MLB Power Rankings: Re-Ranking All 30 MLB Lineups at the 1-Quarter Mark
Make no mistake about it, folks—lineups around the major leagues are under attack.
A downturn in offensive production, which began in 2010, continues, with major leaguers hitting only .250 through games as of May 17. While batting average is only one way for us to measure a player or team's effectiveness at the plate, with so many lineups looking mediocre, it makes ranking MLB lineups difficult.
But we're going to give it a shot.
Unlike our Opening Day rankings, which were based on history, expectations for the upcoming season and what we saw in spring training, these updated rankings are based solely on a team's production so far.
What you see is what you get, and what we've got following the first quarter of the regular season are rankings that look quite different from what we expected.
*All lineups and rosters courtesy of MLBDepthCharts. All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise linked/noted and are current through May 17. Players whose names are italicized are part of a platoon; those with an asterisk (*) after their name are injury replacements.
30. San Diego Padres (Previous Rank: 24)
Not even Seth Smith's torrid start to May (.447 BA, 1.399 OPS) was enough to keep the San Diego Padres lineup from ranking as the worst in baseball, one that suffers from a severe case of underperformingitis.
Everth Cabrera has forgotten how to get on base, where he can use his elite speed and baserunning skills to cause havoc for the opposition. That's left the likes of Chase Headley, Jedd Gyorko and Will Venable with fewer run-producing opportunities—never a good thing.
Of course, it would help if the aforementioned trio of run producers were hitting above the Mendoza Line, which they're not, with a combined .177 batting average.
The recent return to action for oft-injured outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin should help, but neither one can be counted on to stay healthy for any length of time. Factoring them in to the equation is only setting yourself up for disappointment if you're one of the Friars' faithful.
29. Atlanta Braves (Previous Rank: 13)
Atlanta Braves batting coach Greg Walker knows what the problem with the offense is, as he explained to MLB.com's Mark Bowman:
So far this year, we haven't done a good job of fighting the guy [on the mound] instead of fighting ourselves. We've fought ourselves way too much this year. You're not going to win when you're fighting yourself, instead of the other team.
That's not a problem that's easily solved when a team is swinging as often as the Braves are and failing to make consistent contact. No team in baseball has a lower contact rate than Atlanta (75.2 percent), while only three teams have swung at more pitches.
But Atlanta's issues go deeper than the yearly race between the Upton brothers and Dan Uggla to see which one will be the first to 150 strikeouts on the season (I've got my money on B.J. Upton, who leads baseball with 51 whiffs.)
After MVP candidate Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton, nobody on the team is getting on base with any consistency, including leadoff hitter Jason Heyward (pictured), whose .313 mark ranks fourth on the team.
"It's kind of the like the 'you've got to walk before you run' mindset," Walker told Bowman. "That's where we're at. We've got to walk before we run. We've got to crawl, walk and then run. This team is going to run. Eventually we're going to run, and hopefully we're still in first place when we do it."
28. New York Mets (Previous Rank: 27)
|Eric Young Jr.||OF||R|
|Travis d'Arnaud||C||Concussion||7-day DL|
New York Mets fans were outraged that Juan Lagares, second among the team's regulars with an .819 OPS, hasn't been in New York's starting lineup lately. But manager Terry Collins has his reasons, as he explained to ESPN New York's Adam Rubin:
We’ve got to somehow get his stroke back. He’s starting to expand the zone a little bit right now. When we get him back to where he’s taking some of those pitches, his defense is something we need, and we need very much. But we’re not scoring. So we’ve got to figure out how to get some runs.
The key phrase there: "We're not scoring."
The team has scored seven runs in its last 38 innings of play, all coming against the Washington Nationals on the road. Therein lies one of the team's biggest problems—its inability to produce at home. Take a look at where it ranks when playing in the cozy confines of Citi Field:
|Statistic||Mets at Home||NL Rank||MLB Rank|
On the road? The Mets are top 10 in every category except extra-base hits, where they rank 13th in baseball.
It certainly doesn't help that Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, bought in to provide some much-needed power to the middle of the lineup, are hitting a combined .201 with 19 extra-base hits and 30 RBI.
Three of the team's regulars—Granderson, Ruben Tejada and the injured Travis d'Arnaud—are all hitting below .200. It's difficult to score runs when you've got three players in the lineup who are essentially automatic outs.
