Welcome to the first edition of theScore's MLB Power Rankings for the 2024 season. Here we look at each team's X-factor with spring training underway. 1. Los Angeles DodgersTyler Glasnow: Glasnow's health and durability issues are well-chronicled. He's only had two 100-plus inning seasons in his career and reached the 120-inning mark for the first time last year. When he's been healthy, Glasnow's pitched like an ace, which is why the Dodgers gave him over $136 million this winter. It's also why he's the key to Los Angeles' season. For all of the hype surrounding the Dodgers' offseason, their rotation remains as brittle as ever, with plenty of question marks. If they're going to meet the enormous expectations placed upon them, L.A. needs Glasnow to stabilize the rotation and make at least 25 starts, if not 30.2. Atlanta BravesChris Sale: The Braves surprised many when they took a chance on Sale, acquiring him in a trade with the Red Sox. The 34-year-old has only made 31 starts over the last three seasons due to several injuries. In 20 starts with the Red Sox last season, Sale proved that he's still capable of dominating hitters. A healthy and productive Sale alongside Max Fried and Spencer Strider will go a long way in helping the Braves.3. Houston AstrosYainer Diaz: Martin Maldonado's run as the Astros' starting catcher is over, so the job is Diaz's to lose. The 25-year-old was impressive with the bat during his rookie season, hitting 23 homers with an .846 OPS. Still, question marks remain about his ability behind the plate and whether he can match the game-calling ability of his predecessor, who was lauded by pitchers for his preparation and knowledge of opposing team's hitters.4. Philadelphia PhilliesBryson Stott: It's easy to forget about Stott in a lineup that boasts Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, J.T. Realmuto, and Nick Castellanos. But the 26-year-old second baseman made a major leap in his sophomore season, recording 15 homers with 31 steals and a 3.8 fWAR, the fourth-highest total among players at the keystone position in the NL. The Phillies' offense can get even better if Stott continues to improve.5. Baltimore OriolesGrayson Rodriguez: The right-hander was excellent when he returned from the minors last season, posting a 2.58 ERA over his final 13 starts. With Kyle Bradish out for an unspecified amount of time due to a UCL tear and John Means set to start the year on the IL, Rodriguez must continue to build on his success to give the Orioles a legitimate starter behind Corbin Burnes. Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images Sport / Getty6. Texas RangersJon Gray: Gray came up with some big relief outings in the playoffs, but his Rangers tenure has been hit-and-miss. It's time for him to step up and become the pitcher Texas thought it was getting when he signed that $56-million deal three years ago. With Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, and Tyler Mahle injured and the unsigned Jordan Montgomery likely heading elsewhere, Gray has never been more important to a thinned-out Rangers rotation. He needs to help Nathan Eovaldi carry the load until the big guys get healthy.7. New York YankeesCarlos Rod n: New York signed Marcus Stroman in an effort to bolster the rotation but is counting on Rod n to prove a disastrous 2023 was a blip rather than a trend moving forward. The left-hander struggled through injuries en route to posting a 6.85 ERA over 14 starts. It'll be tough for the Yankees to rebound from a disappointing 82-80 record last season if Rod n can't recapture the form that convinced New York to hand him a six-year, $162-million contract.8. Arizona DiamondbacksBrandon Pfaadt: Pfaadt is attempting to build off a solid finish to his rookie campaign in which he pitched well in the second half of the season and during the D-Backs' playoff run. It'll be interesting to see if the 25-year-old, who was demoted midway through last season, can execute consistently and provide Arizona with another top-tier arm behind Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez.9. Seattle MarinersTy France: The Mariners need France to return to his 2022 All-Star form after the first baseman swatted just 12 homers with a .703 OPS last season. The 29-year-old also posted a 104 wRC+ after a 125 wRC+ two years ago. Seattle's lineup becomes much deeper and tougher to navigate with France performing at his best. 10. Tampa Bay RaysRyan Pepiot: The Rays will be without Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs, and Drew Rasmussen for most of 2024, giving Pepiot a considerable opportunity to make a name for himself. Acquired from the Dodgers for Tyler Glasnow, Pepiot posted a 2.14 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in 42 innings last season. The 26-year-old could be Tampa Bay's best starter if he pitches to his potential. Cole Burston / Getty Images Sport / Getty11. Toronto Blue JaysVladimir Guerrero Jr.: Guerrero appears to be in great shape as he looks to rebound from a pedestrian performance at the plate in 2023. The Blue Jays didn't do much to improve last season's inconsistent offensive attack, instead betting on internal improvement from players like Guerrero. With just two years of team control remaining, a big campaign from Guerrero would go a long way to solidify his future in Toronto and help the team get over the hump in 2024.12. Minnesota TwinsCarlos Correa: The shortstop's 2023 season was a disappointment after his bizarre free-agency saga brought him back to Minnesota. He battled injuries yet again and put up career-worst numbers across the board. Yet when the lights turned on in October, there he was, right on time. Correa hit .409 in the postseason, made a pair of series-altering defensive plays against the Blue Jays in the wild-card round, and almost singlehandedly beat his old team in the ALDS. That's the Carlos Correa the Twins need to see every day to get back to the playoffs in 2024.13. Boston Red SoxNick Pivetta: The Red Sox only added Lucas Giolito this offseason despite a desperate need for starting pitching. That opened the door for Pivetta to rejoin the rotation. The 31-year-old remade himself following a demotion to the bullpen last season and briefly returned to the rotation in September, posting a 2.37 ERA over his final five starts. If Boston is to have any chance at a playoff spot, it'll need Pivetta to be an effective starter.14. Cincinnati RedsFrankie Montas: The veteran right-hander could be a major addition to the rotation if he stays healthy. He authored a 3.43 ERA with 9.8 K/9 over 440 2/3 innings (87 starts) with the Athletics from 2019-2022 before a rough stretch with the Yankees. Cincinnati missed the postseason last year because its starting pitchers amassed the sixth-worst fWAR in baseball.15. San Diego PadresXander Bogaerts: San Diego acquired Bogaerts to provide additional thump to a lineup that included Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Juan Soto. Bogaerts will be relied upon to make up for the loss of Soto. The Padres owned a losing record during Bogaerts' least productive months last season but finished 20-7 when the infielder produced a 1.122 OPS with 13 RBIs in September. Diamond Images / Diamond Images / Getty16. Milwaukee BrewersChristian Yelich: For the first time since his devastating knee injury late in 2019, Yelich bore even a striking resemblance to his old MVP self last season. That was huge for a Brewers team that has struggled offensively over the last few years. Yelich doesn't need to win another MVP, but he can do even better than last season's .818 OPS and 19 homers. The Brewers need him to find that next gear and co-anchor the lineup alongside Rhys Hoskins, especially without Corbin Burnes.17. New York MetsFrancisco Alvarez: The young catcher hit 25 home runs over 123 games during his rookie campaign in 2023. Alvarez was excellent defensively, managing the pitching staff well and ranking in the 95th percentile in framing, according to Baseball Savant. The 22-year-old looks like a legitimate building block for the Mets and could be poised for his first of many All-Star Game appearances in 2024. 18. St. Louis CardinalsSonny Gray: Starting pitching woes crushed the Cardinals last season, prompting the team to sign Gray to a three-year, $75-million contract. The 34-year-old was the runner-up for the AL Cy Young in 2023, and he'll need to replicate that strong performance if St. Louis has a chance at turning things around. With so many questions behind Gray in the rotation, the team will need to know it can at least count on its ace every fifth day.19. Chicago CubsSeiya Suzuki: Suzuki almost single-handedly kept the Cubs' playoff hopes alive until last season's penultimate day when he flashed the hitting skills that earned him a long-term contract before the 2022 campaign. Suzuki will be looked upon to carry the offensive load once again, with the status of Cody Bellinger - Chicago's most productive bat from last season - still undecided.20. San Francisco GiantsJorge Soler: The Giants haven't had a 30-homer bat since Barry Bonds in 2004. Noted non-sluggers Wilmer Flores, Kevin Pillar, Brandon Crawford, and Bengie Molina have led the team in homers in a season since. Soler's power bat will be a welcome addition to a club that ranked 19th in home runs in 2023. The 32-year-old will likely suffer a drop off from last season's 36-homer output with the move to San Francisco, but if he can replicate anything even close to that effort, it'll be a massive upgrade to the offense. Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty21. Detroit TigersTarik Skubal: From his first start of the season on July 4 onward, no pitcher in baseball accrued more fWAR than Skubal in his breakout campaign. He also put up an 11.4 K/9 rate, 0.90 WHIP, and gave up just four homers in 80 1/3 innings down the stretch. Skubal continuing his rise would be huge for a Tigers team that's quietly starting to emerge from a long rebuild.22. Miami MarlinsTim Anderson: The two-time All-Star settled for a one-year, $5-million contract after slumping through the worst season of his career. Anderson's batted-ball metrics were concerning, and it's fair to wonder if he's fallen off a cliff too steep to bounce back from. However, this type of deal carries very little risk for the Marlins and a return to some level of his past form would help Miami remain competitive in the NL after making the postseason last year.23. Los Angeles AngelsAnthony Rendon: It's been a disastrous first four seasons in Los Angeles for the third baseman, but without Shohei Ohtani, the Angels need Rendon now more than ever. Injuries have been a significant part of Rendon's decline - he's played in just 30% of the team's games over the last three seasons - but he's healthy to start the season. If Los Angeles wants to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2014, its highest-paid player needs to somewhat resemble his former All-Star self.24. Kansas City RoyalsVinnie Pasquantino: The slugging first baseman only played in 61 games after suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder last June. However, he's collected 19 homers with a .799 OPS over a combined 133 contests since debuting in 2022. He's also walked 60 times compared to 65 strikeouts, showing a great eye at the plate. The 26-year-old is primed to be a major contributor if he can stay on the field.25. Cleveland GuardiansBo Naylor: There isn't a lot of thump in the Guardians' lineup outside of Jos Ram rez and Josh Naylor, but the younger Naylor brother has the potential to give them a boost. Bo hit 11 homers in 230 plate appearances last season. Steamer projects 14 homers and a 111 wRC+ campaign for the backstop, which would be the highest marks in each category for a Guardians catcher since Roberto P rez (24 HR, 102 wRC+) in 2019. Paul Rutherford / Getty Images Sport / Getty26. Pittsburgh PiratesOneil Cruz: A fully healthy Cruz is a potential game-changer for the Pirates. The 25-year-old is a dynamic talent with a cannon of an arm at shortstop and a spark plug with power atop the lineup. Cruz was supposed to become the face of the Pirates last year before an unfortunate ankle injury in April ended his season. It's finally his time to shine and give Pittsburgh's long-suffering fans hope that better days are finally here.27. Washington NationalsKeibert Ruiz: The 25-year-old catcher posted career highs in homers (18) and RBIs (67) while playing in 136 games last year. He also slashed .285/.326/.441 in the last three months of the season. Ruiz, who signed an eight-year extension last March, could accelerate Washington's rebuild if he takes another step forward.28. Chicago White SoxMichael Soroka: The right-hander gets a fresh start with the White Sox after battling several injuries over the past few years, and it's hard to know exactly what type of pitcher he is at this point. Soroka will be afforded every opportunity to prove himself for a team expected to be near the bottom of the standings in 2024.29. Colorado RockiesKris Bryant: Is this the year Bryant justifies the Rockies giving him a $182-million contract? Colorado is doing everything to ease the strain on Bryant, who was on the IL three times and only appeared in 80 games last season. The team is offering him more playing time at DH and first base to help with nagging back and foot issues. If the experiment boosts his production, it'll be a major boon for a Rockies club trying to avoid another franchise-worst season.30. Oakland AthleticsShea Langeliers: Oakland's whiffed on several high-profile trades in recent years, and it'll be tough to crawl out of this malaise if some of the key players of those deals don't develop into foundational pieces. Langeliers, acquired in a package for Matt Olson, hit 22 home runs last season in 135 games but posted just a .681 OPS. Wins and losses aren't overly important for the A's in 2024, so Langeliers can work to take the next step.Copyright © 2024 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Early spring is a time of hope and renewal in MLB camps. This is when reports are plentiful about players arriving in the best shape of their lives, when coaches and players speak of new or improved skills they believe will make all the difference.While many of these storylines will fade over the next six weeks, some will matter. Let's take a look at a few that could be big deals throughout the season.Holliday in a hurryI first came across Jackson Holliday, the sport's consensus No. 1 prospect, at the Orioles' minor-league dining hall in Sarasota, Florida, last spring while reporting a piece about Baltimore's player-development machine.Waiting in line for food, Holliday intently watched Gunnar Henderson on a nearby TV showing the major-league team's spring training game."When Jackson showed up (after being drafted in 2022), the first meeting we had, we were going through some of our process, and they had Gunnar on the screen," Baltimore's player development director Matt Blood said. "He asked a question: 'What did you do with him? Whatever you did with him is what I want to do.'" Diamond Images / GettyHenderson enjoyed a breakout rookie season in 2023, and Holliday may be next in 2024. Will Holliday go north with the club right away?Holliday possesses tremendous talent and rare bloodlines as the son of longtime star Matt Holliday. He played at four levels last year, rising from A-ball to finish at Triple-A, and remained hungry after the season. Holliday told The Baltimore Sun he spent the offseason getting stronger: he's now squatting 455 pounds, bench-pressing 315 pounds, and box-jumping 55 inches.Holliday also revealed how he benefited from the family's indoor batting cage: Jackson Holliday didn t just lift this offseason. He also spent countless time in the Hollidays new hitting compound the barn with friends, teammates and big leaguers. It s a sick setup, Heston Kjerstad said.READ MORE: https://t.co/n6Z3a8Xj6j pic.twitter.com/3YCrvf5kvi Jacob Calvin Meyer (@jcalvinmeyer) February 20, 2024 Holliday could be yet another young star on the Orioles' roster, arriving ahead of schedule for a team that jumped ahead of its expected timeline last season.Tarik Skubal, emerging ace?Full camps opened this week and Detroit Tigers left-handed starting pitcher Tarik Skubal already hit 100 mph during live batting practice Tuesday. That's a remarkable reading for a starting pitcher, but it's even more interesting considering what Skubal did in the second half of last season. Icon Sportswire / GettyIf you