OK, the bottom six teams in the first day of our power rankings were pretty easy to select. Now things start to get a little more complicated. Let's admit it: I could pretty much list all the remaining American League teams at 81-81. But that wouldn't be any fun!
24. San Diego Padres
Big offseason moves: Traded closer Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox for OF Manuel Margot, SS Javier Guerra, 3B Carlos Asuaje and LHP Logan Allen; traded RHP Joaquin Benoit to the Mariners for two minor leaguers; acquired LHP Drew Pomeranz and Jose Torres from the A's for 1B Yonder Alonso and LHP Marc Rzepczynski; acquired OF Jon Jay from the Cardinals for INF Jedd Gyorko; signed SS Alexei Ramirez; signed RHP Fernando Rodney; acquired C Christian Bethancourt from the Braves for RHP Casey Kelly; traded RHP Odrisamer Despaigne to the Orioles for minor league pitcher Jean Cosme; lost RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Shawn Kelley and OF Justin Upton in free agency.
Most intriguing player: General manager A.J. Preller went all-in in his rookie season and the plan blew up as the Padres won three fewer games than in 2014, primarily because the rotation struggled and the team allowed 154 more runs than the season before (they actually scored 115 more, so that part of the plan sort of worked). His second offseason has been less adventurous, although the prospect experts loved the haul for Kimbrel, with Margot and Guerra ranking 25th and 34th on Keith Law's list of the top 100 prospects. The big cloud looming over the Padres: If the team stumbles, will Preller make starters Andrew Cashner (a free agent at the end of the season) and Tyson Ross (free agent after 2017 season) available in trades?
I'm just the messenger: Matt Kemp drove in 100 runs, which ranked fourth in the NL. Great season? Hardly. Here are the lowest WAR totals in the past 10 seasons in a 100-RBI season:
Adam Dunn, Nationals, 2009: -0.4
Garrett Atkins, Rockies, 2007: 0.3
Matt Kemp, Padres, 2015: 0.6
Jeff Francoeur, Braves, 2006: 0.6
Adam Dunn, Reds/Diamondbacks, 2007: 0.7
Defense and OBP count and Kemp rated minus-15 defensive runs saved in right field and his .312 OBP ranked 100th out of 141 qualified regulars.
Where I could be wrong: Cashner and James Shields were worth a combined 5.2 WAR in 2014 (when Shields pitched for the Royals) but just 1.0 in 2015. So getting them back to where they were will help, although not enough to transform them into a playoff contender. The defense should be better with Melvin Upton and Jay in the outfield on a regular basis, plus Ramirez at shortstop … but not enough to transform them into a playoff contender. Fernando Rodney … well, he did save 48 games for the Mariners in 2014 before turning into a nightmare in 2015. Sorry, Padres fans, I'm trying to find a reason I could be wrong but this roster is about as exciting as Wonder Bread (minus the free baseball cards they had when I was a kid).
The final word: Is there a team in worse long-term shape right now than the Padres? There isn't a young star on the team, although Ross is close and maybe Wil Myers still has potential. The Kimbrel trade at least added a couple of top prospects to a system that Preller had destroyed last year in his ill-advised playoff run. On top of that, they have to compete with the deep pockets of the Dodgers and Giants. As Law pointed out, this is a big draft coming up for the Padres, with three picks in the top 27 and six in the top 85. But even if they hit a couple of lottery tickets, it's going to take several years for that talent to materialize in San Diego.
Big offseason moves: Re-signed free-agent 1B Chris Davis; re-signed free-agent RHP Darren O'Day; C Matt Wieters accepted the team's qualifying offer; signed Korean LF Hyun Soo Kim; acquired 1B/OF/DH Mark Trumbo from the Mariners for C Steve Clevenger and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser; acquired RHP Odrisamer Despaigne from the Padres; lost LHP Wei-Yin Chen in free agency; reportedly will sign RHP Yovani Gallardo.
Most intriguing player: The Orioles' No. 1 priority was to bring back Davis and they got their slugger for seven years and $161 million, although deferred payments make the current value of the contract much less. Now all Davis has to do is go out and crack 47 home runs -- and not hit .196 like he did in 2014.
I'm just the messenger: My conscience feels a little dirty ranking the Orioles so low. After all, they've won 81, 96, 85 and 93 games the past four seasons and it seems Buck Showalter always gets the most out of his team. I'm not sure any team makes fewer mental mistakes than the Orioles (we need somebody to track this). They've got Davis, and Manny Machado developed into one of the best all-around players in the league. Zach Britton and O'Day were a dynamite one-two punch in the bullpen and the Orioles were 70-2 when leading after eight innings. But I can't get past a couple of things: a bad rotation that lost its best starter in Chen and an offense that is completely reliant on the home run. Amazingly, Davis and Machado were the only players to walk more than 27 times. Only three teams in the 162-game era have had just two players walk at least 30 times, all in the past two seasons (the Orioles, the 2015 Phillies and the 2014 Diamondbacks), so it's partially a sign of the times. They even doubled down on this with Trumbo, another guy with light-tower pop and a crummy on-base percentage. This philosophy has worked pretty well for the Orioles the past four seasons, but it's a fine line to play.
Where I could be wrong: Hey, the offense still ranked seventh in the AL in runs scored. And maybe it improves with a full season from Wieters, 35 home runs from Trumbo and some solid numbers from Kim, who hit .326/.438/.541 in Korea with -- get this -- 101 walks. If Kim turns into a table-setter for Machado and Davis, those two should see their RBI totals go up. But the key for playoff contention lies in better results from the rotation that ranked 14th in the AL with a 4.53 ERA. Are you buying Kevin Gausman, who will finally get a full season in the rotation? What about a comeback season from Chris Tillman, whose ERA ballooned to 4.99? Ubaldo Jimenez?
The final word: Assuming the Gallardo deal goes through, I think this signing has warning signs written all over it. Gallardo did deliver a 3.42 ERA for the Rangers in his first year in the AL and he has made 30-plus starts seven years in a row. So there's value in that durability. But he's also coming off a strange second half with 94 hits allowed in 71 innings, a strikeout-to-walk rate that plummeted and a very short leash (he pitched six innings just twice after the All-Star break). He also doesn't throw quite as hard as he did a few years ago. The Orioles will lose their first-round pick for signing Gallardo. Maybe, like the late signing of Nelson Cruz a couple years ago, it will pay bigger dividends than we experts believe.
22. Miami Marlins
Most intriguing player: For a team that lost 91 games, the Marlins have several intriguing players. Besides the dynamic duo of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, Dee Gordon had an exciting breakout season and Ichiro Suzuki is hanging on, 65 hits shy of 3,000 in MLB. Christian Yelich, however, is a key guy to watch. He finished with a .300/.366/.416 line at age 23 but it's the second half that suggests, like Gordon, he could win a batting title someday, as he hit .342 in 55 games, although that did include a .367 mark in September against a lot of bad pitching on the Braves and Phillies. He hits too many ground balls to ever develop more than 15-homer power, but he and Gordon could be one of the best top-of-the-lineup duos in the majors. The Marlins ranked tied for seventh in the majors in OBP from the 1-2 spots in the order and that was with Yelich batting just 50 times in the 2-hole (he hit third 43 times). Put those two in front of Stanton and he'll have a lot of RBI opportunities.
I'm just the messenger: The Marlins haven't finished above .500 since 2009 in large part because they haven't been able to keep a stable rotation together. In 2015, only Tom Koehler made as many as 25 starts. In 2014, three players did it, but in 2013 only Fernandez made that many starts. Whether it's Fernandez or Josh Johnson or Alvarez, the Marlins' most promising young starters keep getting injured. They made two positive moves in this regard, however: Chen made 31-plus starts in three of his four seasons with the Orioles, and the team also hired pitching guy Jim Benedict away from the Pirates as the team's vice president of pitching development, where he'll work with both the major league and minor league staffs.
Where I could be wrong: It's pretty easy to see why I could be underestimating the Marlins. In order, (1) Stanton stays healthy and mashes 50 home runs; (2) Marcell Ozuna returns to his 2014 form (4.5 WAR versus 0.4 in 2015); (3) Fernandez makes 32 starts and competes for the Cy Young Award; (4) Gordon and Yelich stay heathy and each score 100 runs; (5) Somebody steps in behind Fernandez and Chen as a solid No. 3 -- maybe Koehler, maybe Adam Conley or Jarred Cosart -- to stabilize the rotation; (6) A.J. Ramos (87 strikeouts, 45 hits in 70 1/3 IP) and Carter Capps (58 strikeouts, 7 walks and 18 hits in 31 IP) could be a lights-out relief duo and behind them are Brian Ellington, Bryan Morris and Kyle Barraclough, who all throw 95-plus.
In fact, here are the bullpens that threw the most pitches of 95-plus mph:
Blue Jays: 1,792
And that was with Capps, Ellington and Barraclough pitching only limited innings in the majors. The Yankees, of course, added Aroldis Chapman, but it looks like the Marlins will have the hardest-throwing bullpen in the majors.
The final word: One thing that went wrong in 2015 is the Marlins suffered a lot of injuries. Ichiro led the team in games with 153 and it's probably not a good sign if a 41-year-old leads your team in games played. Beyond that, only Gordon played more than 130 games. Stanton's broken hand was the only long-term injury, but they have to keep the starters on the field because they don't have great depth. If that happens … well, I've almost convinced myself that I've underrated the Marlins.
21. Minnesota Twins
Most intriguing player: I can't wait to see if Miguel Sano will hit 40 home runs and I can't wait to see if Byron Buxton will take over center field and run with it, but Park's transition from South Korea to the States will be fascinating. The 29-year-old hit .343/.436/.714 in Korea with 53 home runs in 140 games, but that's an offense-minded league (the league averaged 5.46 runs per game compared to the MLB average of 4.25) and Park still struck out 161 times. The .343 average was also a career high (he hit .318 in 2013). If it works out, the Twins could get 70 home runs from the middle of their lineup; considering they've had just one 30-homer season since Justin Morneau's heyday back in 2009, it could be a new-look Twins team.
I'm just the messenger: On the pitching front, it's kind of the same old story: Twins starters just don't strike out many batters. The rotation ranked 26th in strikeout rate in 2015, which at least was an improvement from 28th in 2014 and 30th and last in 2013. Yes, Twins pitchers throw strikes; still, the rotation ranked last in the American League with its 4.68 ERA and the big addition was … nobody. Yes, prospect Jose Berrios, who posted a 2.87 ERA between Double- and Triple-A, will be ready at some point (he may be ready now, but the Twins will start him in the minors to save on service time), but the Twins could have used another impact starter. As for the bullpen, it ranked last in the majors in strikeout rate and 21st in ERA, although it did do a nice job of protecting late-inning leads.
Where I could be wrong: If the young guys mature quickly -- not only Sano and Buxton, but Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler and Tyler Duffey and Berrios. A full season from Ervin Santana could help and Phil Hughes' ERA needs to go a run back in the other direction.
The final word: I like the direction the Twins are going but I think they'll take a small step backward from 2015's 83-win season. That record was built on one hot month -- they went 20-7 in May but weren't above .500 in any other month. They haven't done much in a division where the Tigers and White Sox both made major offseason upgrades. Their true talent level probably wasn't that of an 83-win team: They exceeded their BaseRuns win total by 10 (only the Cardinals and Royals at plus-11 were higher). Maybe Buxton goes all Mike Trout on us (poor first impression and then lights it up in his full season), but I think he's going to have some growing pains at the plate. Based on his strikeout rate in Korea, I'm not sold on Park as a big contributor. They lack an ace. I feel bad being critical here; they're just a year away.
Big offseason moves: Acquired SS Andrelton Simmons from the Braves for LHP Sean Newcomb, SS Erick Aybar and RHP Chris Ellis; acquired 3B Yunel Escobar from the Nationals for RHPs Trevor Gott and Michael Brady; signed free-agent OFs Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava; signed C Geovany Soto; lost 3B David Freese, C Chris Iannetta and OFs David Murphy, Shane Victorino and Matt Joyce to free agency.
