Fingers crossed that the 2021 MLB season will begin on time -- and that we get to see some live baseball at the ballpark this year.
As we wait, Buster Olney concludes his annual ranking of the 10 best players at each position heading into the coming season -- based on input from industry evaluators -- with a look at the full squads. With more moves still to be made, which team is No. 1 (and 2 ... and 3 ... ) on paper right now?
Many of baseball's traditional rivalries are dormant. The Red Sox are retooling, and the Yankees, unpressured by Boston, haven't made any aggressive moves yet this winter. The Cubs are slashing payroll and traded their best starter, Yu Darvish, and the Cardinals' most significant decision was declining the option of Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong. The Giants are at least a couple of years away from challenging the Dodgers. The Astros and Athletics are experiencing the departure of some of their best players -- Oakland seems set to lose Liam Hendriks, while George Springer appears certain to leave the Astros.
In that vacuum, we now have the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, clubs that inhabit the same division, play in ballparks 125 miles apart and have the best collections of talent -- and here's the bonus: When they're on the field, at least, these two teams don't seem to like each other very much. The Dodgers have won the National League West in eight consecutive seasons, and the Padres, having grabbed Darvish and Blake Snell, are taking direct aim at L.A. San Diego wants what the Dodgers have owned.
As a high-ranking official said the other day, the Dodgers are clearly the best team in baseball, but the Padres are a close second. Their games will be must-watch in the year ahead.
The top 10 teams in baseball: