through-12 pitching staff, from Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson, but their offense scored an NL-low 570 runs -- joining the 2003 Dodgers as the only teams with a winning record while scoring fewer than 600 runs -- and, other than the expected return of injured catcher Buster Posey, may not appreciably be better than last year. A lot of pressure will sit on a bounceback from Aubrey Huff and a breakthrough from Brandon Belt.
 
16Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 18
Notable additions: SP Derek Lowe, SP Kevin Slowey, OF Aaron Cunningham
Notable subtractions: OF Austin Kearns, DH Jim Thome, OF Kosuke Fukudome*

Last year's first-half darlings faded in September but showed sufficient progress that the club traded several top prospects for Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, who struggled (5.10 ERA) in 11 starts with the Indians but who, along with Justin Masterson, could be a fine top of the rotation. At this point in his career Lowe is merely a No. 4 or 5 starter, and with Fausto Carmona's alleged identity fraud jeopardizing his season, the Tribe need a starter, not to mention more pop at first base than Matt LaPorta has provided. The rest of the infield -- Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall -- should hit but the Indians are a piece or two away from an AL Central run.
 
17Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 5
Notable additions: 3B Aramis Ramirez, SS Alex Gonzalez, OF Norichika Aoki, RP Jose Veras
Notable subtractions: 1B Prince Fielder, RP LaTroy Hawins, RP Takashi Saito, UT Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B Casey McGehee

The starting rotation, led by Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, returns intact, but the heart of the lineup needs reinforcement. The addition of Ramirez helps mitigate the large offensive void left by Fielder's departure, but Ryan Braun's status remains uncertain (he's appealing a 50-game ban for a failed drug test). Francisco Rodriguez is badly overpaid as a set-up man ($8 million) but is an especially important piece in that bullpen following the free-agent exits of Hawkins and Saito.
 
18Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 14
Notable additions: SP Aaron Harang, UT Jerry Hairston Jr., SP Chris Capuano, 2B Mark Ellis
Notable subtractions: SP Hiroki Kuroda, RP Jonathan Broxton, 3B Casey Blake, SP Dana Eveland, C Rod Barajas

The Dodgers very quietly went 34-20 over the season's final two months to finish with a winning record. Now, 2012 will be a pivotal year for the franchise, as it's sold to a new owner who will (presumably) allow for a payroll budget befitting a team in the nation's second biggest market (choosing whether to extend Andre Ethier will be decision No. 1). For now, GM Ned Colletti is scraping together small parts around superstars Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw that should keep the team around .500.
 
19Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 19
Notable additions: SP Jonathan Sanchez, RP Jonathan Broxton, SS Yuniesky Betancourt, RP Jose Mijares
Notable subtractions: OF Melky Cabrera

The Royals have only one player on their roster (starter Bruce Chen) who was born before 1982; none of their expected nine position starters were born before 1984. Last year's historically great Kansas City farm system promoted five top prospects (corner infielders Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, among them) and still has reinforcements waiting in the wings. This won't equate into 2012 major league success, but now's the time to jump on the bandwagon while it's still cool.
 
20Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 22
Notable additions: SP Erik Bedard, 3B Casey McGehee, SS Clint Barmes, C Rod Barajas
Notable subtractions: RP Jose Veras

The Pirates are loaded with high-end prospects -- six prospects rated four- or five-stars by Baseball Prospectus -- but most of them a year or two away (or longer) from making major league contributions. For the 2012 Pirates to show improvement, they'll need to score more than 610 runs (14th in the NL last year); they've got a core of young hitters (led by Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata) to do that, but Pedro Alvarez will need to live up to his potential and a return to form from newly acquired McGehee would help too.
 
21Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 24
Notable additions: OF Michael Cuddyer, IF Marco Scutaro, 3B Casey Blake, SP Tyler Chatwood, SP Guillermo Moscoso, OF Tyler Colvin, SP Josh Outman, IF D.J. LeMahieu, SP Jamie Moyer
Notable subtractions: OF Seth Smith, 3B Ian Stewart, RP Huston Street, 2B Mark Ellis, C Chris Iannetta

The Rockies are the winner of this year's inaugural tough-to-project award. SI's Tom Verducci already covered how they aged the roster, providing a curious mix of players. The rotation would seem to be too inexperienced for 2012 success, but with time and with the club's retooled farm system, Colorado might be taking one step back to take two steps forward.
 
22Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 30
Notable additions: OF Josh Willingham, RP Joel Zumaya, SS Jamey Carroll, SP Jason Marquis, UT Ryan Doumit
Notable subtractions: OF Michael Cuddyer, OF Jason Kubel, RP Joe Nathan, SP Kevin Slowey

This club will go as far as Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can carry it. The recent injury history of the M&M Boys has been well documented, but if the former AL MVPs can return to their previous level of production, the Twins will look more like the team that averaged 88 wins from 2004-10 (with four division titles) than the one that went 63-99 last season. Minnesota will also need, however, Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano to pitch more like 2010 (combined 31-21 with a 3.69 ERA) then 2011 (18-31, 4.60). Getting all four on track, however, is a big "if."
 
23Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 17
Notable additions: None
Notable subtractions: SP Mark Buehrle, OF Carlos Quentin, RP Sergio Santos, RP Jason Frasor

Starter John Danks was given a contract extension to be Chicago's No. 1 starter, but otherwise GM Kenny Williams allowed Buerhle to leave via free agency and traded Quentin, Santos and Frasor -- a nod to rebuilding, sure, but one less drastic than expected. There's still talent here, headlined by Paul Konerko, but most of it underachieved last year (ahem, Adam Dunn, Alexis Rios and Gordon Beckham). The White Sox will move lefty Chris Sale into the rotation and rookie reliever Addison Reed could assume a prominent role, but there aren't many other young pieces to dream on.
 
24San Diego Padres
Last Week: 28
Notable additions: OF Carlos Quentin, 1B Yonder Alonso, SP Edinson Volquez, RP Huston Street, RP Andrew Cashner, OF Mark Kotsay
Notable subtractions: SP Mat Latos, 1B Anthony Rizzo, SP Aaron Harang, RP Heath Bell, SP Wade LeBlanc

New GM Josh Byrnes was active in the trade market in his old post with the Diamondbacks and immediately resumed where he left off after taking the job with the Padres this winter. Trading a young ace in Latos was the biggest gamble, but receiving Alonso, Volquez and two prospects (catcher Yasmani Grandal and reliever Brad Boxberger) might have been worth it.
 
25New York Mets
Last Week: 20
Notable additions: IF Ronny Cedeņo, RP Frank Francisco, RP Jon Rauch, OF Andres Torres, RP Ramon Ramirez
Notable subtractions: SS Jose Reyes, SP Chris Capuano, OF Angel Pagan

The 2012 Mets may have the dubious distinction of undergoing the greatest payroll shearing in one offseason -- some $52 million, according to tabulations by ESPNNewYork.com. Though the Mets lost a star in Reyes (and traded Carlos Beltran at last year's deadline), they may re-gain a pair of key contributors who lost 2011 to injury in starter Johan Santana and first baseman Ike Davis. Citi Field won't be a cheery place, and it won't help that the Nationals and Marlins all got better while the Mets have gotten a little worse.
 
26Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 23
Notable additions: SP Paul Maholm, SP Chris Volstad, 1B Anthony Rizzo, SP Travis Wood, 3B Ian Stewart, SP Andy Sonnanstine, RP Manny Corpas, OF David DeJesus
Notable subtractions: 3B Aramis Ramirez, SP Carlos Zambrano, RP Andrew Cashner, RP Sean Marshall, OF Tyler Colvin

The Cubs have re-made their roster quickly, replacing 15 of the 40-men on the roster with 11 of the new recruits coming from outside the organization. If these rankings were an evaluation of the offseason, Chicago would be in the top-10, but this is more of a long-term fix.
 
27Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 27
Notable additions: C Jesus Montero, SP Hector Noesi, RP Hisashi Iwakuma, RP George Sherrill, C John Jaso
Notable subtractions: SP Michael Pineda, IF Jack Wilson, RP Josh Lueke

The 2010 and '11 Mariners account for two of only eight seasons in which a team has failed to score 600 runs since 1996, but that shouldn't happen again with full seasons of Dustin Ackley and Montero in the Mariners lineup, though this still won't be a team that outslugs anyone, especially in Safeco. They have three blue-chip pitching prospects waiting in the wings, with last year's No. 2 overall pick Danny Hultzen likely to debut at some point in 2012. But in the short term, expect Seattle to be a distant third in the AL West behind the Rangers and Angels.
 
28Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 25
Notable additions: IF Wilson Betemit, SP Wei-Yin Chen, OF Endy Chavez, SP Dana Eveland, SP Tsuyoshi Wada
Notable subtractions: DH Luke Scott, DH Vladimir Guerrero*

Much of the Orioles' biggest moves in rebuilding happened thanks to Koji Uehara. Last summer Baltimore twice traded relievers to the Rangers, as Uehara netted a third baseman (Chris Davis) and starter (Tommy Hunter) while Mike Gonzalez returned reliever Pedro Strop, and then when the club signed two Japanese pitchers, Chen and Wada, both of whom reportedly received recommendations from Uehara to join the O's. Much like the Mets, the Orioles may see gains in rebuilding mitigated in the standings by the division they're in and the unbalanced schedule they play.
 
29Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 26
Notable additions: OF Seth Smith, OF Jonny Gomes, SP Bartolo Colon, OF Josh Reddick, OF Collin Cowgill, SP Jarrod Parker, SP Brad Peacock, SP Tom Milone
Notable subtractions: SP Gio Gonzalez, SP Trevor Cahill, OF Josh Willingham, RP Andrew Bailey, OF David DeJesus, RP Craig Breslow, SP Josh Outman, OF Ryan Sweeney

The A's received a plethora of prospects this offseason in exchange for their arbitration-eligible talent, meaning the club should be primed to compete if/when their new ballpark opens in a couple years. In the short term, however, Oakland has taken a significant step back.
 
30Houston Astros
Last Week: 29
Notable additions: 1B/OF Jack Cust, C Chris Snyder, IF Jed Lowrie, SP Kyle Weiland
Notable subtractions: RP Mark Melancon, SS Clint Barmes

The Astros hired a new GM -- ex-Cardinals VP Jeff Luhnow -- who has begun emphasizing scouting and implementing more analytic methods to the front office. Drastic changes to the roster will follow, though the club still has one more year on the contracts of Carlos Lee, Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon, who are guaranteed $37.5 million. Much of the rebuilding will come from within, as the draft was Luhnow's specialty in St. Louis. The Cards drafted 24 future major leaguers in the 2005-07 drafts, which were the most in baseball; the Astros, meanwhile, drafted four eventual big-leaguers in that same time span.

 
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