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Defending champion Astros begin season at No. 1

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USA TODAY Sports
Published 9:46 a.m. ET March 6, 2018

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SportsPulse: As Bryce Harper enters a contract year, the Nationals realize it’s possibly now or never for a World Series run.
USA TODAY Sports

With the addition of pitcher Gerrit Cole and a full season with former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, it’s not surprising the defending champion Houston Astros are the team to beat in 2018 and No. 1 in USA TODAY Sports’ first installment of power rankings.

Nine of the top 10 teams were playoff clubs in 2017. The Milwaukee Brewers, No. 7, aim to disrupt the field with the addition of outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. 

The Miami Marlins, who dumped their entire outfield, including NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton,  finished at the bottom of the rankings. 

From 1 to 30, how they stack up based on voting from our nine-person panel:

TEAM.  

1. Houston Astros

►Reigning champions added Gerrit Cole to fortify rotation.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

►Matt Kemp, whose acquisition was payroll-motivated, may actually contribute.

3. Cleveland Indians

►Yonder Alonso the new 1B after Carlos Santana’s departure.

4. Washington Nationals

►World Series or bust for what could be Harper’s last year in D.C.

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5. New York Yankees

►Hit 241 homers and added Stanton – team record is 264

6. Chicago Cubs

►Hoping slimmed-down Kyle Schwarber can produce.

7. Boston Red Sox

►New addition J.D. Martinez hit 45 homers in 119 games last year.

8. Milwaukee Brewers

►Yelich and Cain were huge additions, but what of the rotation?

9. Arizona Diamondbacks

►Zack Greinke returned to form after disappointing first year in Arizona.

T-10. Colorado Rockies 

►Revamped bullpen headlined by new closer Wade Davis.

T-10. Los Angeles Angels

►With Shohei Ohtani, could be baseball’s most fascinating team.

12. St. Louis Cardinals

►Who’s going to close?

13. Minnesota Twins

►Byron Buxton came on strong in the second half with .300 batting average.

14. New York Mets

►Upgraded on offense, but 2018 comes down to rotation’s health.

15. San Francisco Giants

►Longoria and McCutchen add some (aging) star power to offense.

16. Toronto Blue Jays

►Ace Marcus Stroman could miss opening day.

17. Seattle Mariners

►Own the longest playoff drought in American pro sports.

18. Texas Rangers

►Rougned Odor’s average fell to .204.

19. Tampa Bay Rays

►Lost tons of power, gained considerable infield defense.

20. Atlanta Braves

►Will they arrive a year or two early and sneak into contention this year?

21. Philadelphia Phillies

►J.P. Crawford takes over at shortstop after Freddy Galvis trade.

22. Baltimore Orioles

►Manny Machado moves to shortstop for contract year.

23. San Diego Padres

►Wil Myers moves back to the outfield to make room for Eric Hosmer.

24. Pittsburgh Pirates

►Post-McCutchen era begins in Pittsburgh.

25. Chicago White Sox

►Lucas Giolito looked terrific in seven 2017 starts.

26. Oakland Athletics

►Matt Olson hit 24 homers in 59 games last season.

27. Kansas City Royals

►Life without Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain begins.

28. Cincinnati Reds

►Righty Anthony DeSclafani returns after Tommy John surgery.

29. Detroit Tigers

►Jordan Zimmermann had a 6.08 ERA last season.

30. Miami Marlins

►JT Realmuto is still on the team – for now.

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