The Boston Red Sox finished second in their division and second in the American League in 2008. But according to ESPN.com's preseason Power Rankings, they are second to none heading into the 2009 season.
ESPN.com asked 15 of ESPN's leading baseball experts to rank every major league team from 1-30, and the Red Sox came out on top, narrowly beating out their two AL East rivals -- the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees. In fact, the defending AL champion Rays finished with more first-place votes than the Red Sox (6-5), but fell short of the Red Sox in the overall point total.
Fans won't have to wait long for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown -- the Rays and the Red Sox open the season against each other in Boston on Monday.
Tune in to "Baseball Tonight" every Friday (starting April 17) on ESPN to see the week's U.S. Army Power Rankings.
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays like October. Don't think for a second that they're going to return to their losing ways anytime soon.
3. New York Yankees
4. Chicago Cubs
The focus of this team doesn't seem to be so much on the regular season but on how to win a game in the postseason after consecutive sweeps.
Ryan Howard played in all of the Phillies' 162 games last year. And while he led the NL with 48 home runs, he also struck out 199 times.
Johan Santana made 34 starts and pitched a career-high 234 1/3 innings last season. He needs to be a workhorse again in '09 for the Mets.
In his fourth full year in the majors last season, Grady Sizemore set career highs in home runs (33), RBIs (90) and stolen bases (38).
10. Minnesota Twins
11. Atlanta Braves
Chipper Jones won his first batting title last season, finishing with a .364 average. Don't at all be surprised if he wins it again in '09.
If former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter is healthy for the entire season, look for the Cardinals to contend in the NL Central.
John Danks allowed only 15 home runs in 33 starts last season, and finished fifth in the American League with a 3.32 ERA.
16. Oakland A's
17. Cincinnati Reds
18. Detroit Tigers
Miguel Cabrera hit a career-high 37 home runs to lead the American League last season, and finished third in the AL with 127 RBIs.
Pitching will keep the Giants in most games, but their offense, with Bengie Molina hitting cleanup, remains among the most nondescript in the major leagues.
20. Florida Marlins
Ricky Nolasco made 32 starts last season, and finished tied for fourth among all National League starters with 23 quality starts.
22. Texas Rangers
The popular pick to make some noise in the AL Central? Could this team be this year's version of the 2008 Rays?
24. Colorado Rockies
25. Seattle Mariners
Here's to a happy, healthy season for Junior. Let's hope The Kid flashes that swing early and often.
26. Houston Astros
He'll be a Norfolk Tide to start the season, but for how long? Can't wait for the Matt Wieters call-up.
In 138 games mostly out of the first or second spot in the batting order last season, Cristian Guzman had a career-high 183 hits.
Hard to see the light for the Pirates, who likely are headed toward yet another losing season.