Ranking the Divisions: Is the NL Central the Class of MLB?

Social Navigation

Ranking the Divisions: Is the NL Central the Class of MLB?

Chicago Cubs

Although rumors are still bouncing around and Spring Training is just around the corner, we’re still in the meaty part of the unofficial baseball ranking season.

Most of the time the rankings materialize as top prospect lists, sometimes they’re for existing Major Leaguers, and still other times they show up as crazy, unique ideas (like the best transactions in organizational history).

Today’s installment for your discussing, dissecting, and debating? The six MLB divisions, ranked consider things like compelling storylines and expected competitiveness, via Sports on Earth.

Below, you’ll find the raw rankings as seen at Sports on Earth. For more one each individual spot, please head over to the original article here.

  1. AL East
  2. NL Central
  3. AL West
  4. NL West
  5. NL East
  6. AL Central 

There are a few things I agree with in general, but there are more than a few nitpicks as well. But before we get into any of that, let’s hear author Michael Klopman out.

First, something we both agree on: the AL Central is the least compelling division in baseball for 2017. Despite boasting the AL Champion Cleveland Indians (who figure to be very good once again in 2017), the AL Central is probably the least interesting division in baseball. The White Sox are making great organizational moves, but not the type that’ll do much to improve the on-field experience next season. The Twins are stuck in no-man’s land, the Tigers seem unsure about how to proceed, and the Royals have a lot of talent, but plenty of questions.

I don’t want to come across as a White Sox-hating Cubs fan, but the AL Central sounds like a snooze-fest in 2017. I would agree with their placement on the list. Following the AL Central’s rankings, however, I diverge from Klopman’s rankings quite a bit.

Working my way up the list backwards, instead of the NL East, I would have to go with the third-ranked AL West. The Rangers have been a good and interesting team to follow lately and the Astros have some budding stars, but the Mariners, Angels, and Athletics feel like non-factors heading into the 2017 season, and that’s just not enough to compel extra-divisional interest for me.

In his defense, Klopman argues that the NL East is too top-heavy. I could see that. But from my perspective, you have a great divisional battle at the top between Washington and New York (even with the clear edge going to the Nationals) and a few teams seemingly on the upswing in the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins. Any one of those teams could theoretically surprise and grab a Wild Card spot in 2017. So I like the NL East, and think it’ll be an interesting year for that division.

Next up on Klopman’s list is the NL West, and herein lies our biggest divergence. Where Klopman sees another boring, top-heavy division, I see two of the best teams in baseball battling it out. The Giants and Dodgers are both natural, geographic rivals, as well as intra-divisional rivals. There’s been tension in the recent past and both teams have the talent to back it up. Throw in the big offense in Colorado and the new front office in Arizona, and the NL West is arguably the most interesting division in baseball. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Cubs played both the Giants and Dodgers in the most recent postseason. I never said I was going to be unbiased here.

We already covered the AL West, so let’s move onto the next division on his list, the NL Central. I actually agree with the NL Central’s second place ranking here, for what I think are fairly obvious reasons. Although there may not be as much top-heavy competition as there was in 2015 (a year in which the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs combined for nearly 300 wins), all three teams are still looking competitive in 2017. In addition, that division bears the defending World Series Champions, as well as two teams (Brewers and Pirates) with a ton of impending top prospect promotions.

And finally, Klopman picks the AL East as the most compelling division in baseball, probably because that’s required by law. I kid, mostly. Of course, the AL East does figure to be a very exciting division once again. With that said, while it would crack my top three, it’s not at the top of my list. Whereas Klopman expects the Yankees to contend in 2017, I think they may still be a year out – albeit, of course, with a chance to surprise (did you ever think you’d hear that about the Yankees?).

The Red Sox, Orioles, and Blue Jays, however, did all make the postseason in 2016 and project to be pretty good once again. They are certainly part of one of the more interesting divisions – especially with a monster Red Sox team leading the way – but at the top of my list, they are not.

So when all is said and done, this is how my (admittedly biased) ranking would look top to bottom, in terms of competitiveness and compelling storylines:

  1. NL West
  2. NL Central
  3. AL East
  4. NL East
  5. AL West
  6. AL Central

How does that strike you? Where do you differ, and how would your rankings go? For some inspiration and background, first check out Klopman’s piece at Sports on Earth. Then, drop a line in the comments with your perspective.

[Brett: Since you asked, I’d probably go AL East, NL West, NL Central, NL East, AL West, AL Central, so very similar to both Michael and Michael, but not quite the same. I think the Red Sox are far and away the class of the AL, but I think there are three good teams behind them in the AL East, and it takes only one of the getting a little extra luck to keep up with the Red Sox. Meanwhile, I could see four teams being competitive in the NL West, so they’re up there at two for me. The NL Central could have three competitive teams. Possibly the AL West, too, if either of the Mariners or Angels put something together. The AL Central, even though it comes in last for all of us, is still going to have interesting storylines (to me, anyway), as I’ll look to see how aggressively the Royals and Tigers tear down if they aren’t in the race by midseason, and I also am curious to watch the Twins and White Sox rebuilds proceed. In truth, I can see compelling storylines in all the divisions this year – just not necessarily at the top of the division races.]

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami