Ranking the Most Deadly 3-4-5 Combos in MLB Entering the Spring

Ray Flowers@@baseaballguysContributor IIJanuary 31, 2013

Ranking the Most Deadly 3-4-5 Combos in MLB Entering the Spring

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    Which team boasts the top middle-of-the-order trio in baseball? No matter which group ends up at the top of this slideshow's mountain, there will be plenty of disagreement.

    Is power the most important factor? Batting average? Consistency? Health? What about those trios that we're not even sure about at this point because of offseason player movement?

    We threw all of those variables into the old tumbler, and here is one scribe's effort to rank the best 3-4-5 hole hitters in baseball.

10. Orioles: Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters

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    A lefty, righty, switch-hitting trio. Markakis only struck out nine more times than he walked while hitting .298, though he appeared in only 104 games due to injury.

    Jones had the best season of his career with career bests in batting average (.287), home runs (32), runs (103), stolen bases 16) and OPS (.839).

    Wieters continues to ascend the pantheon of backstops and is coming off an impressive season of 23 big flies and 83 RBI.

9. Reds: Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Ryan Ludwick

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    Not many noticed that Votto, who missed time with injury, actually had a better batting average (.337 to .330), OBP (.474 to .393) and OPS (1.041 to .999) than Miguel Cabrera.

    Bruce led the Reds with 34 homers and 99 RBI and pulled off a rare feat—his homer and RBI totals have gone up every one of his five big league seasons.

    Ludwick provided a workman-like effort, hitting .275 with 26 bombs and 80 RBI and providing some impressive production considering he only appeared in 125 games.

8. Brewers: Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart

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    Braun might be the most complete offensive force in baseball. He didn't take a step back with Prince Fielder out of the mix as some thought he might; instead, he had a career-best 41 homers on his way to a fourth straight .300-25-100-100 effort.

    Ramirez reached 25 homers and 80 RBI for the ninth time in 10 years.

    Hart will start the year on the DL with a knee issue, but his three-year average equates to a .279 average, 29 homers and 83 RBI as he provides impressive pop for the Brew Crew.

7. Rockies: Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer

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    CarGo has gone 20/20 each of the last three seasons and owns a .299 career batting average. His main issue is a lack of health (he's averaged 136 games the past three years).

    Of course, Gonzalez is the picture of health next to Tulowitzki, who appeared in 47 games last season and has been held under 125 games three of the last five campaigns. He's got an elite bat when healthy.

    Cuddyer played just 101 games in 2012, but if he kept up his pace over 150 games, he would have hit 24 homers with 86 RBI.

6. Blue Jays: Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion

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    Cabrera has a huge cloud over his head with the whole PED mess, but there is no denying his success the past two years, as he has hit .322.

    Bautista is coming back from wrist surgery, but over the past three years, he leads baseball in homers (124), is fourth in OBP (.400), second in SLG (.593) and third in OPS (.992).

    Last season, Encarnacion hit 42 homers with 110 RBI. Only three men in baseball went deep more often.

5. Giants: Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence

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    Who would have thought that the Giants would be on this list? Sandoval never met a buffet line he didn't join, but the guy can hit (.303 with a .844 OPS for his career).

    Posey? All he did was win the NL MVP award as he batted a league-leading .336, went deep 24 times and knocked in 103 runs for the world champs.

    Pence stunk after he was acquired by the Giants, but he did go deep 24 times, and his total of 104 RBI was one more than Posey, two more than Matt Holliday and Adrian Beltre and only one behind Albert Pujols.

4. Dodgers: Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier

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    Kemp dealt with hamstring and shoulder injuries, but still hit .303 with 23 homers and a .906 OPS in just 106 games.

    A-Gone hit only 18 homers after going deep at least 27 times the previous five years, but he was also one hit from a .300 season with 100 RBI.

    Ethier has never developed as the Dodgers hoped he would, and they already regret the $85 million contract they lavished upon him. However, he owns a career .290 batting average and has gone deep 20 times in four of the last five years.

3. Yankees: Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira

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    Granderson is the only man in MLB who has hit 40 homers with 100 RBI in each of the last two seasons. Too bad he also hit .247 in that time.

    Cano is the best hitting second baseman in baseball. The last four years, his average effort has produced a .314 average, 29 homers, 101 RBI and 104 runs.

    "Tex" has got a case of Granderson's disease, hitting under .260 each of the last three years, but only injury stopped him from extending his eight-year run of 30 homers and 100 RBI (he had 24 dingers and 84 RBI in 123 games).

2. Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez

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    Cabrera won the first Triple Crown since 1967 (.330-44-139), and many suggest with a straight face that he is without question the best hitter in the game.

    Fielder took to his first season in Motown going deep 30 times with 108 RBI and a .313 average. He also walked more than he struck out for the second straight year—a rare feat for a slugger in today's game.

    V-Mart is coming back from ACL surgery, but should be full strength by Opening Day. Last time we saw him, in 2011, he was hitting .330 with 103 RBI.

1. Angels: Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo

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    Pujols is coming off the worst season of his career, but he still hit .285 with 30 homers and 105 RBI.

    Josh Hamilton was brought in to protect Pujols and to break up the Angels' right-handed bats. Hamilton had his greatest power season with 43 homers and 128 RBI, though his production tanked in the second half (his OPS fell from 1.016 before the All-Star break to .833 in the second half).

    Trumbo also jumped out to a hot start with 22 homers and a .965 OPS in his first 77 games before he channeled Carlos Pena (.227 with 10 homers the final 67 games). Still, in two seasons, he has gone deep 61 times with 182 RBI.