Most intriguing player: Well, they have this guy named Mike Trout who is pretty good. Aside from him, Garrett Richards will be a huge factor. After that awful knee injury in late August 2014, he made it back and made 32 starts while topping 207 innings. His numbers weren't as good: 2.61 ERA to 3.65, a few more walks, a few less strikeouts, and a big increase in home runs, from five in 168 2/3 innings to 20. His 2014 season came out of nowhere, but that power arm is still there.
I'm just the messenger: Craig Gentry? Daniel Nava? Angels left fielders were the worst in the majors, hitting .216/.275/.317. Instead of finding a solution, the Angels are simply hoping it works out. Yes, they didn't want to go over the luxury tax so they stayed away from all the big outfielders available on the free-agency market, but the rest of the lineup isn't strong enough to carry a position where you need more offense. Outside of Trout, there are huge OBP issues, as Albert Pujols carried a .307 OBP and Kole Calhoun's was .308. And those were the productive hitters.
Where I could be wrong: It's all about the rotation depth. The Angels do have eight good starting pitching options. So even if Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson aren't effective in their walk years, Mike Scioscia will have other options such as Hector Santiago, Matt Shoemaker, Nick Tropeano, maybe Tyler Skaggs.
The final word: I'll be blunt: I'm just not feeling this team. I see two outstanding strengths: Trout's brilliance and the defense of Simmons at shortstop. Hey, maybe Richards goes back to pitching like an ace, Shoemaker rediscovers his 2014 splitter and Andrew Heaney makes a big leap as a sophomore. But the lineup is going to struggle to score runs and the bullpen projects as average at best. They have the worst farm system in the majors, so there won't be any reinforcements there. Hey, anything can happen when you have the league's best player and a potentially deep rotation, but the Angels look ripe for a fall.
19. Detroit Tigers
Big offseason moves: Signed OF Justin Upton; signed RHP Jordan Zimmermann; acquired RHP Francisco Rodriguez from the Brewers for INF Javier Betancourt; acquired LHP Justin Wilson from the Yankees for two minor leaguers; signed RHP Mark Lowe; acquired CF Cameron Maybin from the Braves for LHPs Ian Krol and Gabe Speier; signed RHP Mike Pelfrey; lost C Alex Avila, RHP Alfredo Simon and OF Rajai Davis in free agency.
Most intriguing player: Over his final 14 starts, Justin Verlander had a 2.27 ERA, allowed a .207 average, struck out 91 in 99 1/3 innings and averaged just over seven innings per start. Does he throw as hard as vintage Verlander? No, but maybe he doesn't have to.
I'm just the messenger: I get that the Tigers had maybe the sexiest offseason of any team, spending $242.5 million to bring in Upton and Zimmermann and remaking what was one of the league's worst bullpens. But we've learned the big offseason doesn't always lead to the expected results, as we saw last season with the Padres and Red Sox. My point: The Tigers have a lot of improving to do. They were 10th in runs scored in the AL and last in runs allowed, and remember that was with major contributions from Yoenis Cespedes and David Price before they were traded. That was with Verlander throwing up that 14-start run and J.D. Martinez hitting 38 home runs.
Where I could be wrong: The core of the club that won four straight division titles remains, including Miguel Cabrera (had to squeeze his name in here; remember, he missed 43 games). In some ways, the Tigers remind me of last year's Yankees, a team with a high degree of volatility. If the older guys play well -- they'll need bounce-back seasons from Victor Martinez and Anibal Sanchez for starters -- and stay healthy, they could win 90-plus games. The Yankees had a lot go right in 2015 and won 87 games and a wild card. That's obviously a reasonable result for the Tigers.
The final word: Other than Victor Martinez, the Detroit lineup is all right-handed, with Anthony Gose the only primary bench guy from the left side. Is that a problem? It certainly leaves them vulnerable to late-game bullpen machinations where the opposing manager will always have the platoon edge. It's interesting to note that the Tigers and Nationals, maybe the two biggest disappointments in 2015, had the lowest percentage of plate appearances with the platoon advantage in the majors. Then again, the Blue Jays, Cardinals and Pirates were also in the bottom seven. If you can hit, you can hit. Also of note: The Tigers were one of the worst baserunning teams in the majors (only the Reds took the extra base less often). That will be one of the focal points of the team heading into spring training, although if you're slow, you're slow.