27. Philadelphia Phillies (Previous Rank: 26)
|John Mayberry Jr.||1B/OF||R|
|Tony Gwynn Jr.||OF||L|
|Darin Ruf||1B/OF||Strained left oblique||15-day DL|
Despite a resurgent performance by Chase Utley (pictured) and solid contributions from veterans Marlon Byrd, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz, the Philadelphia Phillies are inept when it comes to scoring runs.
Only two teams, Atlanta and San Diego, have crossed home plate less frequently than the Phillies have, a major reason why the team has the third-worst run differential (minus-37) in baseball.
The amazing thing is that the Phillies are above average when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position (.250 BA, .745 OPS), ahead of the National League average (.240/.697) and just about even with the MLB mark (.244/.704), according to ESPN.
But for a team with some powerful bats (Brown, Byrd and Howard, specifically), the Phillies are dealing with a prolonged power outage.
Only three teams, the Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals, have hit fewer home runs than the Phillies (27). Of those, only 13 have come at home, in one of the more hitter-friendly venues the game has to offer.
That's a problem for manager Ryne Sandberg, who addressed reporters, including The Philadelphia Inquirer's Marc Narducci, before the team's game against Cincinnati on Friday (the Phillies would be shut out, 3-0): "I have seen opportunities with baserunners and walks combined and we have lacked that final hit to drive in runs. We haven't hit the ball out of the ballpark at our place here at home as often."
How to fix what ails the offense, especially at home, is a daunting task that Sandberg has to tackle.
26. Houston Astros (Previous Rank: 28)
The Houston Astros have shown an increase in power this season, ranking eighth in baseball with 43 home runs, but that power has come with a price. Of the 12 players who have gone deep at least twice for the Astros, only two—Matt Dominguez (.252) and Dexter Fowler (.265)—are hitting above .235.
The team's lone All-Star representative last season, Jason Castro (pictured), has regressed as expected. His unsustainable .359 BABIP in 2013 has dropped to a .299 mark, resulting in an equal drop in his batting average (.276 to .217).
Top prospect George Springer has shown flashes of brilliance, and he'll eventually be joined by first base prospect Jonathan Singleton, who should provide some more power in the middle of the lineup. Houston needed to show some progress in the rebuilding process this season, and so far, it's done just that.
25. Cincinnati Reds (Previous Rank: 17)
|Jack Hannahan||3B||Oct. 2013 shoulder surgery||15-day DL|
|Skip Schumaker||IF/OF||Dislocated left shoulder||15-day DL|
|Jay Bruce||OF||May 2014 left knee surgery||15-day DL|
The Cincinnati Reds were having enough trouble scoring runs before Jay Bruce (pictured) went down with an injured knee that's expected to keep him out of action until June at the earliest.
The Reds have scored fewer runs than Houston, with only Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier able to consistently produce at the plate. Billy Hamilton's continued struggles when it comes to getting on base have caused a ripple effect in the lineup.
Now, word comes that perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto has been dealing with knee pain for weeks and could join Bruce on the sidelines thanks to a strained quad, according to manager Bryan Price, via C. Trent Rosecrans of USA Today.
A Reds lineup without Bruce is bad enough. A Reds lineup without Bruce and Votto for any extended period of time could be disastrous to the team's postseason aspirations.
24. Chicago Cubs (Previous Rank: 25)
|Justin Ruggiano||OF||Left hamstring strain||15-day DL|
|Ryan Sweeney||OF||Right hamstring strain||15-day DL|
Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have put their miserable 2013 campaigns behind them and have swung the bats with a purpose, looking very much like the cornerstone pieces for GM Jed Hoyer to build a lineup around in Chicago.
Emilio Bonifacio has been a pleasant surprise atop the lineup, but he's not part of the Cubs' long-term plans. Whether Mike Olt, who leads the team with eight home runs is, remains to be seen, given his inability to make consistent contact or get on base regularly (.173 BA, .255 OBP).
Things are looking up for the Cubs, who have scored more runs (162) than some of the teams that rank ahead of them, but there's much work to be done before anyone considers the lineup to be complete.
23. Kansas City Royals (Previous Rank: 9)
|Omar Infante||2B||Lower back disc irritation||15-day DL|
Norichika Aoki hasn't been as big a spark plug atop the Kansas City Royals lineup as many expected, while Alex Gordon's drop to the heart of the order has not resulted in an uptick of offense, with the former leadoff hitter driving in only 16 runs while hitting a paltry .250 with a .655 OPS.
