Even though pitchers and catchers have just arrived in Florida and Arizona, let's rank the projected starting lineups heading into the new season.
We are going to take into consideration the table-setters, the heart-of-the-lineup, and the bottom third of the lineup.
Who has the best lineup?
Who has the underrated lineup?
Who has the overrated lineup?
Let's take a look at the National League starting lineups to decide.
Take a look at the last slide which is the projected starting All-Star lineup for the National League.
1 - Andrew McCutchen
2 - Akinori Iwamura
3 - Ryan Doumit
4 - Garrett Jones
5 - Jeff Clement
6 - Lastings Milledge
7 - Pedro Alvarez
8 - Bobby Crosby
Last Year Runs Scored: 636
Key Additions: Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church, and Akinori Iwamura
Key Losses: None
The Pirates will again attempt to compete with a low budget and various question marks. Pittsburgh enters into the 2010 season with a 17-year postseason drought.
The Pirates' GM was very busy the past three years, especially at the trade deadline, moving various veterans for young prospects.
They're hoping that this year will reflect some of the young talent received in these trades, as well as, the players they have drafted on their own.
Included in this projected lineup are former first round picks Andrew McCutchen ('05), Pedro Alvarez ('08), Jeff Clement (picked by Seattle in '05), and Lastings Milledge (picked by NY Mets in '03).
These players are expected to take the two steps forward required to change this franchise.
1 - Everth Cabrera
2 - David Eckstein
3 - Adrian Gonzalez
4 - Kyle Banks
5 - Chase Headley
6 - Will Venable
7 - Scott Hairston
8 - Yorvit Torrealba
Last Year Runs Scored: 638
Key Additions: Scott Hairston, Jerry Hairston, Aaron Cunningham, Matt Stairs, and Yorvit Torreabla
Key Losses: Kevin Kouzmanoff, Henry Blanco, Chris Burke, and Brian Giles
This lineup is centered by Adrian Gonzalez, who may not be around by August.
Protecting Gonzalez is young slugger Kyle Banks, who probably will take-over first when the inevitable trade occurs.
Padres will continue to lack power and will have to run to increase their total from last year, which was only two more runs than the Pirates who finished last.
Unfortunately, the only speed will come from sophomore shortstop Everth Cabrera who stole 25 bases last year.
The only reason this lineup is not ranked last is due to Adrian.
1 - Mark DeRosa
2 - Freddy Sanchez
3 - Pablo Sandoval
4 - Bengie Molina
5 - Aubrey Huff
6 - Edgar Renteria
7 - Aaron Rowand
8 - Nate Schierholtz
Last Year Runs Scored: 657
Key Additions: Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff
Key Losses: Ryan Garko, Randy Winn, and Rich Aurilia (free agent)
San Francisco is expecting to score more runs by replacing Randy Winn with Mark DeRosa (23 HR & 78 RBI) and signing Aubrey Huff (18 HR & 85 RBI) for first.
Aside the two acquisitions, having Freddy Sanchez (career .300 hitter) bat second for the whole year will provide more RBI opportunities for Sandoval and Molina.
The Giants due lack speed, especially from the table-setters, and would benefit tremendously if they brought a player like Johnny Damon to fill the lead-off spot.
This move would allow the team to move DeRosa to sixth and strengthen the bottom of the lineup even further.
I feel this line-up will sneak up on teams and has a chance to finish a lot higher than this ranking.
1 - Michael Bourn
2 - Kaz Matsui
3 - Lance Berkman
4 - Carlos Lee
5 - Hunter Pence
6 - Pedro Feliz
7 - J.R. Towles
8 - Jeff Keppinger
Last Year Runs Scored: 643
Key Additions: Pedro Feliz
Key Losses: Miguel Tejeda and Chris Coste
The Astros are set in the top of the lineup with Michael Bourn, who had a breakout season last year by winning the NL stole base crown with 61 swipes, and Kaz Matsui.
The middle of the lineup is not too shabby, though there must be concerns with Lance Berkman's production last year (.274 - 25 HR - 80 RBI).
The bottom third is where the question marks are great, which includes catcher Towles and his career .188 batting average.
I expect the Astros to try to trade Lee and/or Berkman in July before their production dramatically falls.
1 - Drew Stubbs
2 - Orlando Cabrera
3 - Joey Votto
4 - Brandon Phillips
5 - Jay Bruce
6 - Scott Rolen
7 - Ramon Hernandez
8 - Chris Heisey
Last Year Runs Scored: 673
Key Additions: Orlando Cabrera, Chris Burke, and Aaron Miles
Key Losses: Willy Tavares and Jonny Gomes (free agent)
Last year, I expected the Reds to be the 2009 version of the '08 Tampa Bay Rays and win the NL Central. But, the line-up did not reach their potential and changes were made.
Rolen replaces Edwin Encarnacion at third, Heisey is replacing Jonny Gomes, Stubbs is replacing Chris Dickerson, and shortstop is now Cabrera.
Not sure if these moves will net a big increase in production, if any, and Bruce looked lost at the plate last year.
There are too many question marks in this lineup for me to have another positive attitude this year.