stopped paying attention to the Tigers halfway through last season - or the AL Central, for that matter - we don't blame you.But from July 1 through the end of the season, Skubal was the most valuable pitcher in baseball by FanGraphs WAR (3.3), a tick ahead of Spencer Strider (3.2). His strikeout-minus-walk rate (28.4%) ranked third and his 2.80 ERA ranked 18th. His average fastball jumped a full mile to 95.5 mph.The question is whether the 27-year-old, who's already endured two major elbow procedures and is yet to crack 150 innings in a season, can hold up. FanGraphs' various projections average out to predict 142 innings in 2024. If he reaches that number, the Tigers could suddenly become interesting in a division where few teams attempted to improve this offseason.Top Tigers pitching prospects Jackson Jobe and Ty Madden could reach the majors this year. First baseman Spencer Torkelson broke out in the second half last year, Riley Greene can be a force if he can avoid injuries that cost him two months in '23, and top position prospect Colt Keith agreed to a long-term deal this spring. There's hope in the Motor City.Strider adds a new trickIt's odd to think that Strider - perhaps the best pitcher in the game - has another level to reach.But Strider may reach new heights this year, coming off a season in which he led the majors in strikeouts and garnered Cy Young consideration.What's remarkable about Strider is that he's become a dominant pitcher primarily by throwing only two pitches: 93% of Strider's offerings were either fastballs or sliders last year.But Strider's demonstrating a new pitch early this spring: a curveball.Consider how it pairs with his fastball during a live at-bat against star teammate Matt Olson in Atlanta Braves camp this week: Spencer Strider, confirmed filthy.Fastball and NEW curveball @PitchingNinja x @SpencerSTRIDer pic.twitter.com/7Lqmb64Oga FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) February 20, 2024 As we explored last spring, few pitchers pay more attention to the science of their craft than Strider, who rebuilt his delivery following Tommy John surgery at Clemson through his own study. To date, Strider believed his slider and fastball were all he needed to disrupt timing and miss bats.But if Strider gives batters a different pitch shape and velocity to think about, it's possible he reaches another level, wins a Cy Young Award, and helps the Braves advance deeper into October.A new league-wide pitch?Every few years, a new pitch makes its way through the league. In the last couple of seasons, it was the sweeper, which is a slider with more horizontal movement.New pitches are easier to learn with today's technology. High-speed cameras allow pitchers to see exactly how subtle grip changes alter spin and movement. Velocity and spin tracking offer immediate feedback in bullpens.This year's new pitch may be the splitter.For pitchers who've struggled to find a pitch that offers fading, arm-side movement action like a changeup to pair with a breaking ball, it could be a game-changer.I spoke to Driveline Baseball instructor Chris Langin last spring for a piece on Minnesota Twins pitcher Joe Ryan adding a splitter. Langin thought the splitter was underutilized in MLB because of fear."You'll have four, five guys throwing a splitter, three of them have success, and one runs into normal, 30% injury risk, and everyone blames the splitter," Langin said. "Until that stops, it's probably not going to be optimized."Ryan's 2023 splitter: Your browser does not support the video tag. Major League Baseball Splitters are frequently thrown in Japanese pro baseball: an 11% rate last year, compared to 2% in MLB."We have one country that doesn't give a shit and all they throw is splitters," Langin said. "We've got another country that thinks it's going to break everyone's arms."Perhaps that'll change this spring.A hidden ace in New YorkThe New York Yankees added Juan Soto earlier this winter, the most impactful addition in the game east of Los Angeles. And they remain connected to big-name free agents like Blake Snell.But the biggest improvement the Yankees can make is having their holdover players be healthy and on the field. And, yes, they brought some of this on themselves by adding injury-prone players to their roster.They need Aaron Judge to remain healthy, of course, and perhaps Giancarlo Stanton's altered physique can recapture some magic. But the biggest de facto addition the Yankees could benefit from is a major signing they made last season: Carlos Rod n. New York hoped he'd be a co-ace with Gerrit Cole but instead got 14 ineffective starts when he returned in July from a forearm issue. Carlos Rod n in action: pic.twitter.com/QvRLNEOvo3 Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 19, 2024 Rod n's touching 97 mph early this spring. He was sitting in the high 80s this time a year ago. If that's an indication of improved health, it could be a big deal.When Rod n finished second in the majors in pitching WAR (6.2) in 2022, striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings, he averaged 95.5 mph with his fastball. He's bounced back from injury before. His upside's undeniable. He's a hidden ace card for the Yankees.Travis Sawchik is theScore's senior baseball writer.Copyright © 2024 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Some of baseball's biggest stars call first base home, with Freddie Freeman, Matt Olson, Pete Alonso, Paul Goldschmidt and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and