Red Sox are preseason No. 1

Updated: April 4, 2009, 6:30 PM ET
ESPN.com

The Boston Red Sox finished second in their division and second in the American League in 2008. But according to ESPN.com's preseason Power Rankings, they are second to none heading into the 2009 season.

ESPN.com asked 15 of ESPN's leading baseball experts to rank every major league team from 1-30, and the Red Sox came out on top, narrowly beating out their two AL East rivals -- the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees. In fact, the defending AL champion Rays finished with more first-place votes than the Red Sox (6-5), but fell short of the Red Sox in the overall point total.

Fans won't have to wait long for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown -- the Rays and the Red Sox open the season against each other in Boston on Monday.

Tune in to "Baseball Tonight" every Friday (starting April 17) on ESPN to see the week's U.S. Army Power Rankings.

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1. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are betting on bounce-back seasons at the plate from David Ortiz and Mike Lowell.

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2. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays like October. Don't think for a second that they're going to return to their losing ways anytime soon.

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3. New York Yankees

The road to a 27th world championship begins with Cody Ransom instead of Alex Rodriguez at third base.

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4. Chicago Cubs

The focus of this team doesn't seem to be so much on the regular season but on how to win a game in the postseason after consecutive sweeps.

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5. Philadelphia Phillies

Ryan Howard played in all of the Phillies' 162 games last year. And while he led the NL with 48 home runs, he also struck out 199 times.

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6. New York Mets

Johan Santana made 34 starts and pitched a career-high 234 1/3 innings last season. He needs to be a workhorse again in '09 for the Mets.

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7. Los Angeles Angels

The health of their starting pitchers (particularly John Lackey and Ervin Santana) will determine if the Angels can return to the playoffs in 2009.

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8. Los Angeles Dodgers

Can Matt Kemp produce offensive numbers that outshine Manny Ramirez? He will if he has a 40-40 season, which he believes is possible.

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9. Cleveland Indians

In his fourth full year in the majors last season, Grady Sizemore set career highs in home runs (33), RBIs (90) and stolen bases (38).

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10. Minnesota Twins

Health will be the main concern, with Joe Mauer's back this season and Joe Crede's back seemingly every season an issue. And there's always worry with Francisco Liriano.

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11. Atlanta Braves

Chipper Jones won his first batting title last season, finishing with a .364 average. Don't at all be surprised if he wins it again in '09.

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12. St. Louis Cardinals

If former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter is healthy for the entire season, look for the Cardinals to contend in the NL Central.

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13. Arizona Diamondbacks

How well the Diamondbacks fare in 2009 will depend greatly on how their rotation pitches beyond Brandon Webb and Dan Haren.

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14. Milwaukee Brewers

CC Sabathia is gone. Ben Sheets, too. The offense still has the pop; it's just a matter of whether Yovani Gallardo and the pitching staff can get outs.

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15. Chicago White Sox

John Danks allowed only 15 home runs in 33 starts last season, and finished fifth in the American League with a 3.32 ERA.

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16. Oakland A's

The A's have added pop to their lineup with Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi, but they open the season with a starting rotation that includes three rookies.

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17. Cincinnati Reds

Dusty Baker's team has plenty of talent, but it's young talent. Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto … it's an impressive list.

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18. Detroit Tigers

Miguel Cabrera hit a career-high 37 home runs to lead the American League last season, and finished third in the AL with 127 RBIs.

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19. San Francisco Giants

Pitching will keep the Giants in most games, but their offense, with Bengie Molina hitting cleanup, remains among the most nondescript in the major leagues.

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20. Florida Marlins

Ricky Nolasco made 32 starts last season, and finished tied for fourth among all National League starters with 23 quality starts.

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21. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays will lean on young outfielders Adam Lind and Travis Snider for offense this season.

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22. Texas Rangers

A pair of long shots make the team: Kris Benson cracks the rotation; Andruw Jones lands a spot on the bench.

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23. Kansas City Royals

The popular pick to make some noise in the AL Central? Could this team be this year's version of the 2008 Rays?

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24. Colorado Rockies

It's a nice dilemma to have two pitchers who can close (Huston Street and Manny Corpas), but the trick for the Rockies will be to give them a lead to protect.

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25. Seattle Mariners

Here's to a happy, healthy season for Junior. Let's hope The Kid flashes that swing early and often.

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26. Houston Astros

A veteran lineup that grew a bit older with the addition of Ivan Rodriguez. The pitching staff has some questions, especially at the back end with Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz.

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27. Baltimore Orioles

He'll be a Norfolk Tide to start the season, but for how long? Can't wait for the Matt Wieters call-up.

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28. Washington Nationals

In 138 games mostly out of the first or second spot in the batting order last season, Cristian Guzman had a career-high 183 hits.

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29. Pittsburgh Pirates

Hard to see the light for the Pirates, who likely are headed toward yet another losing season.

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30. San Diego Padres

At least the Padres have two All-Star players in Adrian Gonzalez and Jake Peavy, but one of them (Peavy) isn't expected to last the season in San Diego.