Cardinals start regular season on top

Updated: March 31, 2014, 10:44 AM ET
Week:

ESPN.com

Baseball is back! And the St. Louis Cardinals, the runner-up in last season's World Series, are the No. 1 team in the first week of our Power Rankings. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost to the Cardinals in last year's National League Championship Series, sit tight in the No. 2 spot.

The Tampa Bay Rays, the top American League team in the rankings to start the season, are in the No. 3 position, while the defending champion Boston Red Sox hold down the No. 4 spot. The Washington Nationals, at No. 5, round out the top five.

This week's voters were Jim Bowden of ESPN Insider, Tim Kurkjian of ESPN The Magazine, David Schoenfield of the SweetSpot Blog Network/ESPN.com and Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Most of the team comments come courtesy of the bloggers on the SweetSpot Blog Network. How do you rank all 30 teams heading into Opening Day? Go ahead and rank them yourself.

Tell us what you think about the Power Rankings. Use the hashtag #ESPNMLBPOWER.

2014 Power Rankings: March 31
RANKTEAM / RECORD TRENDINGCOMMENTS
1
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Last Week: NR
The Cardinals are ready and eager to defend their National League pennant as super sophomore whiff kids Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha follow in staff ace Adam Wainwright's footsteps. -- Matt Philip, Fungoes
2
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Last Week: NR
The Dodgers have the most volatility in terms of possible outcomes this year. Baseball Prospectus projects them for 99 wins, eight more than the next-best squad. They have one of the better lineups and rotations in the NL, but the bench is sketchy, Yasiel Puig is making news in the wrong ways and there are injury risks all over. Thankfully, the rest of the NL West is lacking. -- Diane Firstman, Value Over Replacement Grit
3
Rays
0-0
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Last Week: NR
After an uncertain offseason, David Price remains at the top of the Rays' rotation. Evan Longoria and Wil Myers will lead the offense and new, old friend Grant Balfour was brought back to anchor the bullpen. Meanwhile, skipper Joe Maddon will try to steer the club back to the World Series for the first time since 2008. -- Tommy Rancel, The Process Report
4
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Last Week: NR
Boston wasn't flashy during the offseason, but it did make moves that could cement its AL East champion status. It made Xander Bogaerts the full-time shortstop, resurrected Grady Sizemore in an amazing feat of sorcery and compiled enough pitching depth to ensure a victory in the arms race. -- Brett Cowett, Fire Brand of the AL
5
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Last Week: NR
It wasn't overconfidence that undid the 2013 Nationals, it was injuries. Healthy, the Nats deserved their favorite status then and the same holds for now. All 44 of ESPN's experts predict the Nats will make the playoffs, while 40 predict they'll win the NL East title and 12 pick them to win the World Series. -- Harper Gordek, Nationals Baseball
6
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Last Week: NR
Serious spring injuries left Detroit with major holes in left field, the bullpen and at shortstop. That said, rookie manager Brad Ausmus can still rely on an offense paced by Miguel Cabrera, plus a much-improved defense and a rotation with three top starters who are as formidable as ever. -- Grey Papke, Walkoff Woodward
7
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Last Week: NR
In 2013, the Yankees did not make the playoffs for only the second time since 1993, so the front office scrapped its $189 million budget plan, spent nearly half a billion dollars on free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka and allowed Robinson Cano to walk and sign with Seattle. How will the new-look Yankees do in 2014? Time will tell. -- Stacey Gotsulias, It's About the Money
8
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Last Week: NR
The A's will try to make their third straight playoff appearance without their ace, Jarrod Parker. Much of the 2013 team returns, though, so one key will be a bounce-back season from Yoenis Cespedes, who spent the spring frustrated by a retooled swing he implemented after a disappointing sophomore campaign. -- Jason Wojciechowski, Beaneball
9
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Last Week: NR
The Rangers will begin the season with several questions as an injury-plagued spring training did little to provide answers. Fortunately, the organization has built a deep system that just may be able to weather the storm until reinforcements arrive. -- Brandon Land, One Strike Away
10
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Last Week: NR
Conventional wisdom across the majors puts the Orioles in fourth place in the American League East, but Baltimore cares little for conventional wisdom. Game on! -- Jon Shepherd, Camden Depot
11
Reds
0-0
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Last Week: NR
Cincinnati begins the season with eight players on the disabled list, after an offseason in which no substantial improvements were made to a third-place club. At least Reds fans can be excited about speedster Billy Hamilton's rookie season, right? Right? -- Chad Dotson, Redleg Nation
12
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Last Week: NR
Looking to repeat as NL East champs, the Braves thought they had all hands on deck. Regrettably, they didn't have all their elbow ligaments on deck. Losing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy hurts, but adding Ervin Santana was a big morale boost. With the old guard (Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Tim Hudson) gone, the new core, all recently signed to long-term deals, needs to lead the team back to the playoffs. -- Martin Gandy, Gondeee
13
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Last Week: NR
The last time the Royals had back-to-back winning seasons? 1993 and 1994. The last playoff appearance? 1985. The Royals are thinking playoffs this year after last year's success, but they'll need the offense to improve unless they lead the AL in fewest runs allowed again. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
14
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Last Week: NR
