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2022 MLB season preview: Power Rankings, playoff odds and everything you need to know for all 30 teams

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Can anyone in the NL stop the Dodgers this season? (3:43)

David Cone, Eduardo Perez and Karl Ravech discuss the expectations for Dodgers and the NL this season. (3:43)

After a hot stove season interrupted by a work stoppage, it's time to rejoice, baseball fans: MLB opening week is finally here!

As the new season begins following an offseason filled with player movement, there are big questions across the majors. How will the Atlanta Braves follow up their surprising march to the 2021 World Series title? Will anyone stop the preseason favorite Los Angeles Dodgers now that All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman moved from Atlanta to L.A. this winter? Will the Toronto Blue Jays soar past the Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in a loaded AL East? And who are the potential surprise teams that could surge in our rankings throughout 2022?

We asked our baseball experts to rank every team from 1-30 going into the new season for our first MLB Power Rankings of the year, while ESPN MLB writers Bradford Doolittle, Alden Gonzalez and David Schoenfield teamed up to provide a rundown of what the season could bring, along with Doolittle's win-loss projections and playoff odds for all 30 teams.

Here's everything you need to know before Opening Day arrives on Thursday.

MLB season preview: Moves that rocked the offseason | Odds, win totals

Passan's predictions | Inside MLB's 2022 changes | Offseason grades


1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Projected record: 101-61 (97.3% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... They become the first National League team since 1930 to score 1,000 runs in a season as Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts each hit .300 while Freeman, Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger each top 30 home runs. They win the most games (110) by an NL team in more than a century, as Walker Buehler and Julio Urias both win 20. Then they go 11-0 in the postseason to win their second World Series title in three seasons. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: There are two cop-out answers you can make for any team. One is randomness, the other is a spate of injuries to a team's rotation. For the Dodgers, we'll take the latter, as they are such a complete team that in a 12-team playoff universe, it's really hard to design a scenario in which they don't make it to October. Once there, however, if Dave Roberts is struggling to fill innings, which happened to some extent in last year's playoffs, then maybe that sinks the Dodgers. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: When Walker Buehler was named the Dodgers' Opening Day starter this spring, it was seen as a symbolic passing of the torch -- of Buehler overtaking Clayton Kershaw as the predominant ace of the Dodgers. He has certainly earned it. Over the past four years, Buehler has established himself as one of the game's best pitchers, both during the regular season and in high-stakes matchups throughout October. Last year, when he finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting, Buehler surpassed 200 regular-season innings for the first time. He said he learned a lot about himself through that. And he seems ready to take another step forward. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: OK, let's stick to that: The Dodgers do score 1,000 runs and they do win 110 games and they do win the World Series -- in five games over the Rays. -- Schoenfield


2. Toronto Blue Jays

Projected record: 96-66 (90.8% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... As Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said in spring training, "Last year was the trailer. What you are going to see this year is the movie." With Guerrero and Bo Bichette both finishing in the top five of AL MVP voting, the Jays are unstoppable on offense and the rotation is one of the best in the league -- although the ace isn't Jose Berrios or Kevin Gausman but second-year righty Alek Manoah. Hard-throwing Nate Pearson becomes a big bullpen weapon and the Jays not only make the playoffs this time around -- they go all the way. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: For a team as athletic as the Blue Jays, they profile as having one of the weakest outfield defenses in the majors. George Springer was evolving away from being an everyday center fielder even before he joined Toronto, but he figures to be a fixture there on this depth chart. Teoscar Hernandez can mash but he's not likely to challenge for any Gold Gloves in right. In left, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had good numbers a year ago but he's a converted infielder. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. didn't get a single MVP vote last year despite leading the AL in OPS (1.002) and leading the majors in home runs (48), which says a lot more about Shohei Ohtani's two-way prowess than it does about Guerrero's performance. The Blue Jays' first baseman will be only 23 this season and will bat in the middle of a loaded lineup while spending at least half his time in a favorable hitting environment. He's reportedly down 22 pounds, too. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: In 2021, Guerrero tied for first in home runs, ranked third in batting average and fifth in RBIs; this time, he leads the AL in all three to capture the Triple Crown. Alas ... he finishes second to Shohei Ohtani in the MVP voting once again. -- Schoenfield


3. Atlanta Braves

Projected record: 94-68 (84.2% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... They cruise to their fifth straight NL East title behind the big bats of Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Marcell Ozuna, who rediscovers his 2020 offense. Kyle Wright has a breakout campaign in the rotation while Mike Soroka finally makes it back in the second half. The bullpen is the best in the league with the additions of Kenley Jansen and Collin McHugh and -- just like 2021 -- dominates in October as the Braves become the first repeat champion since the 1998-2000 Yankees. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: The Braves' have a number of still-young starting pitchers slated to fill out the rotation behind the big three of Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson. They need consistency and health from these pitchers, including Wright, Huascar Ynoa, Kyle Muller and others -- especially until Soroka can return to action. After last October's bullpen-grinding run to the championship, Brian Snitker can't afford to lean too heavily on his veteran 'pen or his bedrock starters too early in the season. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Ronald Acuna Jr. would've been the choice if not for the possibility of him being delayed by about a month, so for an MVP pick, let's go with Matt Olson, the man who is famously replacing Freddie Freeman. Wild as it might sound, it almost seems as if the Braves preferred Olson, given that they gave up four of their best prospects to get him, then signed him to an eight-year, $186 million contract. Olson, born and raised in the Atlanta area, is a dangerous left-handed hitter and a plus defender at first base. Freeman is, too, but Olson, who turned 28 at the end of March, is four years younger. Maybe he and Freeman will go toe-to-toe for the 2022 NL MVP trophy. Wilder things have already happened. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Matt Olson leads the NL with 45 home runs and 124 RBIs and finishes second in the MVP voting.