The biggest culprits for a lack of production, however, remain Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas (pictured), whose continued free-falls into irrelevance have to be a major concern for a team that many expected to be a contender.
Manager Ned Yost knows that the lack of production from the bats in his lineup is killing his team's chances, but he remains optimistic, as he told MLB.com's Dick Kaegel and Jackson Alexander:
We need to produce more runs, we need to hit better with runners in scoring position. Two-out hits are hard to come by. We just have to get more guys in our lineup clicking so we can produce more offense.
You look at what happened last year. If we could've stayed at .500 through this stretch, we would've been in the playoffs. Because this team's going to get hot like it did last year and we're going to get on a nice run. So to be at .500 at this point instead of nine games under .500, we're in pretty good shape because we all believe in our offense.
Yost had better hope that his faith is well-placed, for if the Royals fall flat again this season, there could be sweeping changes in the team's leadership.
22. St. Louis Cardinals (Previous Rank: 3)
The St. Louis Cardinlas not only excelled at hitting with runners in scoring position in 2013 (a MLB-best .330/.402/.463 slash line), but they posted the third-highest team on-base percentage (.332)—tops in the National League.
All of a sudden, the team is doing neither particularly well.
The Cardinals are hitting only .241 with a .663 OPS when runners are within striking distance of home plate, a precipitous drop from a season ago. But more troubling is the team's .318 on-base percentage, fifth in the Senior Circuit and 16th in baseball.
If players aren't getting on base, there's no way to drive them in—which is why the Cardinals sit tied with the Chicago Cubs in 23rd place when it comes to runs scored (159).
Allen Craig (pictured), one of the biggest culprits in both categories, insists that the team has not lost confidence in itself, he recently told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
We’re confident that we’ll get better. That’s how it is right now. We have a lot of games left like I’ve said quite a few times. Every year is a new year. You have to find another way to do it. We’ll be there in the end.
Until Craig and his teammates find another way to get the job done, the lineup will continue to flounder in the land of non-contenders.
21. Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous Rank: 20)
|Russell Martin||C||Strained left hamstring||15-day DL|
The Pittsburgh Pirates have an excellent heart of the order with Andrew McCutchen, the reigning NL MVP, the powerful Pedro Alvarez and the talented Starling Marte.
Ike Davis has begun to find his groove after floundering with the New York Mets, and he and Gaby Sanchez have formed a formidable platoon at first base.
But the team lacks a legitimate leadoff hitter (Marte has the speed but not the plate discipline), and neither Travis Snider nor Jose Tabata can be relied upon to provide consistent production at the plate.
While he's not a leadoff hitter, promoting top prospect Gregory Polanco would provide the lineup with a much-needed boost, as would the return to action of catcher Russell Martin.
20. Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: 23)
|Logan Morrison||1B/OF||Strained right hamstring||15-day DL|
Adding Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison over the winter was supposed to drastically improve the Seattle Mariners' offense.
Except that it hasn't.
Take a look at where the Mariners currently sit among AL clubs and where they sat at the end of the 2013 season:
|Statistic||Seattle '14||AL Rank '14||AL Rank '13|
Those are some pretty damning numbers right there.
But manager Lloyd McClendon believes that his club will turn things around, comparing Seattle's current struggles at the plate to those of the Detroit Tigers, with whom McClendon was a coach, from a season ago.
Per MLB.com's Greg Johns:
Everybody talks about the offense in Detroit. But it wasn't a push-button offense. They had ups and downs and struggles, too. Last year in Detroit we got shutout maybe five or six times. It happens. It happens to everybody. It's always personal when it happens to you.
But we're going to be fine. This team will be fine. We'll hit. We're challenged a little offensively, but I believe when it heats up, bats heat up as well. I think we have some bats that will heat up. They're grinding it out and trying to get it done.
19. Baltimore Orioles (Previous Rank: 14)
|Michael Almanzar||3B||Left patellar tendinitis||15-day DL|
|Francisco Peguero||OF||Right wrist tendinitis||15-day DL|
|Nolan Reimold||OF||July 2013 back surgery||60-day DL|
|Matt Wieters||C||Strained right elbow||15-day DL|
It's been difficult to figure out exactly what the Baltimore Orioles are given the chunks of time that Chris Davis, Manny Machado and now Matt Wieters have missed.
But one thing is for sure: The Orioles are going to have to do a much better job of hitting when there's nobody on base than they have been if they hope to stay in the thick of the playoff race.
|Statistic||Runners On Base||Bases Empty|
That may not seem like a major difference, but in what is shaping up to be the most heated divisional race in baseball, it could be the difference between a division crown and another October spent watching the playoffs on TV.
18. Washington Nationals (Previous Rank: 10)
|Bryce Harper||OF||Torn ligament in left thumb||15-day DL|
|Jeff Kobernus||OF||Fractured left hand||60-day DL|
|Adam LaRoche||1B||Strained right quad||15-day DL|
|Eury Perez||OF||Fractured toe||60-day DL|
|Ryan Zimmerman||3B||Fractured right thumb||15-day DL|
While the Washington Nationals ranked seventh in baseball with 299 runs scored over the second half of the 2013 season, the team struggled to hit with runners in scoring position, bating a meager .245, the ninth-worst mark in the game.
Denard Span is no longer trying to acclimate himself to a new clubhouse and a new league, Ryan Zimmerman's shoulder injury is ancient history and Ian Desmond continues to develop into one of the better-hitting shortstops in baseball.
But the key to it all is Bryce Harper, the 21-year-old phenom who has struggled to stay healthy since breaking into the league two years ago. Harper has unreal talent, immense power and the ability to carry a team's offense on his back when others are struggling.
A healthy Harper, one who plays in more than 118 games, as he did a season ago, will go a long way toward curing what ails the Nationals offense.
17. Texas Rangers (Previous Rank: 4)
|James Adduci||OF||Fractured left pinkie finger||15-day DL|
|Engel Beltre||OF||Fractured right tibia||60-day DL|
|Kevin Kouzmanoff||IF/OF||May 2014 back surgery||15-day DL|
|Donnie Murphy||IF||Neck strain||15-day DL|
|Jurickson Profar||2B||Torn muscle in right shoulder||60-day DL|
|Geovany Soto||C||March 2014 knee surgery||60-day DL|
Injuries have decimated the Texas Rangers lineup, with two of the team's expected Opening Day starters (Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto) yet to play and two key reserves (Kevin Kouzmanoff and Donnie Murphy) both relegated to spectator duty.
Aside from Shin-Soo Choo and Alex Rios, the team hasn't had an everyday player live up to even the most modest of expectations thus far.
Elvis Andrus (.253 BA, .652 OPS) and Adrian Beltre (.259 BA, .739 OPS), both former All-Stars, have been mediocre at best. Prince Fielder (pictured), who along with Choo was added over the winter to bolster the lineup, was invisible over the first four weeks of the season.
Now we've learned that Fielder is dealing with a herniated disk in his neck, something that GM Jon Daniels told reporters has likely played a role in Fielder's struggles, per Richard Durrett of ESPN:
Putting two and two together, it stands to reason it [the neck] would be affecting his swing. He [Fielder] described it as a lack of strength in his left arm as the main symptom. For the type of hitter he is, I certainly think that could impact his ability to hit for power.
The injury isn't expected to land Fielder on the disabled list and, as recently noted by B/R's Jason Catania, the hulking first baseman has made adjustments at the plate and has begun to heat up at the plate.
But it's going to take more than a streaking Fielder to push the Rangers back into the upper echelon of major league lineups.
16. Milwaukee Brewers (Previous Rank: 19)
|Aramis Ramirez||3B||Strained left hamstring||15-day DL|
As was the case in 2013, injuries have hit the heart of Milwaukee Brewers lineup, with Ryan Braun spending time on the disabled list earlier this season and Aramis Ramirez currently sidelined.
The Brewers continue to do just enough at the plate to keep a firm grip on first place in the NL Central and the National League's best record (27-16).
Braun has been productive (.314 BA, .906 OPS), while Carlos Gomez (.290 BA, .924 OPS) is putting up MVP-caliber numbers atop the lineup, ranking among the league leaders in home runs (nine), slugging percentage (.555), runs scored (27) and OPS.
But Khris Davis and Jean Segura have regressed from their breakout performances a year ago, while Lyle Overbay has contributed little at the plate. That's left the Brewers with some big holes in the lineup that aren't easily filled.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks (Previous Rank: 18)