Ranking MLB's 10 Best Lineups in 2014

Ryan GauleCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2014

Ranking MLB's 10 Best Lineups in 2014

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    With a number of high-profile free agents committing to new teams this winter, a lot of teams have revamped their lineups, making it a highly anticipated start to the MLB season.  

    Of course, there is no way to tell whether players will stay healthy for a certain team, but there are many teams right now that seem to have the offense necessary to compete for a playoff spot.  

    Now, let's take a look at the top 10 lineups in Major League Baseball in 2014.  

    All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference and Sporting Charts.

10. New York Yankees

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    After finishing in a tie for third place in the American League East in 2013, owner Hal Steinbrenner refused to let the offseason pass without a few major signings.  

    The signings of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Brian Roberts have made this Yankee lineup very dangerous again.  

    However, they only rank 10th on the list due to a few factors.  

    First, the loss of second baseman Robinson Cano put a big dent in the middle of the lineup.  While Roberts will provide a decent bat at second base, he will not be able to fill the void of 27 home runs and 107 runs batted in that Cano took with him to Seattle.  

    The other reason is because of the many questions that exist in the infield.  Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira will return from injury-plagued seasons last year.  In the past, they have been offensive machines for the Yankees, but can they return to form in 2014?  Furthermore, the Yankees have a major question mark at third base, where Eduardo Nunez and Kelly Johnson will likely platoon.  

    Still, the Yankees deserve to be ranked in the top 10 due to their acquisitions in the offseason and the strength of their outfield.  

    The Yankees got something they desperately needed during the winter: a reliable everyday catcher in Brian McCann.  Over nine seasons, McCann is a .277 hitter with 176 home runs, both very respectable statistics for a catcher.  

    The outfield will consist of the speedy Brett Gardner, who improved greatly on offense last season, Jacoby Ellsbury, who guided his Boston Red Sox club to a World Series Championship last season and Carlos Beltran, who has been regarded as one of the best postseason hitters in the history of baseball.  

    So, while there are a few question marks in the infield, the outfield compensates for those questions, and the Yankees will be one of the toughest teams to get out in 2014.  

     

9. Oakland Athletics

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    Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    The Oakland Athletics will come into the 2014 season with the ninth-best lineup in all of baseball.  In no way is that meant to degrade them, either.  

    According to Sportingcharts.com, the Athletics finished fourth in runs scored last season with 767.  With outstanding production from Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, Oakland will be competing again for its third straight playoff appearance in 2014.  

    The thing that makes this offense so explosive is that they simply gel as a team, similar to the way the Boston Red Sox did last year.  

    Whether it's speed on the basepaths or knocking the ball out of the park, the Athletics can always find a way to beat an opponent.  

    Outfielders Cespedes, Reddick and Coco Crisp combined for a total of 60 home runs last season, and that was with a down year from Reddick.  Mix in the dangerous infield of third baseman Josh Donaldson (24 HR, .301 AVG), shortstop Jed Lowrie (15 HR, .290 AVG), and first baseman Brandon Moss (30 HR, .256 AVG) and you can see why the Athletics have one of the most feared lineups in baseball.  

    The reason they do not come in ranked higher this season is because of the deep, bolstered lineups of the teams you will read about in the following slides.  

    Do not be fooled by the No. 9 ranking, however, as the Oakland Athletics will make a lot of noise once again this year in a very tough American League West.  

8. Atlanta Braves

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    In 2013, the Atlanta Braves' three starting outfielders, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward, combined for only 50 home runs.  

    Justin Upton got off to a tremendous start in April but then saw his numbers fall off as the season progressed.  Heyward was limited to only 104 games as he battled a broken jaw after being hit by a pitch. Meanwhile, B.J. Upton had a very disappointing first season with the club.

    However, it is the potential that these players have that gives the Braves one of the best lineups in baseball.  

    In 2012, Heyward and both Upton brothers combined for 72 home runs and 227 runs batted in.  That is why a bounce-back year from the brothers and a healthy season from Heyward will give the Braves one of the best outfields in all of baseball.

    Fans in Atlanta were disappointed to see their beloved home-grown catcher, Brian McCann, leave in free agency for the New York Yankees.  However, the Braves organization knew they had a reliable catcher in Evan Gattis, who broke through last season.  

    In only 105 games in his 2013 rookie campaign, Gattis blasted 21 home runs, and fans fell in love with his style of play immediately.  

    While Atlanta's outfield is great, its infield may be even better, as there really isn't a hole in it on offense. 

