Ranking the Projected Starting Infields of All 30 MLB Teams
Spring training is finally among us, and with only 42 days separating us from MLB Opening Day, teams everywhere have their work cut out for them as they prepare for a regular-season marathon.
Teams like the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays made major improvements to their lineups and rotations this offseason, and they promise to make a big splash once the season gets underway.
The next month-and-a-half will provide teams the opportunity to tune their lineups in any way possible to give them the upper hand, and even though a season brings about unpredictable obstacles, it's hard to beat a balanced attack.
Infields make up an important core of a team's efforts, with their defense holding up a pitcher's efforts and their bats accounting for half the lineup.
Here is where lineups all around the league stack up as teams begin making tweaks leading up to April.
30. Houston Astros
With a payroll hovering around $20 million, it's hard to expect much of anything from the Houston Astros in 2013.
Their infield certainly doesn't have much in the way of experience, with none of the four players having even four years of major league service.
Jose Altuve showed plenty of promise last season in making his first All-Star appearance and Tyler Greene is a stout option defensively, but from an offensive standpoint, the collective group doesn't pose much of a threat.
29. Minnesota Twins
It's been a rough couple of years for the Minnesota Twins as they narrowly missed out on 100-loss seasons in 2011 and 2012 after opening up Target Field with a postseason berth in 2010.
A big part of the problem for the Twins has been the infield, with the absence of Justin Morneau's bat leaving a big hole in the lineup.
The middle of the infield is solid enough on the defensive side of the game, but Trevor Plouffe remains a liability with a ball in his hands.
28. Miami Marlins
Just a year ago, the Miami Marlins infield would have seemed like one of the best in the National League with Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes giving the Fins a top-tier left side.
It's a much different look now, and though Placido Polanco will help things in the Marlins infield, neither Donovan Solano nor Adeiny Hechavarria have even 100 games of major-league experience to their names.
27. Seattle Mariners
After an impressive rookie season in 2011 in which he batted .276 and notched 91 hits in 90 games, Dustin Ackley suffered a bit of a sophomore slump last season, with his average and on-base percentage dropping more than 50 points each.
The Mariners will certainly need a better effort from Ackley this season, and another 20-home run effort from Kyle Seager wouldn't hurt, either.
At first base, the team hasn't gotten what they were hoping out of Justin Smoak since he came over from Texas, and though he hit a career-high 19 home runs last season, he did see his on-base percentage drop below .300 for the first time in his three major-league seasons.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates
Bringing Clint Barmes over from Houston prior to last season was supposed to shore up the Pittsburgh infield as the team looked to move their way back up the NL Central standings.
He struggled at the plate for much of the season and finished the season at just .229, and he will certainly be looking to prove he's worth the contract he signed.
Garrett Jones saw his best offensive output last season and with a solid fielding percentage at first base, he'll be counted on to contribute on both ends.
25. San Diego Padres
The fate of the San Diego Padres offense rests largely on the shoulders of Chase Headley, who represents their biggest bat and last year's league leader in runs batted in (115).
Yonder Alonso and Logan Forsythe both have the potential to become great players, though they'll need to clean up their game in the field, as both committed their share of errors last season.
24. Chicago White Sox
There's no doubt that Paul Konerko is the best player on the Chicago White Sox roster, though they'll need to get strong production out of him in 2013 as he continues to age.
Alexei Ramirez is coming off his worst season as a major leaguer, but he's averaged nearly 18 home runs and a .277 average throughout his career, so he should be able to return to form.
In the hot corner, the addition of Jeff Keppinger gives the Sox a solid defensive option and a player that's coming off a career-high .325 season in which he posted an on-base percentage of .367.
23. Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs may have one of the youngest infields in the game, but they boast a plethora of talent in Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro.
Castro is nearly a .300 hitter over his three seasons with the Cubs, and with nearly 200 hits per season, he'll be counted on to account for plenty of offense in 2013.
Castro is somewhat lacking in the field, but Barney and Rizzo are both solid options in the field.
22. Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians have made some impressive additions this offseason and added two of the biggest names out there in Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.
Swisher will likely see time in the outfield as well as first base, and along with Asdrubal Cabrera, he'll represent the best offensive option in the infield.
The Tribe will need to work on fielding drills in spring training with Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall both leaving much to be desired, but the infield depth chart is looking better than it has in recent seasons.
21. Boston Red Sox
On paper, the Boston Red Sox have the makings of what could be one of the best infields in the American League, though health will play a big part in their success.
Mike Napoli boasts a very strong bat, but questions surrounding his ability to stay on the field were the focal point of his offseason.