4. Chicago White Sox

Projected record: 93-69 (85.5% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... The White Sox won 93 games in 2021 despite injuries up and down the lineup. This year, Luis Robert, who hit .338/.378/.567 last season in 68 games, stays healthy and joins the MVP fray. Eloy Jimenez also stays healthy and surpasses the 31 home runs he hit as a rookie in 2019. And new acquisition AJ Pollock matches his .892 OPS from last season to give the White Sox the best outfield in the majors. Meanwhile, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease are Cy Young contenders. It's World Series or bust for the White Sox, and this October they don't bust as Tony La Russa becomes the first manager to win the World Series with three different teams. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: The position group is heavy with star power, augmented by the late-spring-training deal that brought AJ Pollock. But that trade weakened a rapidly thinning bullpen, with Craig Kimbrel going to the Dodgers. On the very same day, the club said hard-throwing lefty Garrett Crochet was likely headed for Tommy John surgery. And offseason addition Joe Kelly is still working his way back from a biceps problem suffered during last season's playoffs. After that are a lot of just-a-guys, some of whom need to become dudes because there is a long way to go before the playoffs. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Lucas Giolito had the highest ERA among qualified starters in 2018. Since then: top 8% in innings, top 25% in strikeout-walk ratio, top 18% in ERA. Giolito induces swings and misses, limits home runs and consistently takes his turn. Many are expecting another big step forward in 2022, while on a dominant team in a relatively inferior division. He's a popular Cy Young pick for a reason. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech each strike out 200 batters, but Lance Lynn's knee injury keeps the White Sox from matching Cleveland in 2018 as the only teams with four 200-strikeout pitchers.


5. Houston Astros

Projected record: 95-65 (87.7% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Kyle Tucker, coming off a .294/.359/.557 season, keeps improving and is an MVP candidate. Alex Bregman is healthy after last year's wrist injury and is once again an MVP candidate. Yuli Gurriel wins another batting title. Yordan Alvarez mashes 40 home runs. Justin Verlander, back from Tommy John surgery, heads the best rotation in the league (it had the second-lowest ERA last season, behind the White Sox). After falling short in the World Series in 2019 and 2021, the Astros go all the way -- ensuring Dusty Baker's status as a Hall of Famer. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena will have a spotlight on him as he tries to replace perennial All-Star Carlos Correa. Pena (No. 48 on Kiley McDaniel's top 100 prospects) has promise, there's no question about that, but if he were to falter, there isn't a great backup plan on the roster. Aledmys Diaz and Niko Goodrum are quality utility options as veterans who have both started a good number of games at shortstop. But if either player is getting the bulk of the games at that position deep into the season, that's bad news. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Only two pitchers have ever won a Cy Young Award after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but Jacob deGrom was eight years removed and Eric Gagne was six years removed. So yes, it's amazing to think that Justin Verlander -- at 39! -- could seriously contend for the AL Cy Young. But it's Justin Verlander. And nothing about this spring would tell you he isn't his typical dominant self despite spending most of the past two years rehabbing. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Kyle Tucker hits .300 with 35 home runs and a 1.000 OPS and finishes third in the MVP voting. -- Schoenfield


6. New York Yankees

Projected record: 94-68 (85.6% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... The 30-something core of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson, Aaron Hicks and DJ LeMahieu all remain healthy and -- combined with Joey Gallo's huge season -- the Yankees return to being an offensive powerhouse. The infield defense is much improved as hoped, helping Gerrit Cole win his first Cy Young Award. They finally get past the Astros in the postseason and reach their first World Series since 2009 -- and Cole takes World Series MVP honors with his Game 7 shutout. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Run prevention seems to be the key to New York's season. The team defense looks better, though a plus defensive center fielder would be nice. The bullpen looks devastating and the rotation looks strong ... if they can get enough innings from their best arms behind Cole. Injuries have undermined the Yankees in recent years, and while the upside of full seasons from Luis Severino, Jameson Taillon and even Domingo German is considerable, so is the downside if they all end up throwing 80 innings. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Judge has played in more than 145 games twice -- in 2017, when he finished second in AL MVP voting, and in 2021, when he finished fourth. At full health, Judge, who turns 30 in late April, is always a legitimate MVP challenger. That might especially be the case in 2022 -- his last season before free agency. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Cole does indeed win the Cy Young Award -- in fact, he wins the pitching Triple Crown, leading the AL in wins (19), ERA (2.76) and strikeouts (261). -- Schoenfield


7. Milwaukee Brewers

Projected record: 94-68 (86.5% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... You know, 1982 was a long time ago. It's time to end that World Series drought by riding the best rotation in the majors: Reigning Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer. With rookie Aaron Ashby filling in, the Brewers again use a six-man rotation at times and it keeps everyone healthy. Christian Yelich, while not quite his old MVP self, is better and Keston Hiura is back pounding baseballs like he did as a rookie in 2019. The World Series drought ends with a huge celebration in Milwaukee. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Between an elite rotation, a star-laden bullpen and strong up-the-middle defense, the Brewers are built for run prevention. Still, for Milwaukee to get over the hump in October, they'll need their core veteran hitters to meet or exceed their projections, or else the Brewers' offense profiles as another below-average outfit. That conversation begins with Yelich. The Brewers navigated around his 99 OPS+ a season ago, but threading that needle again is a lot to ask. Yelich hit nine homers in 475 plate appearances last season. Milwaukee needs more than that. A lot more. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Burnes won the NL Cy Young Award last year after leading the majors in ERA (2.43), fielding independent pitching (1.63) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.88). He began by accumulating 58 strikeouts before issuing his first walk, then struck out 10 consecutive Cubs in August and threw the first eight innings of a no-hitter in September, cementing himself as the NL's most dominant pitcher. Burnes' goal for 2022 is 30 starts. If he does that, a second straight Cy Young Award could be in store. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Peralta pitches 164 innings to qualify for the ERA title -- and allows a .162 average, breaking Pedro Martinez's .167 mark in 2000 as the lowest ever for a qualified pitcher in a full season. -- Schoenfield