1 - Nyjer Morgan
2 - Christian Guzman
3 - Ryan Zimmerman
4 - Adam Dunn
5 - Josh Willingham
6 - Jesus Flores
7 - Elijah Dukes
8 - Adam Kennedy
Last Year Runs Scored: 710
Key Additions: Adam Kennedy, Chris Duncan, Kevin Mench, Ivan Rodriquez, Willy Taveres
Key Losses: Austin Kearns, Nick Johnson, and Dmitri Young (free agent)
The day the Nationals signed Adam Dunn, prior to the '09 season, it was the first step towards rebuilding their lineup.
Teaming up with Zimmerman, the Nationals having two potent bats in the middle of the line-up. If they can find a solid run producer for the fifth slot, watch out this offense will shoot towards the top.
Table-setters Morgan (.307 and 42 stolen bases) and Guzman (.306) should provide ample opportunity for the big guys to drive in the runs.
A pivotal player is Elijah Dukes. If he finally matures and reaches his potential, the Nationals have their batter for the fifth slot.
There's a good thing happening in the nation's capital.
1 - Ryan Theriot
2 - Marlon Byrd
3 - Derek Lee
4 - Aramis Ramirez
5 - Alfonso Soriano
6 - Geovany Soto
7 - Kosuke Fukudome
8 - Jeff Baker
Last Year Runs Scored: 707
Key Additions: Marlon Byrd, Kevin Millar, Xavier Nady, and Chad Tracey
Key Losses: Milton Bradley, Jake Fox, Reed Johnson, Aaron Miles, and So Taguchi
Too many question marks for this lineup.
Will Byrd continue to improve?
Will Soriano bounce back and become productive again?
Will Ramirez play enough to make a difference?
Will Fukudome succeed in the US?
Was '08 a fluke for Soto?
Answering these questions will determine the success of the Cubs and their ranking.
1 - Dexter Fowler
2 - Clint Barmes
3 - Todd Helton
4 - Troy Tulowitzki
5 - Brad Hawpe
6 - Carlos Gonzalez
7 - Ian Stewart
8 - Chris Iannetta
Last Year Runs Scored: 804
Key Additions: Paul LoDuca, Melvin Mora, Miquel Olivo, and Jay Payton
Key Losses: Garrett Atkins, Matt Murton, and Yorvit Torrealba
Since joining the NL, the Rockies always provided a team loaded with offense. Due to the thin air, players like Andres Gallaragga, Dante Bitchette, Larry Walker, and Vinny Castilla enjoyed outstanding years in Colorado.
Times have changed and the Rockies have become a team who have pitching and are more balanced offensively.
Following Scott Podsenik and Willy Taveras, Fowler is the latest speed demon to head the Rockies. Unlike the other two, Fowler is expected to man the lead-off spot for many years.
The middle of the lineup is balance with a lefty-right-lefty batters who have been productive in their respective slots.
Gonzalez (13 HR in 278 at bats) is the next All-Star on this team and will bat sixth. There's a good chance that he will move from anywhere between second and his projected slot this year.
This lineup will compete for the top if Stewart becomes the next Dan Uggla and if Iannetta improves his batting average.
1 - Nate McLouth
2 - Martin Prado
3 - Chipper Jones
4 - Brian McCann
5 - Troy Glaus
6 - Yunel Escobar
7 - Jason Heyward
8 - Melky Cabrera
Last Year Runs Scored: 735
Key Additions: Melky Cabrera, Troy Glaus, and Eric Hinske
Key Losses: Ryan Church, Kelly Johnson, and Adam LaRoche
The Braves are missing a healthy hitter for the fifth spot and Chipper looks to be showing his age.
Key for the Braves is how quickly will Heyward begin to produce, in order, to move to the middle of the lineup.
1 - Carlos Gomez
2 - Rickie Weeks
3 - Ryan Braun
4 - Prince Fielder
5 - Corey Hart
6 - Casey McGehee
7 - Alcides Escobar
8 - Gregg Zaun
Last Year Runs Scored: 785
Key Additions: Carlos Gomez, Jim Edmonds, and Gregg Zaun
Key Losses: Felipe Lopez (free agent), Mike Cameron, Frank Catalanotto, JJ Hardy, and Jason Kendall
As we move down the list, the difference between eight and second is so close and basically based on opinion.
Like the other teams on this list, the Brewers have their strengths (middle of the lineup) and question marks (table setters).
1 - Chris Coglan
2 - Cameron Maybin
3 - Hanley Ramirez
4 - Jorge Cantu
5 - Dan Uggla
6 - Cody Ross
7 - Gaby Sanchez
8 - John Baker
Last Year Runs Scored: 772
Key Additions: Mike Lamb
Key Losses: Alfredo Amezaga, Jeremy Hermida and Ross Gload
The Marlins have competed for the NL pennant every six, seven years. So this is the year of the Marlins.
The lineup is pretty deep and includes the best hitter in the NL, aside Pujols, shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
Rookie-of-the-Year winner Coglan was a nice surprise and Maybin is prime to follow in the second hole.
Cantu has become a nice run producer and is sandwiched between All-Stars Ramirez and Uggla.
