04/05/12 2:14 PM ET
Moves have Angels atop first Power Rankings
By / MLB.com
Fans from Anaheim to New York sure can. Baseball lovers from Seattle to Miami and Texas to Milwaukee can feel it, too.
It's time to play power ball. It's time for the debates to begin and time to ponder some of the biggest questions in the game.
Will Albert Pujols push the Angels past the Rangers in the AL West? Can the D-backs repeat as NL West champions?
Who did not pick the Tigers to win the AL Central? What's more, can the World Series champion Cardinals do it again?
Is the NL East up for grabs and is the AL East once again the best division in baseball?
Welcome to the first regular-season edition of the MLB.com Power Rankings for 2012.
For the third season, MLB.com has set up a panel of experts to vote on the top 15 teams each week. Three former Major League players -- Larry Dierker, Mitch Williams, and Frank Thomas -- are part of the process, as are Peter Gammons and Carlton Thompson, vice president and executive editor of MLB.com. Former general manager and current MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette, along with MLB.com columnists Mike Bauman, Barry Bloom, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Matthew Leach and Jesse Sanchez are also part of the group.
Agree? Disagree? The power is yours.
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The additions of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson made the Angels the big winners in the offseason, but it's the return of a healthy Kendrys Morales that has the club feeling they might win the regular-season title, too. They are hoping for a red October in Anaheim.
It's hard to pick against the 27-time World Series champions, especially with such an experienced lineup and Mariano Rivera closing out games. There are some questions about the rotation, but there is no denying that Robinson Cano will be an AL MVP candidate again.
The two-time defending American League champions added Yu Darvish and Neftali Feliz to a young and talented starting rotation with the hopes that the moves will help the franchise get back to the World Series for the third consecutive season. The Rangers are a year older and a year wiser.
Here's why it's good to be a Phillies fan: The club won a franchise-record 102 regular-season games along with its fifth consecutive National League East championship last season -- and 2012 might be even better. The Phillies return one of the most celebrated rotations in the game. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will start the season on the disabled list but will provide a boost to the offense when they return.
The defending World Series champions have a new manager in Mike Matheny, but fans should expect the same old winning ways in St. Louis. Yes, the Cards will miss Pujols but they've overcome challenges in the past and the 2012 should not be any different.
The Tigers are predicted to run away with the AL Central title this season, and it's easy to see why. With reigning AL MVP Justin Verlander leading the pitching staff and Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder pacing the offense, some believe this could be the year the Tigers win it all.
Ozzie Guillen leads the new-look Marlins into a new stadium with new shortstop Jose Reyes and a familiar face in Hanley Ramirez at his new position at third base. The race for the NL East is wide open, and Guillen has Miami believing this could be the year for the Marlins.
Last year's late collapse is just a memory. With players such as MVP runner-up Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and, eventually, Carl Crawford -- who will start the season on the disabled list -- it's hard to blame the Red Sox for concentrating on the present. Don't forget about Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz. Could this be Boston's year? Some believe it is.
Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and the starting rotation made up of James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Jeff Niemann deservedly get most of the attention, but club's defense and catching should not be overlooked. These Rays are no longer underdogs.
The Braves have not forgotten about last September's historic collapse, but they simply want to distance themselves from the forgettable month. Atlanta basically returns the same cast of players from last season and that's a good thing when you have closer Craig Kimbrel and his top setup men Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty pitching at the end of games and slugger Jason Heyward getting more comfortable at the plate each year.
It's impossible to question the effectiveness of a rotation that features Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong, and now it appears the Giants have made strides on offense as well. The addition of athletic outfielders such as Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera add a new element: speed. The Giants have not been able to slug their way to victory, but now it seems as if they will be able to pitch and run their way there.
Keep an eye on the Nationals this season. Stephen Strasburg is back and the club improved the rotation by adding Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson. Also keep in mind that first baseman Adam LaRoche and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman are expected to be healthy for the full season.
The D-backs just might be better than the 2011 team that won the NL West. Staff ace Ian Kennedy continues to blossom as one of the NL's top pitchers and right fielder Justin Upton has emerged as an NL MVP candidate. Manager Kirk Gibson has changed the culture in the clubhouse and has everyone in Arizona believing in "Gibby Ball."
It will be up to reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun and company to fill the offensive void left with the departure of Prince Fielder, but it could be the pitching, not the hitting, that carries the 2011 NL Central champs back to the postseason. Expect strong seasons from Zack Greinke and Francisco Rodriguez along with John Axford pitching at the end of games.
The Reds will go as far as staff ace Johnny Cueto and slugger Joey Votto take them, but this could be the year Aroldis Chapman emerges as a consistent force on the mound. Whether he is pitching out of the bullpen or in the starting rotation, Chapman is primed for a breakout season.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.