8. New York Mets

Projected record: 87-75 (58.2% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Sorry, Mets fans, it's already going wrong with the news that Jacob deGrom will miss significant time with a stress reaction in his right shoulder. So that leaves it up to Max Scherzer to stay healthy and dominate and hope deGrom can return in the second half and perform like he did in the first half of 2021. Otherwise, how about Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil rebounding from rough seasons at the plate, Brandon Nimmo posting a .400 OBP for 500 PAs and Pete Alonso leading the league in home runs. Nobody can touch Scherzer and deGrom in the postseason and the Mets throw a ticker-tape parade shredding actual dollar bills from Steve Cohen's vault. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Well, deGrom is already set to miss significant time. Without him, the Mets are going to need a good number of innings from starters beyond their projected core rotation, so their depth options need to come through. David Peterson and Tylor Megill need to soak up quality frames when called upon because New York doesn't look like a team built to be carried by its bullpen. The star power of the Mets' rotation is undeniable if deGrom can return. But it's going to take more than the stars for the Mets to emerge in a crowded NL playoff derby. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: What looked like the best rotation duo in the sport took a serious blow on the first day of April, when it was announced that inflammation around deGrom's shoulder would keep him from throwing for at least a month. But Max Scherzer, dealing with what seems like a relatively minor hamstring issue, remains as good as ever. The 37-year-old right-hander boasted a 1.98 ERA and an 11.13 strikeout-walk ratio in 11 regular-season starts for the Dodgers down the stretch last season and should push for his fourth Cy Young Award this year. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Unfortunately, deGrom and Scherzer both miss some time, and Chris Bassitt ends up leading the Mets in both wins and innings pitched. -- Schoenfield


9. Tampa Bay Rays

Projected record: 86-76 (53.9% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... They win their third straight AL East crown as they allow the fewest runs in the league -- thanks to an unheralded but dominant bullpen that once again leads the majors in innings pitched and a lineup that once again slugs the third-most home runs in the league. Shane McClanahan develops into an ace, Shane Baz lives up to the hype once he returns from surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow and -- best of all -- Tyler Glasnow returns just in time for the playoffs. That trio pitches the Rays to the World Series title. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Even with Wander Franco on board for a full season, the Rays' biggest shortcoming is simply the problem of getting enough balls into play. Tampa Bay does run prevention first, then designs an offense around depth, platoon advantage and secondary skills. But the primary skill of getting the bat on the ball is lacking up and down the lineup, with the obvious exception of Franco. The Rays always work around the problem, as this is clearly the result of a very long string of intentional choices. Still, you always worry that at some point, the strikeouts are just going to spiral out of control. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Here's something really, really fun to look forward to: A full season of Franco. The 21-year-old phenom played in only 70 games last year, and that was enough to accumulate 2.5 fWAR and cement himself as a budding superstar. As soon as the lockout ended, Rays third-base coach Rodney Linares sent Franco a voice memo challenging him to reach 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases this season. "Yeah, let's go," Franco responded. Perhaps he can add an MVP to that. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Franco hits .325, the highest average by a 21-year-old in a full season since Albert Pujols hit .329 in 2001, and finishes second to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the batting race. -- Schoenfield


10. San Francisco Giants

Projected record: 85-77 (49.4% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Last season was not smoke and mirrors. The offense once again leads the NL in home runs by mixing-and-matching its way to 250 long balls. Logan Webb, who had a 2.43 ERA in the second half (including the postseason), contends for Cy Young honors. Carlos Rodon matches the 2.37 ERA he put up for the White Sox. The bullpen is even better than last season, and it led the majors in ERA last season. The Dodgers win 106 ... but the Giants win 107 again, and this time beat their rivals in the playoffs. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: For a team coming off a franchise-record 107 wins, the Giants' forecast is awfully full of red flags. Poor projections at catcher, second base, third base and center field. Bottom-five team defense. A lineup that doesn't do much well except draw walks. Potential issues with facing left-handed pitching. The thing is, many or most of these issues seemed present when last season started. One hundred seven wins later, we should remember that projections are just projections, and our methods are not necessarily the Giants' methods. Still, can the needle be threaded to the extent of a triple-digit win total once again? -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Webb was one of the best pitchers in the sport over the last three months of the regular season, posting a 2.63 ERA with 104 strikeouts and only 19 walks in 99⅓ innings after returning from a shoulder strain. He took it to another level in the postseason, limiting the mighty Dodgers to one run in 14⅔ innings in the Division Series. Now he is solidified as the Giants' ace, and a worthy contender for the NL Cy Young Award. One drawback: He will no longer be pitching to Buster Posey. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Webb picks up where he left off and continues limiting home runs (he had the second-highest ground ball rate in 2021 among pitchers with 100 innings) and baffling batters with his wipeout slider. He wins the Cy Young Award. -- Schoenfield


11. Boston Red Sox

Projected record: 87-75 (59.4% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... The Red Sox, and not the Blue Jays, lead the AL in runs (they scored just 17 fewer runs last season than the Jays). Trevor Story quickly adjusts to leaving Coors Field and returns to being a 35-homer, 25-steal player like he was in 2018 and 2019. Boston weathers the early injury to Chris Sale, and he returns in top form to provide a dynamic one-two duo with Nathan Eovaldi. Those two remain terrific in the playoffs and the Red Sox win a second World Series under Alex Cora. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Here's a question you rarely associate with the Red Sox, but is it possible they have too many aggressive swingers in their lineup? If you roll up Steamer's individual player forecasts, the Red Sox rank seventh in park-neutral average, slugging and OPS, but just 13th in on-base percentage. There are likely bigger potential headaches in Boston, such as right-field production and the innings total of the rotation. Still, if Boston's offense disappoints, this might be the reason. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: There was some debate as to whether it should be Xander Bogaerts switching positions instead of Story, given that Bogaerts has been a minus-25 in outs above average over the past four years, fourth-worst among qualified shortstops. But whatever Bogaerts might lack on defense is more than made up for with his bat. The 29-year-old from Aruba has an .894 OPS from 2018 to 2021, second only to Fernando Tatis Jr. at his position. FanGraphs, which is more favorable to his defense, has him at 18.8 WAR in that stretch, sixth highest among position players. Bogaerts is a prime MVP candidate once again. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Rafael Devers hits 50 doubles and 40 home runs, becoming just the ninth player to reach those totals in the same season (Albert Pujols and Todd Helton did it twice), and the first since Derrek Lee in 2005. -- Schoenfield


