OK, these are my final, final predictions, just to be on the record so you can remind me in October. I've made some minor changes from my pre-spring training power rankings and A.J. Pollock's broken elbow has forced me to knock down the Diamondbacks from a wild-card team to just missing the playoffs.
Here are the rankings with a short blurb for each team and then my playoff predictions.
30. Atlanta Braves (59-103): Spring training records don't usually mean much, but in Atlanta's case I think its 6-20 record is a sign of the season to come. The pitching is bad and there's no power in the lineup outside of Freddie Freeman.
29. Cincinnati Reds (64-98): The young rotation will take its lumps, Jay Bruce will probably get traded, and Joey Votto may set a record for most times stranded on base. The team that has the longest stretch without a playoff series win will go another year without one.
28. Philadelphia Phillies (65-97): The rotation may not be awful -- keep an eye on Vincent Velasquez as a breakout guy -- but the bullpen is a potential train wreck and the offense is mostly Maikel Franco and a bunch of bench guys.
27. Colorado Rockies (68-94): Yes, Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez may combine for 82 home runs. But that happened last year and the Rockies still lost 94 games.
26. Milwaukee Brewers (70-92): This record could go lower if they trade Jonathan Lucroy and/or Ryan Braun.
25. San Diego Padres (72-90): I suppose there's a scenario where they can surprise if Tyson Ross has a monster year, James Shields has a better season and Andrew Cashner finally puts it all together.
24. Minnesota Twins (75-87): I like the young talent here -- Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Max Kepler -- but the pitching staff still lacks strikeout guys, the Sano experiment in the outfield may be a disaster (although he'll crush at the plate) and Buxton's bat will need some time to develop.
23. Los Angeles Angels (76-86): Look, Garrett Richards has added a changeup and could be a Cy Young contender if that proves to be an effective weapon, but there are serious on-base percentage issues on offense after Mike Trout, and the rotation is counting on big bounce backs from Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker.
22. Oakland Athletics (76-86): They don't have a Trout, but they do have Sonny Gray and an offense, that while lacking star power, should be respectable. Of course, a slow start could mean Gray and Josh Reddick and others are shipped out by the All-Star Game.
21. Chicago White Sox (78-84): This is a difficult team to peg. On paper, Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie are nice upgrades at third base and second base, respectively, Chris Sale's ERA could drop a full run, and Carlos Rodon has major upside. Still, I see OBP issues, a lack of overall depth, and Rodon's improved command remains more projection than reality.
20. Baltimore Orioles (78-84): They could threaten the major league record for home runs (264, 1997 Mariners), but too many of those will be solo home runs. I love the bullpen trio of Zach Britton, Darren O'Day and Mychal Givens, but the rotation could be the worst in the AL.
19. Miami Marlins (80-82): With the star power of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, plus an emerging star in Christian Yelich, there's surprise potential here.
18. New York Yankees (80-82): I don't see Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez combining for 64 home runs again and the Opening Day lineup will likely have seven players 32 or older. And that's before getting into the health and durability of the rotation. If everything breaks right, they could be back in the playoffs, where that bullpen trio (Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller) could lead them to the World Series.
17. Detroit Tigers (81-81): Justin Verlander's late-season surge, the Jordan Zimmermann addition, and Anibal Sanchez reporting good health in spring training give the Tigers conviction they can get back to the postseason after last year's AL-worst rotation.
16. Texas Rangers (82-80): I'm not sold on the rotation, even with the possible return of Yu Darvish at some point, and ESPN Insider Scott Spratt projects the Rangers as the majors' worst defensive team.
15. Cleveland Indians (82-80): They need Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to remain healthy and eclipse last year's run prevention -- a defense that projects as the best in the majors will help -- but an offense that is counting on old dudes Mike Napoli and Juan Uribe looks shaky.
14. Seattle Mariners (83-79): After a strong second half and offseason surgery for two hernias, Robinson Cano looks energized for a big season. The rotation should be very good with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Wade Miley and breakout candidate Taijuan Walker, plus the defense will be drastically improved. Everything may hinge on the bullpen.
13. Tampa Bay Rays (85-77): Hey, there has to be a surprise team that makes the playoffs. If the Rays can avoid going 2-13 in extra innings again, that will help.
12. Pittsburgh Pirates (86-76) I know pitching coach Ray Searage is kind of a miracle worker, and that's what it will take to guide this rotation back to the postseason for a fourth year in a row.
11. Boston Red Sox (86-76): I'm not going to get sucked into the Red Sox again, I'm not going to get sucked into the Red Sox again -- d'oh!
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (87-75): The Pollock injury is devastating, hurting the team's offense and weakening them defensively at two positions, as Socrates Brito likely takes over at center and Yasmany Tomas earns a full-time job in left.
9. St. Louis Cardinals (87-75): I don't see the offense improving on its 11th-place ranking in the NL in runs scored and the pitching staff will regress from last year's historic run prevention.
8. Washington Nationals (88-74): Does a hot spring mean something? In this case, maybe so. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg form a great 1-2 punch, Bryce Harper wins the MVP award again, and the Nationals take advantage of a weak division to pull out a wild card.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers (89-73): I had them as division favorites heading into spring, but the slate of injuries knocks them down a notch -- although Pollock's injury pushes them back into the postseason.
6. Toronto Blue Jays (90-72): They're going to mash, Marcus Stroman headlines an underrated rotation, and the bullpen looks deeper than it was the first half of last season. Need more reasons why they'll win it all? Here's Jayson Stark explaining why.
5. New York Mets (91-71): Let's just hope we require no further Matt Harvey health updates this season.
4. Kansas City Royals (91-71): The computers don't like the Royals, but they've won the most games in the AL the past three seasons, they have a core group in their prime, and they're hungry to go back-to-back.
3. San Francisco Giants (92-70): They may have the best lineup in the NL this side of the Cubs or maybe on either side of the Cubs (although their home park masks some of that), and I'm not worried about the poor springs of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.
2. Houston Astros (92-70): Carlos Correa, welcome to your first superstar season.
1. Chicago Cubs (97-65): What could go wrong? (Don't ask, these are the Cubs we're talking about. JAKE ARRIETA'S BLISTER IS NOT A PROBLEM!!!) For the record, I have the AL going 1235-1195, which means plus-40 in interleague action. That's similar to last year when it went plus-37.
Wild card: Rays over Red Sox
ALDS: Royals over Blue Jays, Astros over Rays
ALCS: Royals over Astros
Wild card: Dodgers over Nationals
NLDS: Cubs over Dodgers, Mets over Giants
NLCS: Cubs over Mets
World Series: Cubs over Royals