Replacing C.J. Wilson with Japanese sensation Yu Darvish keeps the starting staff strong, and Ron Washington’s line-up includes five players who had at least 25 homers last year.
Not quite the offensive powerhouse they’ve been in recent years. But Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels now have a big-time closer — Jonathan Papelbon — backing them up.
4…Los Angeles Angels
Missing the playoffs the past two years didn’t sit very well with the Angels, who have added superstar first baseman Albert Pujols and a front-line pitcher in C.J. Wilson.
5…New York Yankees
Not as active during the off-season as they used to be, but did fortify the starting rotation by adding Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda. This could be Mariano Rivera’s last hurrah.
With Milwaukee losing Prince Fielder and St. Louis now minus Albert Pujols, Cincy could be back in the driver’s seat in the N.L. Central. Pitcher Mat Latos was a real nice addition.
7…Boston Red Sox
Fallout from last September’s epic collapse included the departures of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein. New skipper Bobby Valentine has plenty of talent to work with though.
Dodged a huge bullet when Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension was overturned. But this line-up will be easier to stare down with Mat Gamel playing first base instead of Prince Fielder.
9…Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays consistently win with pitching and defense. And David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and rookie Matt Moore give them one of the game’s best rotations.
Appear ready to challenge the Phillies for supremacy in the N.L. East. Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and a healthy Stephen Strasburg lead an excellent pitching staff.
Despite its collapse last September, this is a well balanced team. The Braves have good young players, good experienced players, some pretty big bats and plenty of pitching.
12…St. Louis Cardinals
Life without future Hall of Famers Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa begins. That’s probably too much for this team to overcome even though there’s still a lot of talent here.
Went from worst to first in Kirk Gibson’s first full year as manager. Justin Upton is one of the top all-around players in the N.L. and Ian Kennedy (21-4) was dynamite in 2011.
Made a bunch of noise over the winter by bringing in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. And speaking of noise, the feisty Ozzie Guillen has taken over as the new manager.
15…Toronto Blue Jays
Probably less of a gap between them and the top teams in the division than there normally is. The Jays may not be spectacular anywhere, but they’re pretty solid everywhere.
16…San Francisco Giants
World Series triumph in 2010 wasn’t a fluke, but Bruce Bochy’s squad had trouble recapturing the magic last year. The return of catcher Buster Posey figures to be a big plus.
17…Los Angeles Dodgers
Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp, the runner-up for the N.L. MVP Award, return after monster 2011 campaigns. But the Dodgers need better balance.
The hometown team is poised for continued progress in Clint Hurdle’s second season. The offense will be much improved with Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez leading the way.
Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez easily outshine the rest of this team. Made some interesting additions though — including Ramon Hernandez, Marco Scutaro and Michael Cuddyer.
Buck Showalter’s team has enough offensive firepower to trade blows with the powerful line-ups of the A.L. East. But the O’s pitching always seems to somehow be in disarray.
21…Chicago White Sox
Robin Ventura takes over a team that underachieved greatly in Ozzie Guillen’s final season. Losing Mark Buehrle, a double-digit winner every year since 2001, isn’t going to help.
22…Kansas City Royals
Loaded with guys who came through their system as highly regarded prospects — including Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon — but they’re still learning how to win.
23…New York Mets
This big market team has had trouble getting things right in recent years. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana returns after missing the entire 2011 season.
24…San Diego Padres
Offensively challenged team added slugging outfielder Carlos Quentin, but still has one of the N.L.’s weaker line-ups. The Padres are bogged down with a collection of average players.
Had a 2011 season similar to the one the Pirates had — strong in the first half and not so strong in the second half. The Tribe’s pitchers are way better than their position players.
Felix Hernandez — the 2010 A.L. Cy Young winner — remains one of the game’s top pitchers, but the M’s scored the fewest runs in the league last year and did little to address that.
Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is the new president here, but the Cubs were surprisingly quiet this off-season. Don’t look for him to sit on his hands too much longer though.
Went from first place in 2010 to last place in 2011 as health issues wounded Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. A solid starting rotation will keep this team from being a disaster.
Lost a franchise record 106 games in 2011 and the outlook this year isn’t much better. Pitchers Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and Brett Myers may be the team’s only saving grace.
Billy Beane can boast the fact that Brad Pitt played him in a movie, but his team is terrible. The A’s could lose 110 games. You talk about a rag-tag collection of players? Yikes!