12. San Diego Padres

Projected record: 89-73 (68.9% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... They stay close until Fernando Tatis Jr. returns and then San Diego's superstar goes on a three-month binge with 30 home runs. Manny Machado, Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer hit like they did in 2020 (when they all slugged over .500). The rotation, next-to-last in the majors in innings in 2021, stays healthy and leads the NL in ERA (Mike Clevinger has a nice return from Tommy John surgery and Nick Martinez wins 15 games after coming over from Japan). They win 100 games ... while the Dodgers win 99. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Could ghosts of contracts past undermine the Padres' quest to overtake the Dodgers in the NL West? According to Cot's Contracts, the Pads are around $10 million under the $230 million luxury tax threshold. Reports suggest they want to stay under that mark. San Diego's second- and third-highest players are right fielder Myers and first baseman Hosmer. Per Fangraphs, San Diego projects at the bottom five at both positions. The solution? For Myers and Hosmer to sprint past their preseason forecasts. Otherwise, that's at least two more lineup holes than the Dodgers will have. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Here's what we know about Machado: He hardly misses games, he remains a dynamic third baseman and he has produced a .280/.345/.505 slash line over the past seven years. Here's what else we know: With Tatis spending most of the first half recovering from wrist surgery, Machado is going to have to carry a Padres offense that looks awfully thin outside of him. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Ha-Seong Kim plays well at shortstop and hits .255 with 22 home runs and when Tatis returns it's as an outfielder, not a shortstop. -- Schoenfield


13. Philadelphia Phillies

Projected record: 89-73 (67.0% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... The Phillies set a modern (since 1901) franchise record for runs scored with Bryce Harper, Nicholas Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber combining for 115 home runs. Luckily, the pitching is better than that 1930 team that scored 944 runs and lost 102 games. Zack Wheeler is fine after his shoulder issue in spring training, Aaron Nola pitches to his 2021 FIP (3.37) rather than his ERA (4.63) and Ranger Suarez has his ERA double -- all the way up to 2.72. Surprise of surprises, Corey Knebel locks down the ninth inning, the defense is merely "meh" rather than all-time awful and the Phillies edge past the Braves and Mets for their first NL East title -- and playoff berth -- since 2011. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Defense, as has been widely written, is a potential Achilles' heel for a lineup that should be above average offensively. With Schwarber and Castellanos likely sharing duty in the outfield corners, there seems to be little hope for the Phillies to be plus defensively there. But the infield could be bolstered by the ascension of shortstop prospect Bryson Stott (Kiley McDaniel's No. 66 overall prospect). Stott might ascend, but it may not be at shortstop, as this spring there has been little inclination to turn Didi Gregorius into a utility player or slide him to another spot, despite some hairy defensive metrics in recent seasons. All of Gregorius' time in the field this spring has come at shortstop. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: It'd be easy to go with Harper, the reigning NL MVP, but we're going to pick Wheeler, who finished second in NL Cy Young Award voting after what was seen as a breakthrough 2021 season, when he posted a 2.78 ERA while leading the NL in innings (213⅓) and strikeouts (247). But Wheeler has operated at a similar level for a while. Only three pitchers have compiled more fWAR than him since 2018: Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Harper, Castellanos and Schwarber each hit 40 home runs, making them the fourth team with three players to hit 40 -- joining the 1973 Braves (Henry Aaron, Darrell Evans, Davey Johnson), 1996 Rockies (Ellis Burks, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga) and '97 Rockies (Larry Walker, Castilla, Galarraga). -- Schoenfield


14. Seattle Mariners

Projected record: 82-80 (34.6% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... They turn fun differential into run differential. Robbie Ray shows his Cy Young season with the Blue Jays was no fluke. Logan Gilbert emerges as an All-Star in his sophomore season. Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez turn into the best young outfield duo in the majors. Jesse Winker replicates the .305/.394/.556 line he put up with Reds last season. Eugenio Suarez gets back to hitting in the .270 range like he did from 2017-19 (OK, the Mariners will take .250). Most importantly ... they make the playoffs and end the longest postseason drought in the majors (20 seasons and counting). -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: For all the good stuff going on in the Pacific Northwest around the Mariners, a simple reality check reminds us that this is a team that hit an almost unbelievably low .226 last season. Of course, Seattle didn't stand pat -- no team run by Jerry DiPoto is going to do that. But one of the newcomers is the middle-of-the-order slugger Suarez, who has hit .199 over his last 805 plate appearances. As Seattle makes a push for the postseason, will it get the bat on the ball and get on base often enough to make playing into October happen? -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: After an arduous rebuild, the Mariners marked their arrival as legitimate contenders by splurging on Ray and trading for Winker. But it's their young prospects who trigger the most excitement, none more so than Rodriguez, who will spend most of -- if not all of -- the 2022 season in the major leagues. Rodriguez batted .362/.461/.546 as a 20-year-old in Double-A last season, and his absurd power and his plus arm should be on full display in the majors this season. This figures to be a crowded AL Rookie of the Year field, and Rodriguez should be right at the center of it. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Kelenic pops 31 home runs in his age-22 season and Rodriguez hits 25 in his age-21 season. The only other team with two players that young to hit 25 or more: the 1966 Red Sox with Tony Conigliaro and George Scott. -- Schoenfield


15. St. Louis Cardinals

Projected record: 81-81 (30.6% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... It's 2011 all over again with the reunion of Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. When Molina turns 40 in July, all three will be 40 or older. It somehow works -- mostly thanks to Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Tyler O'Neill topping last year's 96 combined home runs and each winning a Gold Glove again. The bullpen dominates and Dylan Carlson hits .300 in a breakout sophomore season, but the big key is Wainwright, Miles Mikolas and Steven Matz each make 30 starts to stabilize the rotation. The Brewers' offense falters and the Cardinals win the division ... and anything can happen in October. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: There are questions about the rotation, especially in terms of depth, but let's step beyond roster concerns and just pose this question: What if it was a mistake to fire Mike Shildt? This isn't a knock against Oliver Marmol, who for all we know will prove to be Billy Southworth, Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa all rolled into one. But if there is a certain amount of "if it ain't broke don't fix it" that ought to be baked into the decision-making of teams, then you have to wonder, because the Cardinals won with Shildt and arguably overachieved in doing so. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Arenado won his ninth consecutive Gold Glove, made his sixth All-Star team and belted 34 home runs in 2021. Yet he left that season wholly disappointed. The reason: A .254 batting average over the past two years, 41 points lower than his career average heading into the COVID-shortened 2020 season. It prompted mechanical tweaks that involved changing the positioning of his hands to make him quicker to the ball. It's always smart to bet on Arenado, who turns 31 this month. If those adjustments help, he should make another run at the NL MVP. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: The three old guys look their age, the rotation crumbles, the big three hit 76 home runs instead of 96 and the Cardinals finish under .500 for the first time since 2007. -- Schoenfield