The Pirates didn't do much in the offseason except lose A.J. Burnett and replace him with Edinson Volquez, arguably the worst starter in baseball last year. But they have last season's National League MVP, Andrew McCutchen, a full season from Gerrit Cole and what should be one of the best bullpens in the NL. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
15
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Last Week: NR
With Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Affeldt set to start the season on the DL, and a rough spring from Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum, concerns are already starting to rise around an organization looking to turn it around after a disappointing 2013 campaign. -- Connor Grossman, West Coast Bias
16
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Last Week: NR
The Halos are looking to jump off to a quick start after two miserable Aprils in a row. Everyone's more or less healthy, so there's no reason they can't hit the ground running. -- Nate Aderhold, Halos Daily
17
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Last Week: NR
With a new slogan of "unfinished business," the Indians hope to build upon their 2013 season, one in which they won 92 games and lost to the Rays in the AL wild-card game. The big questions are whether Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco can equal the production of the departed Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, and how converted catcher Carlos Santana will perform in a full-time role at 3B. -- Stephanie Liscio, It's Pronounced "Lajaway"
18
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Last Week: NR
All eyes will be on Ryan Braun as he returns from his season-ending suspension from last season, but the team has also quietly assembled a deceptively deep pitching staff. If the Brewers' somewhat aging roster doesn't fall apart due to injuries again, they could surprise and make some noise in the playoff race. -- Ryan Topp, Disciples of Uecker
19
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Last Week: NR
The Diamondbacks left Australia in an uncomfortable position: two games behind every other team in the majors in the loss column. But the team may have an opportunity in the season's first month -- despite having to play six games against the Dodgers, the combined 2013 winning percentage of their opponents before May 1 is just .475. -- Ryan P. Morrison, Inside the 'Zona
20
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Last Week: NR
We've heard this story before: Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin begin the year on the DL, newcomer Josh Johnson is already hurt, Cory Luebke is out for the year with another Tommy John surgery and Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland are still rehabbing their own arm injuries. That's a lot of talent sitting on the sidelines. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
21
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Last Week: NR
The Rockies could have a good pitching staff. They could have a good offense. It's a long shot they'll contend in 2014 and the danger is being close enough to jeopardize 2015 with a bad trade or an early prospect promotion, but the front office is feeling pressure to win. -- Richard Bergstrom, Rockies Zingers
22
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Last Week: NR
The Blue Jays open 2014 with essentially the same roster as 2013 -- the same roster that many people picked as World Series favorites only a year ago. The only difference in '14 is that the starting lineup is healthy for the first time. -- Callum Hughson, Mop-Up Duty
23
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Last Week: NR
Robinson Cano is here and Brad Miller was arguably the best player in the Cactus League, but the outfield defense remains a big question mark and the rotation is currently without Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker -- a potential issue as 22 of their first 25 games are against AL West opponents. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
24
Mets
0-0
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Last Week: NR
The Mets embark on the 2014 season with the goal of winning 90 games, while pundits peg them for 90 losses. -- Joe Janish, Mets Today
25
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Last Week: NR
Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi will likely lose many 2-1 games, as Baseball Prospectus projects the lineup to score an MLB-worst 560 runs. Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton will be a fun outfield to watch, though, and prospects Jake Marisnick, Andrew Heaney and Brian Flynn should arrive later this season. -- Diane Firstman, Value Over Replacement Grit
26
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Last Week: NR
It appears that the 2014 season will be a bumpy ride for the Phillies. They are relying heavily on their old, injury-prone core, and if their last two seasons are any indication, that isn't the greatest recipe for success. -- Bill Baer, Crashburn Alley
27
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Last Week: NR
The White Sox probably won't be very good in 2014, but the debuts of Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and Matt Davidson down the line could raise their total count of hitters worth watching up to four. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are also tasked with propping up an otherwise iffy starting rotation. -- James Fegan, The Catbird Seat
28
Cubs
0-0
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Last Week: NR
The Cubs are still a year away from being any sort of contenders in the NL Central, but this is a pivotal year in the process as they look for a bounce-back season from Starlin Castro with Javy Baez breathing down his neck at shortstop. -- Joe Aiello, View from the Bleachers
29
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Last Week: NR
Although the Twins made some major upgrades on the pitching side, they did little to address a shaky lineup, and that was reflected in a spring in which they consistently struggled to score runs. -- Nick Nelson, Twins Daily
30
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Last Week: NR
The Astros are the only team Baseball Prospectus projects to yield over 800 runs (807). Jarred Cosart will likely more than double his 2013 ERA of 1.95, if he walks more than he strikes out again. Jonathan Singleton's struggles have delayed his ascension to the majors, but George Springer should give Astros fans their next glimpse of the farm system's bounty later this season. -- Diane Firstman, Value Over Replacement Grit

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