    Third baseman Chris Johnson batted .321 in 142 games last season, while shortstop Andrelton Simmons held his own in his first full season, collecting 150 hits and blasting 17 home runs.  At second base, they have veteran Dan Uggla, who has been one of the best power-hitting second basemen over the last decade, and at first base, Freddie Freeman will look to build on his 2013 performance in which he batted .319 for the club.  

    The Braves are a complete team on offense, and it will be interesting to see if they can put it all together this season.  

     

7. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

    The defending National League champions did not do much during the offseason to better their lineup.  Therefore, although the Cardinals lead the NL with 783 runs scored in 2013 and ranked third in the majors overall in that same category, the Cardinals now have the seventh-best lineup in baseball.  

    The loss of both Carlos Beltran and David Freese to free agency will hurt the offensive production for the Cardinals, but they have Matt Carpenter at third base and Allen Craig in right field to fill those voids.

    In 2013, Craig batted .315 in 134 games and finished 18th in the NL Most Valuable Player race.  Meanwhile, Carpenter finished fourth in the MVP race after batting .318 in 157 games for St. Louis.

    Add in the almost certain outstanding production they will get from catcher Yadier Molina, who finished third in the MVP race, and left fielder Matt Holliday, and it is clear that the Cardinals still deserve to be in the discussion for one of the best lineups in baseball.  

    Among National League teams, they have the second-best lineup in baseball, and you will see who the only other team is in that league that is offensively better than the Cardinals in 2014.  

6. Boston Red Sox

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    Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

    In 2013, designated hitter David Ortiz did something he had already done twice in his career: lead his team to a World Series title.  

    This season, however, so many teams have revamped their lineups that it is hard to put the defending champs ahead of them.  

    After winning the World Series, Boston let catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia walk in free agency, signing veteran A.J. Pierzynski shortly after.  

    Given Saltalamacchia's breakout season in 2013 in which he hit .273 in 121 games, the move did not make much sense, especially when you consider the fact that Pierzynski is 37 years old, eight years older than Saltalamaccia.  

    Their stats were almost identical last season, as Pierzynski batted .272 in 134 games with the Texas Rangers.  However, with Pierzynski a year older, the Red Sox did not get better with this transaction.  

    Boston also lost star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to their rival New York Yankees in the offseason.  That leaves rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. as the top center fielder.  While he has a lot of potential, he likely will not accumulate the same statistics Ellsbury will with the Yankees in 2014.  

    The Red Sox will still have plenty of production from David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, but their lineup will not be as strong as it was last season.  

5. Los Angeles Angels

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    After signing superstars Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in the last two offseasons, the Los Angeles Angels have greatly disappointed, failing both times to make the playoffs.  

    However, without all the hype of new players this season in Anaheim, the Angels may very well break out in 2014.  

    Mike Trout has entered the major leagues with a bang, climbing his way up the ranks to become the best player in all of baseball.  Trout brings both power and speed to the plate every time he gets up, which makes him the complete package. 

    The Angels did make two very key acquisitions in the offseason when they signed both Raul Ibanez and David Freese.  

    Ibanez, 42, is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, blasting 29 home runs in 124 games with the Mariners in 2013.  Meanwhile, David Freese gives the Angels a reliable hitter at third base.  Coming off a down year, Freese is still a great player, and he has shown he can hit at the big league level.  In 2012 with the Cardinals, Freese batted .293 with 20 home runs.  

    If Hamilton and Pujols have bounce-back seasons, there is no reason to believe the Angels won't finish in the top five in runs produced.  

    Among all the teams in baseball, this is one of the most dangerous teams, and manager Mike Scioscia will look to lead them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.  

4. Detroit Tigers

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    After winning the American League pennant in 2012, the Detroit Tigers got right back at it in 2013, but failed to make it past the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.  

    Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder continued to be the best one-two punch in baseball in the middle of the lineup for Detroit.  However, Fielder was traded in the offseason to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler.

    While the Tigers received a great player in Kinsler, he will not give them the same power that Fielder did, which may hurt Cabrera with less protection behind him.  

    Don't get me wrong, Cabrera is one of the best hitters in the last decade.  Again, he will likely lead the Tigers to the top of the American League Central.  However, it is hard to tell whether the Tigers will be as dominant on offense without Fielder.  

    Nick Castellanos is listed on the Tigers website as the third baseman for 2014.  He has only 11 games of major league experience under his belt, so it is hard to tell exactly how he will perform.  

