Nationals top my rankings of MLB teams

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MESA, Ariz. -- The last ripples of the Giants’ championship run will roll into mid-April, with celebrations and ceremonies to come, all laid out neatly in the team’s promotional schedule. The championship flag will be raised April 13. The Madison Bumgarner MVP bobblehead will be distributed the next day, and on April 18, the Giants will hold their ring ceremony. On April 19, championship backpacks will be distributed.

But to hear rival evaluators tell it, San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy is already looking ahead, focused on 2015 and searching for ways to make this year’s team better. By April 20, he’ll be very glad that the leftover pomp and circumstance is completed, because the Giants can then fully focus on the next challenge, because so far this spring, the Giants have looked awful, in the eyes of rival evaluators. “Terrible,” said one evaluator. “Just terrible.

Welcome to the new year.

The Giants are a modern dynasty, with three championships in five seasons in an era of extraordinary roster turnover. But in six days, when the Cubs’ Jon Lester (presumably) throws the first pitch of the 2015 season, the chase for the next championship begins. Based on conversations and observations from evaluators in Florida and Arizona, here’s a ranking of the 30 teams, with my take on what must improve for each:

1. Washington Nationals

The Nationals will have a relatively significant list of injuries to start the season with Denard Span down, and perhaps Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth. But their rotation is intact, and that’s what matters most.