Red Sox are preseason No. 1
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.
1. Boston Red SoxThe Red Sox are betting on bounce-back seasons at the plate from David Ortiz and Mike Lowell.
2. Tampa Bay RaysThe Rays like October. Don't think for a second that they're going to return to their losing ways anytime soon.
3. New York YankeesThe road to a 27th world championship begins with Cody Ransom instead of Alex Rodriguez at third base.
4. Chicago CubsThe 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.
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.
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.
John Lackey and Ervin Santana) will determine if the Angels can return to the playoffs in 2009.
Matt Kemp produce offensive numbers that outshine Manny Ramirez? He will if he has a 40-40 season, which he believes is possible.
Grady Sizemore set career highs in home runs (33), RBIs (90) and stolen bases (38).
10. Minnesota TwinsHealth 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.
11. Atlanta BravesChipper 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.
Chris Carpenter is healthy for the entire season, look for the Cardinals to contend in the NL Central.
Brandon Webb and Dan Haren.
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.
John Danks allowed only 15 home runs in 33 starts last season, and finished fifth in the American League with a 3.32 ERA.
16. Oakland A'sThe 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.
17. Cincinnati RedsDusty 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.
18. Detroit TigersMiguel Cabrera hit a career-high 37 home runs to lead the American League last season, and finished third in the AL with 127 RBIs.
Bengie Molina hitting cleanup, remains among the most nondescript in the major leagues.
20. Florida MarlinsRicky Nolasco made 32 starts last season, and finished tied for fourth among all National League starters with 23 quality starts.
Adam Lind and Travis Snider for offense this season.
22. Texas RangersA pair of long shots make the team: Kris Benson cracks the rotation; Andruw Jones lands a spot on the bench.
24. Colorado RockiesIt'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.
25. Seattle MarinersHere's to a happy, healthy season for Junior. Let's hope The Kid flashes that swing early and often.
26. Houston AstrosA 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.
Cristian Guzman had a career-high 183 hits.