Stephen Drew has only played 165 games over the past two seasons and with Will Middlebrooks recovering from last season's early exit, there are still some question marks heading into 2013.
20. Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics outfield shined for much of last season, with Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes accounting for a big part of the A's offense as the team made an unexpected return to the postseason.
They also got some surprising production from Brandon Moss, who batted nearly .300 and went deep 21 times in just 84 games in 2012 after posting a career average of .236 in five prior seasons.
Oakland's recent acquisition of Jed Lowrie will also go a long way as the team looks to contend once again in the tough AL West.
19. Milwaukee Brewers
Despite losing Prince Fielder prior to the start of last season, the Milwaukee Brewers managed to boast plenty of offense thanks to Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
Ramirez will need to pull much of the offensive load for the infield, though Mat Gamel will once again be a threat in the batter's box if he's able to come back strong after last season's knee injury.
Coming off one of his worst statistical outputs in 2012, the team is certainly hoping Rickie Weeks can get back to playing his best.
18. Arizona Diamondbacks
1B: Paul Goldschmidt
2B: Aaron Hill
3B: Martin Prado
SS: Cliff Pennington
The addition of Martin Prado in 2013 will certainly give the Arizona Diamondbacks infield a boost in the NL West, as he's batted over .300 in four of the past five seasons.
Cliff Pennington is coming off his worst offensive output last season, but he played much better in the field and should solidify their defense on the left side.
Paul Goldschmidt could perhaps prove to be the biggest X-factor as he followed up a solid rookie campaign with 20 home runs and 80 RBI in 2012.
17. Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles infield has plenty of offensive pop on the left side, with Manny Machado possessing endless talent and J.J. Hardy going deep 52 times over the past two seasons.
Brian Roberts is a solid player when he gets on the field; unfortunately, he's barely played 100 total games in the past three seasons combined.
16. St. Louis Cardinals
Losing Albert Pujols definitely hurt the St. Louis Cardinals offense entering the 2012 season, but moving to first base, Lance Berkman had the potential to offset the offensive loss in the infield.
With Berkman lost for much of the season, however, Allen Craig stepped up in a big way with more than 20 home runs and a .307 batting average.
He'll be counted on for much of the same in 2013, and David Freese will need to hold up the other corner of the infield with another 20-plus home run output and more solid defense like he put up in 2012.
15. Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels infield got a serious boost last season when the team signed Albert Pujols to a massive extension, and even though he got off to a slow start in 2012, he rounded into form and still put up All-Star numbers.
They've got a Gold Glove shortstop in Erick Aybar and though he managed to put up solid numbers at the plate last year, he'll need to improve this season as he looks to match the 51 extra base hits he racked up in 2011.
Howie Kendrick has an above-average glove at second base, and though he saw his power numbers dip in 2012, he still drove in 67 runs in 147 games.
14. New York Mets
The New York Mets took another step towards solidifying the left side of their infield for the long term this offseason when they signed David Wright to a contract extension that will keep him in Citi Field through 2020.
He'll obviously be counted on to lead the team in whatever direction they head, but they'll also be looking for big contributions from Ike Davis, who showed plenty of power in 2012 with a 32-home run outburst.
Up the middle, Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada will give the Mets solid defense and sufficient offense in a lineup that needs to rely on power to pair with their improving pitching staff.
13. Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies infield endured its share of struggles last season as slugger Ryan Howard worked his way back from a season-ending injury in 2011 and Chase Utley missed time early on before finally getting back into the swing of things.
They'll both need to be at their best if the Phillies hope to get back into the postseason in 2013, though veteran Jimmy Rollins will be in the picture once again this season and always brings a consistent face at shortstop.
Adding veteran Michael Young at the hot corner will give Philadelphia a player that has averaged nearly 200 hits per season during his 13-year career and has only batted under .300 three times since 2002.
12. Colorado Rockies
Todd Helton may be heading into the final years of his Hall of Fame career, but he's still got plenty left in the tank and will once again anchor a strong Rockies infield.
As long as Troy Tulowitzki can stay healthy, he'll represent one of the best shortstops in the National League, and while Josh Rutledge only saw 73 games last season, he played well enough to warrant much more action in 2013.
11. Kansas City Royals
With one of the youngest rosters in baseball, the Kansas City Royals' additions to the starting rotation will get the most press in spring training, though their infield has plenty of tools in its own right.
First baseman Eric Hosmer struggled last season after finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting just a year earlier, but the sophomore slump is in his past and he has the potential to add plenty of pop to the batting order.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas showed the power he's got hiding in his bat last season, with 20 home runs in 152 games, and while Chris Getz played in only 64 games last season, his productivity is certainly headed in the right direction.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers
A year ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers infield had a much different face to it, though the duration of the season brought about change after change.
