Big market teams set for World Series run


30. Pittsburgh Pirates – Following a stagnant offseason in which their only notable signings were utility infielder Ramon Vasquez and outfielder Eric Hinske, the Pirates’ inexperienced starting pitchers and suspect bullpen cannot be expected to keep them in contention in the NL Central.

29. Washington Nationals – The offseason acquisition of outfielder Adam Dunn adds a much-needed source of power to the Nationals’ lineup, an offensive boost that should help to improve on last year’s 102-loss season.

28. Baltimore Orioles – While the Orioles have several strong position players (namely outfielder Nick Markakis and second baseman Brian Roberts), their starting pitching is not strong enough to compete in the AL East.

27. San Diego Padres – The Padres will look to their starting pitching, especially ace Jake Peavy, because their offense scored the least amount of runs in the league last year.

26. Seattle Mariners – While the most noticeable offseason move for the M’s was the return of slugger Ken Griffey Jr., the main question for Seattle this season will be whether or not Erik Bedard can rebound from last year’s shoulder injury.

25. Kansas City Royals – The Royals’ signings of pitcher Kyle Farnsworth and outfielder Coco Crisp were both impressive offseason moves, but they still lack good pitching after the top of their rotation.

24. Houston Astros – Houston has a great lineup, featuring strong bats including Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee. However, aside from Roy Oswalt the Astros have no pitching whatsoever.

23. Texas Rangers – Slugger Josh Hamilton and the rest of the Rangers’ lineup should produce a multitude of runs this season. The team’s severe lack of pitching makes it unlikely that they will be able to challenge the Angels at the top of the AL West.

22. Toronto Blue Jays – Toronto picked up catcher Michael Barrett and first baseman Kevin Millar during the offseason but did nothing to strengthen the rotation behind ace Roy Halladay.

21. Colorado Rockies – Colorado lost some significant power in a trade that sent Matt Holliday to Oakland, however their offseason moves did strengthen their bullpen as they picked up, among others, closer Huston Street.

20. Cincinnati Reds – Despite adding Willy Taveras to the top of the lineup, the Reds lack the offense and pitching to compete with the NL Central’s best teams.

19. Florida Marlins – The Marlins’ lineup lost some power in the deal that sent first baseman Mike Jacobs to Kansas City, but their bullpen has improved and rising star Hanley Ramirez should be able to lead the team to a decent record.

18. Milwaukee Brewers – Milwaukee has a powerful lineup and brought in an experienced pitcher this offseason with the signing of closer Trevor Hoffman. Starting pitching will be a question following the loss of CC Sabathia.

17. San Francisco Giants – Tim Lincecum, who won the NL Cy Young Award last season, will combine with veteran Randy Johnson to form the top of this year’s Giants rotation.

16. Chicago White Sox – While questions exist as to who will hold what positions in Chicago’s pitching rotation and some of its sluggers (Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome) are beginning to age, the White Sox certainly have a shot in what is expected to be a close race in the AL Central.

15. Oakland A’s – The young A’s pitching staff might not quite have what it takes to top the Angels in the AL West, but the team made big moves this offseason to pick up slugger Holliday and shortstop Orlando Cabrera.

14. Minnesota Twins – Although their only major signing this offseason was third baseman Joe Crede, the Twins should produce more than last season’s 88 wins.

13. St. Louis Cardinals – With one of the best hitters in all of baseball in Albert Pujols, as well as a respectable pitching rotation, the Cardinals have the capacity to threaten the Cubs atop the NL Central.

12. Detroit Tigers – A rather large disappointment in the 2008 season, the Tigers opted not to make any major moves this offseason and will count on mainly the same players in 2009. Their quest for redemption may provide the incentive needed to win an AL Central division that looks to be up for grabs.

11. Atlanta Braves – The Braves added a quality starter with their signing of pitcher Derek Lowe. Their lineup is unlikely to produce enough runs to keep them in contention with the Phillies or Mets in the NL East.

10. Los Angeles Dodgers – The biggest story for the Dodgers this offseason was not a trade or free agent signing, but a resigning of one of their own – Manny Ramirez. With Ramirez back in the lineup for 2009 the Dodgers look to be fine, though their pitching may not be strong enough to keep pace with Arizona.

9. Cleveland Indians – Cleveland has a good rotation, starting with last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, and a solid lineup including newly signed Mark DeRosa. As long as they can avoid the injuries that plagued them last year, the Indians have a solid shot at winning the AL Central.

8. Arizona Diamondbacks – The Diamondbacks’ lineup took a hit when slugger Dunn signed with the Nationals. The acquisition of Jon Garland will augment an already solid staff that includes Brandon Webb and Dan Haren.

7. Los Angeles Angels – While still the favorite to win the AL West, the Angels lost several big names (Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira) to free agency this offseason and may be given a run for their money by a much improved Oakland team.

6. Philadelphia Phillies – The defending World Series champions will send mostly the same lineup to the plate this coming season, with the only major offseason move being the exchange of Burrell for Raul Ibanez.

5. Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays were relatively quiet this offseason, though they did sign outfielder Pat Burrell from the Phillies. Last season’s team was full of young talent and should be able to contend again in 2009.

4. Chicago Cubs – The Cubs have an amazing rotation, headed by Carlos Zambrano, and a solid lineup, including newly signed outfielder Milton Bradley, to go with it. They should be able to win the NL Central, giving them yet another shot at breaking their World Series curse.

3. New York Mets – A stellar offseason that included the signing of record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez, combined with the return of such stars as José Reyes, Carlos Beltran and David Wright, has the Mets poised to win the NL East.

2. New York Yankees – The Yankees certainly made their move this offseason, remodeling a pitching staff that struggled last season by bringing in Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. One question for this team, however, is age – several players in their mid to late 30s (Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada) will be counted on to remain healthy to make a playoff run.

1. Boston Red Sox -Boston added depth to its rotation this offseason by signing John Smoltz and Brad Penny, while keeping other solid performers such as Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. A deep pitching staff and a strong lineup should be enough for the Sox win their tight division.