16. Los Angeles Angels

Projected record: 82-80 (36.6% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon remain healthy and join Shohei Ohtani as the most fearsome threesome in the majors. Heck, throw in Jared Walsh (.277/.340/.509, 29 home runs in 2021) and it's a fearsome foursome. After years of bad luck and just bad pitching, the rotation finally comes together. Ohtani is great, Noah Syndergaard is great and sleeper Patrick Sandoval, who allowed a .215 average last year thanks to one of the best changeups in the game, gives them a strong No. 3. The Astros finally fall apart after losing Carlos Correa and the Angels win the AL West. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: It appears that the Angels have improved their pitching outlook to the middle of the pack. If that's the case, then so much rides on their star hitters staying on the field. Ohtani, Trout and Rendon give L.A. one of the most dazzling power trios in the majors. That is, if they can all be lineup fixtures from April to October. Sure, breakouts from young outfielders Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell would help. But overall, this remains an uneven roster that needs its stars to be available, which often not been the case in recent seasons. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: We're going to have to make an exception here and split this between two players -- Trout and Ohtani, who make up what is probably the best tandem in the sport. Ohtani was the unanimous AL MVP last year after putting together arguably the most impressive season in baseball history, OPSing .965, belting 46 home runs, stealing 26 bases as a hitter and striking out 156 batters in 130⅓ innings and posting a 3.18 ERA on the mound. But don't forget: Trout, by far the most dominant player of the 2010s and still only 30, was off to arguably the best start of his career in 2021 before a calf strain robbed him of the last four-plus months. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Yes, he does it again. Ohtani becomes the first back-to-back MVP winner since Miguel Cabrera in 2012-13 as he hits .276 with 42 home runs and goes 13-4 with a 2.99 ERA as a pitcher. -- Schoenfield


17. Minnesota Twins

Projected record: 81-81 (16.1% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton are the best all-around duo in the game, with Correa matching his 7.2-WAR season from 2021 and Buxton staying healthy and producing close to his ridiculous 2021 pace (4.5 WAR in 61 games). Both top 30 home runs and win Gold Gloves. Joe Ryan, with his invisiball, emerges as the staff ace and competes for Rookie of the Year honors. The Twins go from worst to first in the AL Central and finally end that 18-game postseason losing streak. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: The Twins have raised the floor for their rotation considerably since the lockout ended, but this is still the primary area of concern. Sonny Gray should provide stability and some young pitchers like Bailey Ober and Ryan should be worked into the mix to offer some upside. But Minnesota's quest to bounce back from worst to first in the Central could hinge on veterans Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer finding themselves under the tutelage of Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: There's a sense that Correa, 27, still might not have reached his peak. In 2021, he played a full season for only the second time in seven years and finished fifth in AL MVP voting with a near-six-win season, per FanGraphs. While capturing his first Gold Glove, he once again proved he is in the conversation for the best defensive shortstop in the industry. Now he's on the first of up to three consecutive one-year contracts and will undoubtedly be motivated to prove he should be compensated among the highest at his position. The Twins have come out of nowhere to land a perennial MVP contender. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Correa and Buxton both have 7.5-WAR seasons, making the Twins only the second team over the past decade with two position players to do so. (The 2019 A's, with Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman, were the first.) -- Schoenfield


18. Detroit Tigers

Projected record: 74-88 (9.9% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... After five consecutive losing seasons, Detroit's five big offseason additions live up to the growing expectations for this team with Javier Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez, Michael Pineda, Andrew Chafin and Tucker Barnhart all matching or exceeding the performance that led GM Al Avila to bring them aboard. Incoming uber-prospects Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson finish near the top of the Rookie of the Year race, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal each win 14 games and the Tigers sneak into the playoffs as one of the wild cards. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Usually when a team is building around a young rotation, we say the team will go only as far as that rotation will take it. The thing with the Tigers, though, is that even if the rotation coalesces into an elite unit, the offense is going to have to drastically outperform projections in order for Detroit to climb over .500. If that happens, it's probably going to be less because of what lineup newcomers like Baez and Barnhardt do, and more because of how quickly star rookies Greene and Torkelson adapt to the majors. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Spencer Torkelson, Kiley McDaniel's seventh-highest-ranked prospect, posted a .935 OPS with 30 home runs in 121 games across three minor league levels last year and has been named the Tigers' Opening Day first baseman, taking the mantle from Miguel Cabrera. He is an exceedingly advanced hitter, both with his power and with his strike-zone awareness, and he should immediately post the type of numbers that will challenge for the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Riley Greene was another option here, but a foot fracture has him sidelined. - Gonzalez. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Skubal does have a breakout season, winning 16 games, striking out 210 batters and finishing in the top 10 in the AL in ERA -- as the Tigers win a wild card. -- Schoenfield


19. Miami Marlins

Projected record: 77-85 (13.9% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... The Marlins haven't finished above .500 in a 162-game season since 2009, averaging 91.4 losses in those 11 years (not including the COVID-shortened 2020). For the first time since 2017, they have a player hit more than 22 home runs -- in this case, Avisail Garcia, Jorge Soler and Jesus Sanchez (who had 14 in 64 games as a rookie) each get to 30. Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Rogers are a terrific one-two punch and receive Cy Young votes. When the Mets fall apart like the Mets do and the Phillies finish .500 like the Phillies do, the Marlins earn a wild-card spot. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: The Marlins have assembled one of baseball's deepest and most talented rotations. It's also a really young group, one that you'd like to backstop with a deep bullpen. Instead, Miami's relief staff is unproven, starting with projected closer Dylan Floro. That doesn't mean it can't excel -- last year's Mariners bullpen was a recent example of an anonymous relief crew providing elite production. With a strong defense and a promising rotation, Miami has an underrated shot at crowding into the playoff field -- but it hinges on holding the leads the squad gets. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Jazz Chisholm -- with his big chains, colored hair and ice-cream glove -- is bursting with as much personality as he has talent. The 2021 season provided plenty of glimpses of that promise, but it was also marked by too many strikeouts and too many errors. Chisholm has chalked most of those up to a lack of focus, which he is intent on correcting in 2022. If he does, he possesses the skill set to challenge for an MVP award. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Last year, only four pitchers threw at least 200 innings. This season, Alcantara is the only pitcher to reach that mark and he finishes in the top five of the Cy Young voting. -- Schoenfield


20. Cleveland Guardians

Projected record: 77-85 (15% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... They start the season by signing Jose Ramirez to a long-term extension. Shane Bieber returns to his Cy Young form of 2020 and Triston McKenzie (3.65 ERA over his final 10 starts last year) makes The Leap and becomes a dominant starter. Emmanuel Clase is the best closer in the game. The offense scrapes together just enough runs and -- with the White Sox disappointing -- the Guardians steal the AL Central title with 90 wins. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: For all the hand-wringing we tend to do over Cleveland's outfield, this year's group at least looks athletic. It will be well-situated to provide defensive help for the Guardians' pitching staff. But beyond Ramirez's all-around game and Franmil Reyes' power bat, the offense is questionable. Getting guys on base, for starters, looks to be a real problem. There are some young hitters who could take a leap -- Amed Rosario, Josh Naylor, Bobby Bradley, for starters. For Cleveland to contend, some of them are going to have to do just that. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: There isn't a whole lot to celebrate about the current Guardians -- but there is Jose Ramirez. The 29-year-old infielder finished within the top three in MVP voting three times from 2017 to 2020 and finished sixth last year, when he combined an adjusted OPS of 141 with 36 home runs and 27 stolen bases. He's a premium defender who can run and hit for power. Since 2016, only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts have accumulated more fWAR among position players. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Outfielder Steven Kwan hits .304 to become the first qualified rookie to hit .300 for the Indians since Dale Mitchell in 1947. -- Schoenfield


21. Texas Rangers

Projected record: 69-83 (3.6% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Corey Seager and Marcus Semien both start the All-Star Game and finish in the top five of the MVP voting. Nathaniel Lowe adds more loft to his swing and becomes a 30-homer dude. We get first-half Adolis Garcia (.840 OPS) instead of second-half Adolis Garcia (.627 OPS). Joe Barlow saves 40 games, and the patchwork rotation somehow isn't awful. The Rangers win a wild card. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Despite the offseason signing of Jon Gray, the Rangers' rotation looks bad on every level. Gray should be a fixture and maybe he and Dane Dunning can form a one-two punch if the younger Dunning can ramp up his workload. Texas' roster is also a work in progress, but the splurges of the offseason should result in immediate improvement. The problem: For Texas to move into the fringe of wild-card contention, it's the rotation that's going to have to overachieve in terms of both per-rata performance and innings count. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Corey Seager landed the bigger contract (10 years, $325 million), but Marcus Semien (seven years, $175 million himself) has nearly doubled his fWAR over the past three years, while combining 85 homers with 29 stolen bases and an .854 OPS. Now, with Seager at short, Semien is a long-term second baseman -- and that's his better position. From 2019 to 2020, Semien was a minus-12 at shortstop, according to outs above average, fifth worst in the majors. In 2021, he was plus-7 at second base, sixth best. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Jon Gray wins a career-high 15 games, strikes out 200 batters for the first time, finishes with an ERA under 3.25 and makes the All-Star team. -- Schoenfield


22. Chicago Cubs

Projected record: 74-88 (9.2% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Seiya Suzuki proves to be an electrifying addition, bringing power, walks and a howitzer of an arm. Kyle Hendricks rediscovers his groove, and he, Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley prove you can succeed without throwing 95. Frank Schwindel hits .342/.389/.613 over an entire ... OK, let's not get silly here. Frank Schwindel hits .292/.349/.513 -- which still puts him on the All-Star team. Ian Happ puts it all together and slugs 35 home runs, and hotshot prospect Brennen Davis comes up at midseason and rakes, giving the Cubs the best outfield in the NL. They add pitching at the trade deadline and take the NL Central with 91 wins. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: The Cubs look more like a club with a high floor than a high ceiling, with a roster lacking in elite strengths but also in glaring weaknesses. The best example of that is a projected lineup full of middle-of-the-road producers that lacks the kind of elite power bats that can provide a bedrock for everyone else. Of course, the Cubs are trying to develop those kinds of hitters and if, for example, Davis is able to earn his way to Chicago in short order, then maybe the overall picture brightens. Right now, it's full of shades of gray. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: It's often difficult to project a player coming from overseas, but Steamer has Suzuki contributing a .287/.387/.534 slash line with 29 home runs as a rookie for the Cubs this season. Perhaps it's unfair to place a polished 27-year-old who posted a 1.069 OPS in Japan last year in the Rookie of the Year discussion -- but Suzuki is eligible. And at full health, he's a favorite. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Nick Madrigal hits .336, the highest by a Cubs batter since Bill Madlock hit .339 in 1976. He also hits zero home runs, making him the first qualified player to hit .300 without a homer since Luis Castillo of the Marlins in 1999. -- Schoenfield


23. Kansas City Royals

Projected record: 71-91 (4.8% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Salvador Perez's 48 home runs last year -- which tied him with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the major league lead -- were a surprise, but he proves it was no fluke with another 40-homer season. He's joined this year by Bobby Witt Jr., who is absolutely the real deal, and Adalberto Mondesi, who stays healthy and puts together a 20-homer, 50-steal season. The pitching is somehow good enough and, as the AL East teams beat up on each other, the Royals sneak into the sixth playoff spot. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: The Royals profile as, well, the Royals -- a high-contact, athletic lineup that will burn up the basepaths and produce in the field. But power and patience appear to be in short supply in the lineup, unless K.C. turns over a number of spots to the coming wave of rising hitters like super-prospect Witt. It's unlikely to happen without a significant maturation of the starting rotation -- but if that comes together, and Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez and the rest continue to mash in the minors, will the Royals clear the path? -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Bobby Witt Jr. is less than three years removed from high school, but he already looks major league ready -- in the upper minors last year, he hit.290/.361/.576 with 33 home runs and 29 stolen bases. He has been a star basically since he was 15 years old, and he has the tools to join the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuna Jr. among the electric, toolsy, enthralling stars whom the sport continues to churn out. He's the odds-on favorite for the AL Rookie of the Year award -- and there's a reason. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Will Mondesi actually go 20-50? No, he will not. But Witt does go 25-25 to finish second in the Rookie of the Year voting. The only two rookies in the divisional era (since 1969) to hit both those marks: Mike Trout and Chris Young. -- Schoenfield


24. Washington Nationals

Projected record: 69-93 (3.1% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Juan Soto has a season for the ages. He hits for average, hits for power, draws a bajillion walks. He hits .400 in two different months. He posts a .500 on-base percentage -- for the season. In one month, he walks 40 times and strikes out just five. He is twice intentionally walked with the bases loaded. He hits two home runs in one game off Jacob deGrom, three off Max Scherzer in another, and a walk-off against Josh Hader. He leads the Nationals to 75 wins. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: The offense in Washington looks solidly in the middle of the pack: split positionally between highly productive spots and production sinkholes. You can win with that if you've got an athletic group that adds value on the basepaths and in the field and is backed by a good pitching staff. It's not clear that any of that applies to the Nationals. According to the Fangraphs depth charts, Washington's middling offense is accompanied by last-in-the-majors forecasts for baserunning and fielding. It's a process. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Late last year, with Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber gone and the front office clearly looking ahead, opposing teams attacked the Nationals with one goal: not letting Juan Soto beat them. After Aug. 1, he drew 73 walks, 25 more than the second-place Bryce Harper and Shohei Ohtani. Pitchers feared challenging Soto within the strike zone, and yet Soto, at that point only 22 years old, ventured outside the strike zone far less than anybody. It's part of what makes him the greatest hitter in the sport. And why 2022 -- when Nelson Cruz will provide him with some much-needed protection -- might be the year he locks down an MVP. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Soto's final line of .352/.527/.644 wins him unanimous MVP honors. What, that doesn't sound realistic? It should -- that's what he hit over his final 78 games in 2021. -- Schoenfield


25. Cincinnati Reds

Projected record: 77-85 (16.9% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... The future is now as rookies Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, along with Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo, give the Reds four above-average starters. The past is now as Joey Votto matches his 2021 numbers and Mike Moustakas has a rebound campaign. Nick Senzel is finally healthy and holds down center field, while Tyler Stephenson (.286/.366/.431 as a rookie) turns into an All-Star backstop. The Reds capture a wild card and then, to top it all off, majority owner/CEO Bob Castellini decides to sell the team. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: There's plenty to pick on, but to start: The overall picture in the outfield is tenuous. That'll happen when your two All-Star corner outfielders depart (Jesse Winker, Nick Castellanos) and your various center fielders have finished 29th in bWAR at the position in each of the past two seasons. It could work out. Tommy Pham could bounce back after an off-year in San Diego. Faded prospect Senzel could break out in center. But on paper, Cincinnati enters the season with one of baseball's weakest outfields. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Luis Castillo might be the most sought-after pitcher at this year's trade deadline (as long as his shoulder soreness doesn't become more serious than anticipated). If he stays, he's probably the Reds' best chance at a major award winner. Castillo, 29, was one of the best pitchers in the sport over the last four months of the 2021 regular season, with a 2.73 ERA, 144 strikeouts and 52 walks over his last 135⅓ innings. There's no reason that shouldn't continue into 2022. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: The Reds make the playoffs as Joey Votto hits 40 home runs for the first time in his career and Tyler Mahle wins 17 games to lead the rotation. -- Schoenfield


26. Colorado Rockies

Projected record: 66-96 (1.5% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Kris Bryant loves Coors Field and hits .300 with 40 home runs. Randal Grichuk, who hit 31 home runs in 2019, matches him. C.J. Cron proves last year's 130 OPS+ was legit, and Ryan McMahon out-WARs Nolan Arenado. German Marquez and Kyle Freeland combine for 31 wins like they did in 2018. The Giants and Padres fall apart and the Rockies squeeze out a wild-card spot. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: Depending how far you want to drill down into the metrics, there are a number of bottom-tier rankings you could point to for a Rockies club that looks to be in for a long season. For now, let's fixate on the bullpen, which added veteran closer Alex Colome to figure into some kind of high-leverage role. Colome features a cutter as his bread-and-butter pitch -- but even if he did a perfect Mariano Rivera impression, the Rockies still might not have a plus bullpen. And when the going gets tough for a struggling team, nothing turns bad into disastrous faster than a leaky bullpen. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: German Marquez has managed to thrive in a place where most pitchers fail. In 18 starts at Coors last year, he posted a 3.67 ERA -- and nearly threw a no-hitter. And yet there's still room for improvement from the 27-year-old right-hander, who was tagged for 46 earned runs in 67 2/3 innings in the second half. He wants to incorporate more changeups, and he's working on slowing down his delivery in times of stress. If he can do that, he could vault himself into the Cy Young discussion. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Not only does McMahon only out-WAR Arenado, he again leads all infielders in defensive runs saved. For good measure, he snaps Arenado's streak of nine straight Gold Gloves. -- Schoenfield