    Aside from the potential hole at third, the Tigers once again will field a solid team, with Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler in the middle infield.  Iglesias really broke out in 2013, batting .303 in 109 games for the Tigers.  Meanwhile, Kinsler continued to produce for the Rangers, batting .277 with 13 home runs.  

    So, while the Tigers won't have the best offense in baseball in 2014, they will certainly be contenders for another World Series appearance.  

3. Baltimore Orioles

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    BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 28:  Brian Roberts #1 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates with Chris Davis #19 after hitting a home run in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 28, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland.
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    When the Boston Red Sox attempt to repeat as champions, they will have a very difficult time subduing the heavy bats in the Baltimore lineup.  

    From top to bottom, this lineup is the definition of complete after the recent signing of free-agent power hitter Nelson Cruz. 

    The organization hopes third baseman Manny Machado will return healthy as he recovers from a knee injury that he sustained late in the 2013 season.  If so, they will have a young third baseman who has his whole career ahead of him, batting .283 with an incredible 51 doubles in his first full season last year.

    Then there is the outfield, which consists of Cruz, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.  Last season, Jones and Markakis combined for 358 hits, helping Baltimore win 85 games.  

    Then, of course, there's Chris "Crush" Davis, who blasted an Orioles' record 53 home runs in 2013.  His bat was crucial to the success of the team, and it certainly will be this year as well.  With added protection in the lineup after the Cruz signing, we can expect Davis to lead the league in multiple offensive categories again this season.

    An 85-77 finish was disappointing last season for Baltimore, which had made the playoffs the year before.  This season, Baltimore looks more like a 90-win team.  

     

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    When Matt Kemp is listed as a backup outfielder, you know you're talking about a special offense.  

    Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene last summer, helping the Dodgers put together one of the best 50-game stretches in baseball history and eventually securing a playoff spot.  

    This year, the Dodgers will be even better, as Puig has a year under his belt and is ready to improve.  Expect the rookie to blast 30-plus home runs in 2014, as he would have done that with ease if he had played a full season last year, having hit 19 home runs in 109 games.  

    The outfield is stacked with stars such as Puig, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Kemp.  Together, they totaled 59 home runs in 2013, and that was with Kemp being injured for much of the season.  

    Mix in power hitting shortstop Hanley Ramirez and All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers have the second-best offense in baseball.  

    The Dodgers came so close last season, as many had them as favorites to win the World Series.  This season they may live up to that expectation.  

     

1. Texas Rangers

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    When a catcher like J.P. Arencibia, who hit 21 home runs last season, is listed as your backup catcher, you have to feel comfortable with the team you are fielding. 

    That is the case for the Texas Rangers, who have always found ways to replace big-name players in the last few years.

    When they traded away Kinsler this offseason, they attained something they lost when Josh Hamilton left a year before: a power-hitting lefty.  Prince Fielder will fit perfectly in the Texas lineup as it attempts to get back to the playoffs in 2014.  

    In regard to free agency, their greatest signing this year was outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who had been a staple in the Cincinnati Reds lineup for the last few seasons.  

    Choo knocked 21 home runs and batted .285 with the Reds last season.  Over his nine-year career, he owns a .288 batting average.  However, it is his career .389 on-base percentage that has Texas so high on this guy.  

    Choo's ability to get on base will give Fielder plenty of runs to drive in through 2014, and there is great reason to believe Texas has the best offense in baseball.  

    Third baseman Adrian Beltre has been performing at a high level for years now, and he has not shown signs of slowing down.  In 2013, he batted .315 with 30 home runs and 92 runs batted in.  He has finished in the top 15 in MVP voting for four consecutive seasons.  If he continues to perform that way this year, the Rangers have a shot at making it back to the World Series.  

    Their middle infield has the potential to be tremendous, with Elvis Andrus at shortstop and highly touted prospect Jurickson Profar set to take over the full-time role at second base.  

    Mitch Moreland will be the designated hitter for Texas in 2014, and he is the type of player you want as your DH.  He has displayed great power, blasting 23 home runs in 2013 for the Rangers.  

    Texas also has Alex Rios in right field.  Rios is a career .278 hitter, and he really came on strong with the Rangers when the White Sox traded him deep into the season last year.  Rios collected 52 hits in 47 games with the Rangers, who hope he will continue to perform in 2014.  

    Often when we think of the best teams in baseball in 2014 we think of the Dodgers, the Tigers or the Red Sox again, but the statistics indicate that the Texas Rangers will be the most feared offense in 2014.