Trading for Hanley Ramirez was a huge step, but they were in no way done there, as the addition of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez further bolstered an already-strong offense.
Veteran second baseman Mark Ellis isn't the strongest bat in the lineup, but his glove can make up for it, and shortstop Luis Cruz showed plenty of promise in his first consistent action last season.
9. Toronto Blue Jays
With some of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the league at their disposal, the Toronto Blue Jays managed to score over 700 runs with Jose Bautista and first baseman Edwin Encarnacion pacing the lineup.
That alone could be enough to give the team's fanbase hope for the 2013 season, but the front office saw things differently and completely reshaped the face of the AL East with their actions.
Adding Jose Reyes at shortstop will give them one of the best 1-through-4 hitting combos in the league, and if he can continue to improve in the field, he'll give the Blue Jays a solid option on both sides of the game.
8. San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are one of the most balanced teams in the league and in many ways can attribute the World Series title they're currently holding to their ability to play both sides of the ball.
Marco Scutaro could be the X-Factor for the infield again in 2013, as he was one of the biggest reasons the Giants were able to make their way to the top last fall.
If Pablo Sandoval can prove that his conditioning isn't an issue and Brandon Belt can show that he's learning from rookie at-bats, the infield should be among the best in the league.
7. Tampa Bay Rays
Adding James Loney to the Tampa Bay Rays infield will give the team some additional offense and stout defense at first base.
On the opposite side of the infield, Evan Longoria is one of the most dynamic third basemen in the game; the only obstacle in his way could be his ability to stay on the field.
Yunel Escobar will add range at shortstop, and while he's coming off a down season at the plate, he's a career .282 hitter and gets on base at a good clip.
6. New York Yankees
Alex Rodriguez may be out of the picture for much (maybe all) of the season, but there's still plenty of offense to go around in the Yankees lineup.
It will be interesting to see how Derek Jeter returns from his season-ending injury, but even if he's not himself right away, the team can still fall back on the always-steady second baseman Robinson Cano.
Travis Hafner has shown plenty of signs of his age in recent seasons, but he and third baseman Kevin Youkilis are no doubt looking to prove there's something left in the tank—and the pinstripes could very well bring out the best in anything they have to offer.
5. Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves offense was strong enough as it stood last season, but the front office clearly knew they needed to make some improvements if they hoped to make it in the improving NL East.
Second baseman Dan Uggla had an uncharacteristically down season by his standards, but if he's able to rebound, the Braves should be on their way to contending for a division title.
Andrelton Simmons and Juan Francisco are largely untested, but they appear to be up to the task and should round out what will be a top-tier infield on both sides of the game.
4. Washington Nationals
There wasn't a whole lot that the Washington Nationals needed to tweak this offseason when it came to their starting lineup, though they did reinforce one position they knew they needed to address in re-signing Adam LaRoche.
The first baseman went deep a career-high 33 times in 2012 and drove in 100 runs for the second time in three seasons, all while making only seven errors all season long.
Ryan Zimmerman is one of the offensive leaders in the league and will no doubt be doing big things again this season, while second baseman Danny Espinosa will need to improve on his league-leading 189 strikeouts last season.
3. Cincinnati Reds
Despite ranking in the bottom third in the league in runs scored (669), on-base percentage (.315) and batting average (.251), the Cincinnati Reds still had a strong enough offense to back up their top-notch starting rotation and earn an NL Central crown.
Their abrupt departure from the postseason was a disappointment to their entire fanbase, and they made some improvements this winter that should help get them on the right track early on.
Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are consistent players in the field and at the plate, though Todd Frazier will have some big shoes to fill in the hot corner as he becomes an everyday major leaguer.
2. Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers' less-than-impressive performance in the World Series last fall had to come as a major disappointment to fans in the Motor City, who had high expectations from the start after the team signed Prince Fielder to his massive deal prior to the season.
Miguel Cabrera will no doubt be himself again at third base in 2013, and with first baseman Prince Fielder giving the Tigers another dynamic offensive weapon, power won't be a problem.
Their defense is suspect at times, though Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante are both solid in the field and can help provide some range on the diamond.
1. Texas Rangers
With Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton now out of the picture in Texas, the Rangers offense may take a bit of a hit when it comes to the stat sheet, though they've still got plenty of pieces that can produce all over the diamond.
Mitch Moreland is an above-average first baseman in the field, and with one of the best second baseman in the league next to him in Ian Kinsler, the Rangers infield is in good hands.
On the left side, Elvis Andrus is a solid option, though the emergence of Jurickson Profar could put his status into question.