27. Arizona Diamondbacks

Projected record: 66-96 (1.5% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... They start out 15-13 again. But then, instead of losing 50 of their next 58 games -- yes, the D-backs went 8-50 from May 4 through July 4 --, they win 30 of 58 and enter the All-Star break in wild-card contention. Ketel Marte plays 150 games and has an MVP-caliber season like he did in 2019. After churning through 16 starting pitchers in 2021, the Diamondbacks need just seven. Last year's saves leader, Mark Melancon, locks down the ninth (he had 39 last year -- Arizona had 22 as a team, no one more than six). A year after losing 110 games, the D-backs finish over .500. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: With a veteran-heavy rotation and a new veteran closer in Melancon, you can see Arizona's plan to push into the middle of the pack on the pitching side. The forecasts don't love the plan, but at least there is one. On offense, the Diamondbacks have a potentially solid group -- decently athletic, but with an upside limited by a lack of power up and down the lineup. Any scenario in which the Diamondbacks could claw their way to contention happens only with a number of power breakouts among Arizona's hitters. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: The D-backs made it clear this spring that they intend to build around Marte, signing him to a five-year, $76 million extension that could keep him with the organization through the 2028 season. Marte, who had been a rumored trade candidate on an annual basis, showed glimpses of his star form again in 2021, batting .318/.327/.532. Hamstring injuries limited him to just 90 games, but this year, the D-backs will keep Marte at second base in an effort to preserve his health. If that's the case, he could make a run for the MVP. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Pavin Smith has a breakout year at the plate, hitting .300 with 22 home runs and making the All-Star Game. -- Schoenfield


28. Oakland Athletics

Projected record: 68-94 (2.1% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... They get big league production from the prospects they acquired in their trades: Cristian Pache hits enough to back up his potential Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field; Kevin Smith replaces Matt Chapman at third base and hits like his Triple-A line (.285/.370/.561) says he can; Shea Langeliers forces his way into sharing time with Sean Murphy. Meanwhile, at least one starter from the group of A.J. Puk, Brent Honeywell Jr. and Daulton Jefferies steps up and produces. Realistically, though -- 80 wins feels like a miracle. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: The big problem with Oakland's lineup is that, after the A's activity of the past few months, their best players are all on different teams. It's a reality that Oakland fans have seen play out too often, going back to the 1970s. Maybe it won't always be this way, but for now, there is little to recommend the short-term fortunes for this club, particularly if the talent offloads continue. They might not be the worst team in the majors (for now), but the Swingin' A's are on the short list for baseball's worst offense in 2022. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Frankie Montas is now the Will Smith meme (the other one), walking into the A's clubhouse only to find that everybody else is gone. The latest was his rotation mate, Sean Manaea, who was flipped to the Padres on Sunday in the late stages of an aggressive teardown. Montas is not only the undoubted ace of this staff, but perhaps the only player - maybe outside of his catcher, Sean Murphy - capable of instant greatness. The 29-year-old right-hander finished sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting last year, winning 13 games, posting a 3.37 ERA, striking out 10 batters per nine innings and making -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: Unfortunately, the A's lose 100 games for the first time since the 1979 team went 54-108. That team twice drew under 1,000 fans for a game. This year's team bottoms out at 2,356 fans on Sept. 20. -- Schoenfield


29. Pittsburgh Pirates

Projected record: 66-96 (0.8% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... The Pirates not only don't trade Bryan Reynolds, they sign him to a long-term extension. They call up Oneil Cruz and sign him to a long-term extension. Ke'Bryan Hayes stays healthy, makes the All-Star team and wins a Gold Glove. Mitch Keller finally harnesses that big fastball and drops three runs off his ERA (6.17 in 2021). The Pirates win 75 games and avoid last place. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: This season's club seems designed to field an elite defense in support of a pitching staff that remains in transition. If it works, helping Keller find himself and Bryse Wilson realize his potential and Roansy Contreras transition to the majors, then it's a step in the right direction -- but that step might be of the baby variety, as Pittsburgh's rotation forecast foretells a continuing revolving door. But, in the fourth season of the Pirates' rebuild, it's all about improving incrementally while the top prospects mature. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: One of the first signs that the new CBA didn't cure service-time manipulation probably came last week, when Oneil Cruz -- the 13th-ranked prospect in baseball by ESPN's Kiley McDaniel -- was demoted to the minors for "development." Cruz, 23, is undoubtedly deserving of a roster spot on a bad Pirates team. He'll be back up soon, at which point the 6-foot-7 power-hitting shortstop could make a run for NL Rookie of the Year. The Pirates will undoubtedly be bad again, but whenever Cruz joins Hayes on the left side of the infield, at least they should be lots of fun. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: The Pirates will have a Rookie of the Year candidate -- but it won't be Cruz. Second baseman Diego Castillo, acquired last year from the Yankees, leads the team with 23 home runs and receives some down-ballot support for the league's top rookie. -- Schoenfield


30. Baltimore Orioles

Projected record: 58-104 (0.2% playoff odds)

If everything goes right ... Cedric Mullins builds on his All-Star season, Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez establish themselves as future stars, the pitching staff -- which had a 5.84 ERA in 2021 -- lowers its ERA by a run a game thanks to the fences getting moved back at Camden Yards, and the Orioles win ... 70 games. -- Schoenfield

Weakness that could stop them: In truth, the Orioles still have too many shortcomings to isolate just one of them. Since the Orioles lost the 2016 AL wild-card game, they've dropped 104 of every 162 games they've played. With a rebuild that long -- more than a half-decade -- the bad news is that the 2022 season just looks like more of the same. That perception will only grow if productive veterans like John Means and Cedric Mullins are dealt. What would halt the creeping nihilism is any hint that the future really will be better -- bright starts from Rutschman and Rodriguez would help. -- Doolittle

Most likely 2022 award winner: Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, entered this season as the industry's No. 1 prospect by most major outlets, including ESPN. He's already 24 and is extremely polished in every facet, bringing plus arm strength and defensive skills behind the plate and plus power and plate discipline in the batter's box. Even after a triceps strain set him back in spring training, Rutschman is expected to be a major contributor for the Orioles this season. If you're looking for an AL Rookie of the Year pick, it's hard to go wrong with Rutschman. -- Gonzalez

One (realistic) bold prediction: The Orioles are moving the left-field fence back 26½ feet -- but that won't affect Mullins, who pulled all 30 of his home runs in 2021 to right field or right-center. He goes 30-30 again, making him the first player with consecutive 30-30 seasons since Ryan Braun in 2011-12. -- Schoenfield