The best MLB teams

Much of the credit for the Atlanta Braves’ big postseason run was rightly attributed to midseason deals made by general manager Alex Anthopoulos, because without Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Joc Pederson, Atlanta wouldn’t have hosted a championship parade.

But what may have been lost in that narrative was how much the organizational base continued to develop beneath those additions. Austin Riley, just 24 years old, became one of the best players in the National League. Max Fried, who turns 28 next week, posted a 1.74 ERA in his last 14 regular-season starts. Ian Anderson, just 23 years old, already has a full season of experience. The talented 26-year-old Kyle Wright may have reached a crossroads in his development during the postseason, with moments when he can gain confidence. Dansby Swanson had 62 extra-base hits last season and has become one of the most consistent defenders in the game. Ozzie Albies is a multifaceted star. And Ronald Acuña Jr. was the favorite in the NL MVP race at the time he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

When the NL Championship Series began in October, the Braves were underdogs against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and similarly oddsmakers were against them against the Houston Astros in the World Series. So underestimate them now at your own risk.

Braves owners still need to open their fat coffers and pay Freddie Freeman . If that happens, Atlanta may have a better team in 2022 than the group honored in the championship parade, and have a legitimate shot at becoming the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to win back-to-back titles.

As of early 2022, with many unsigned players and many more trades to come after the next labor deal is forged, these are the top 10 teams in MLB:

1. Atlanta Braves

Nothing inspires like success, and the Braves’ rise last year with a group of very experienced coaches may have informed some of the decisions made by the division rival New York Mets. Atlanta’s Brian Snitker leads a well-traveled group that includes Ron Washington, Rick Kranitz, Eric Young, Sal Fasano, Kevin Seitzer and others.

Buck Showalter’s first staffings as Mets manager included the highly respected Wayne Kirby, Joey Cora and longtime Major Leaguer Eric Chavez, and in fact, the Mets asked if they could pursue Washington.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

When teams get back to normal, the Dodgers will have their work cut out for them. First, they’ll have to settle for all-time great southpaw Clayton Kershaw, and then they’ll presumably look for at least one top player with some of the money they were willing to spend on Corey Seager, who signed a 10-year deal. and $325 million with the Texas Rangers. Does that mean luring Freddie Freeman back to his home state with a big deal? Does that mean chasing after Trevor Story?

3. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox apparently finished clinching the AL Central in late July, but like the Braves, there were actually a lot that could have gone better. Luis Robert, who looks like he could be a superstar, was limited to just 68 games, and left fielder Eloy Jimenez played in just 55. In fact, the White Sox only had two position players in more than 127 games. The core, outside of José Abreu, is relatively young and there is room for growth. The rotation should be strong again, and the bullpen should be pretty good again, too, following the addition of Kendall Graveman.

And let’s face it: The bar is low for the White Sox to be the best team in the relatively weak AL Central. The Tigers and Royals are improving, and the Guardians have a competitive pitching staff, but the White Sox’s talent can once again overwhelm the division.

4. Toronto Blue Jays

As the American League playoffs began, a rival executive was asked if he was relieved that Toronto was eliminated from the postseason on the final day of the regular season. “J—yeah,” he answered firmly, as if this was the dumbest question. And maybe it was, considering the extraordinary lineup Toronto has developed. In the 78 games George Springer played last year, most in the second half, the Blue Jays went 48-30. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. became the best pure hitter in the American League. Bo Bichette continued his growth as a player.

The Blue Jays have to make up for lost production from Robbie Ray, who won the AL Cy Young Award last year, and Toronto could do that with the addition of Kevin Gausman and a full season of Jose Berrios.

5. Tampa Bay Rays

The pieces are always changing, but there will be three constants as Tampa Bay moves forward:

A) The Rays are an industry leader in pitching development: in picking the right pitchers, giving them time to develop, and giving them the substance and type of coaching needed to help them improve. Tampa Bay seems to be perpetually rich in young arms, like Luis Patino, Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz.

B) They have developed a culture of success, to the point that players now join them with open minds about game time in anticipation of success.

C) Wander Franco will be part of their lineup for the foreseeable future. And he’s a superstar in the making.

6.New York Mets

Whatever the luxury tax cap is, owner Steve Cohen is almost guaranteed to exceed it. So it’s only fitting that the Mets keep spending, devoting some future dollars to a left-handed starting pitcher (like Carlos Rodón) and bullpen help.

7. San Francisco Giants

Buster Posey has retired and Kevin Gausman has left for free agency, and some of the same questions that hung over the Giants before last season haunt them now. But like the Rays, this team has earned the benefit of the doubt: Through the picks of Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler, it will find ways to win.

8. Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers (and other small-market teams) may make adjustments to their budget if the job shutdown persists and revenue declines become a reality. People on other teams are wondering if Milwaukee will feel compelled to trade Josh Hader, one of the team’s most expensive players. But regardless of what the Brewers do, they should enter the 2022 season with one of the best rotations in the majors and a solid bullpen, and like the Rays, they’ve built a winning culture.

9. St. Louis Cardinals

The big X factor for St. Louis will be the status of Jack Flaherty, who has pitched just 118 1/3 innings the past two years. He’s shown he can be at the front of the rotation, but he’s had some injury issues. The Cardinals’ front office and new manager Oliver Marmol will have to determine the best way to rebuild their innings and dominance. St. Louis already signed Steven Matz this winter to bolster the back end of the rotation.

10. Boston Red Sox

To build on the success of 2021, the Red Sox will need continued recovery from Chris Sale in his second full year after Tommy John surgery. They will also need a similar production from Nathan Eovaldi. The Red Sox have been lurking in discussions for a top-tier infielder, and whether that’s just due diligence or a precursor to them getting into the race for Matt Chapman, Trevor Story or Carlos Correa remains to be seen.

Honorable mentions

Houston Astros. He could make a really compelling case for the Astros to be in the top 10, maybe even No. 7 or 8, especially since they play in the AL West, which is likely to be weakened due to significant star player subtraction. by the Oakland Athletics. But the Astros have to decide on a shortstop, and the Mariners and Angels could challenge them.

New York Yankees. They could break into the top 10 after they start making moves again, perhaps landing upgrades at first base, shortstop, the rotation and the bullpen. They could be one of the busiest teams when the business of baseball resumes.

Seattle Mariners. They have won 59 of their last 96 games, a 100-win pace for almost two-thirds of the season, and closed 2021 with 90 wins. And then they added Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray.

Miami Marlins. The offense will likely be mediocre at best, but the rotation is dangerous.

Los Angeles Angels. They need luck and health for Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani, but if they get that and the rotation picks up a bit, they’ll be in the playoff conversation (in the expanded version, anyway).

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