The Washington Nationals start the 2013 Major League Baseball season in the lofty top spot of the TSN.ca MLB Power Rankings, ahead of the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays.
After a 98-win season in 2012, the Nationals can expect a full season from rising ace starter Stephen Strasburg and have every right to expect more from phenom left fielder Bryce Harper. As a 19-year-old last season, Harper hit 22 home runs, stole 18 bases, hit .270 and had an .817 OPS. He was 19!
With more contributions from their cornerstone building blocks, the Nationals also added veteran centre fielder Denard Span and righthanded starter Dan Haren, along with closer Rafael Soriano, so they've loaded up.
Swept away in the World Series by San Francisco last year, the Detroit Tigers added right fielder Torii Hunter and designated hitter Victor Martinez, who will come back after a season on the disabled list, to a lineup already boasting two of the game's premier power hitters, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Add in a pitching staff full of power arms, headed by ace Justin Verlander, and the Tigers understandably have high expectations.
Few teams in history have altered expectations over the course of one offseason the way the Toronto Blue Jays have, revamping their pitching staff by adding National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, righthander Josh Johnson and lefty Mark Buehrle. Shortstop Jose Reyes is among the best in the game and left fielder Melky Cabrera could be a useful contributor.
Adding those players to a group that includes power hittters like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, as well as energetic and talented third baseman Brett Lawrie, understandably has the Blue Jays anticipating playoff baseball for the first time in 20 years.
A difficult offseason, full of injuries and departures, leaves the New York Yankees at 11 to start the season, while two other 90-win teams from last season -- the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles -- fall in the middle tier of the rankings as well.
While there can be plenty of fluctuation in the middle of the rankings, there is little reason to wonder about the teams at the very bottom. The Houston Astros, Miami Marlins and Colorado Rockies open the year in the most dubious ranking positions and, based on their current lineups, those positons are well-deserved.