If Gaby Sanchez wins the first base job, the Marlins will have a very deep lineup. But if he doesn't, the team have backup plans with veteran Wes Helms and prospect Logan Morrison.
1 - Kelly Johnson
2 - Stephen Drew
3 - Justin Upton
4 - Mark Reynolds
5 - Miguel Montero
6 - Adam LaRoche
7 - Chris B. Young
8 - Conor Jackson
Last Year Runs Scored: 720
Key Additions: Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson
Key Losses: Eric Byrnes and Chad Tracey
The D-backs are very deep, which is reflected by Jackson batting eighth.
Key to Arizona's success lies with Reynolds (.260 - 44 HR - 102 RBI) and Upton (.300 - 26 HR - 86 RBI), who are batting third and fourth.
I like the LaRoche signing, as he brings needed power from the left side of the plate.
Things are going to be interested in the NL West with the D-Backs competing for the division title.
1 - Jose Reyes
2 - Luis Castillo
3 - Carlos Beltran
4 - David Wright
5 - Jason Bay
6 - Jeff Francouer
7 - David Murphy
8 - Josh Tholes
Last Year Runs Scored: 671
Key Additions: Jason Bay, Henry Blanco, Chris Coste, Mike Jacobs, and Gary Matthews Jr.
Key Losses: Angel Berroa, Jeremy Reed, Brian Schneider, Carlos Delgado and Corey Sullivan
The NY Mets entered 2009 with one of the top-five lineups in the majors. Unfortunately, almost every starter hit the DL for extended periods which hurt the team offensively. The Mets finished towards the bottom in runs scored and next to last in homers.
Now we are entering 2010 and I'm predicting the Mets to have a top -10 offense in the majors, even with Beltran out for an extended period heading into the season.
Reason for the optimism is the Bay signing, who is a dead pull hitter, and the health of these stars.
Reyes is one of the best lead-off hitters in the game and Castillo is a nice situational hitter at the two hole.
With Bay, Wright will have protection and will enjoy a rebound in the power categories.
Francoeur seemed to fine his stroke after arriving from Atlanta and fits nicely in the sixth hole.
If Murphy was the second baseman, the stats he produced would be nice. Expect another step forward offensively, especially, if his defense improves under Keith Hernandez tutelage.
I expect the Mets to fill center with Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr for the short term, but will need a healthy Beltran for this ranking to stick.
1 - Skip Schumaker
2 - Colby Rasmus
3 - Albert Pujols
4 - Matt Holliday
5 - Ryan Ludwick
6 - Yadier Molina
7 - David Freese
8 - Brendan Ryan
Last Year Runs Scored: 730
Key Additions: None
Key Losses: Rick Ankiel, Mark DeRosa, and Khalil Greene
The Cards production will mostly come from Pujols, Holliday, and Ludwick.
Schumacker is an adequate hitter, but key to the success is Rasmus. Will he take the next step forward, as many expect, or will Molina be required to move up in the lineup.
Cards may be weak in the bottom of the lineup with Freese and Ryan.
This ranking is really due to the heart of the lineup, mostly Pujols, being so productive.
This offense reminds me of the '90 Pirates who counted on Andy Van Slyke, Bobby Bonnilla, and Barry Bonds for much of the production.
1 - Rafael Furcal
2 - Russell Martin
3 - Andre Ethier
4 - Manny Ramirez
5 - Matt Kemp
6 - James Loney
7 - Casey Blake
8 - Blake Dewitt
Last Year Runs Scored: 780
Key Additions: Alfredo Amezaga, Angel Berroa, Jay Gibbons, Brian Giles, Reed Johnson, Nick Green, and Timo Perez
Key Losses: Orlando Hudson, Juan Pierre, and Jim Thome
This lineup can be deadly from top-to-bottom.
Furcal is important to this lineup and needs to stay healthy to provide needed speed from the top.
The second hole will either be filled by Loney and/or Martin. The Dodgers are hoping Martin rebounds to take the spot, since a lefty bat would be nice in the sixth hole.
The Dodgers are expecting Manny to be Manny and be the run producer machine that he has been his entire career.
Ethier and Kemp are moving to become the team's most dangerous hitter and will flank Manny.
Blake and Dewitt close out the lineup. If Dewitt doesn't hit enough, the Dodgers have many options in Ronnie Belliard, Nick Green, and Ivan Dejesus Jr.
Expect good things from this offense and many runs.
1 - Jimmy Rollins
2 - Shane Victorino
3 - Chase Utley
4 - Ryan Howard
5 - Jayson Werth
6 - Raul Ibanez
7 - Placido Polanco
8 - Carlos Ruiz
Last Year Runs Scored: 820
Key Additions: Chris Duffy, Ross Gload, and Placido Polanco
Key Losses: Miquel Cairo, Pedro Feliz and Matt Stairs
The Phillies' offense have been tops for a few years and will continue this year. The lineup is well balanced from top to bottom and include speed, power, and contact abilities.
The table-setters are Rollins (100 runs and 31 stolen bases) and Victorino (102 runs and 25 stolen bases) who bring the speed to the lineup.
The meat of the line-up includes future MVP Utley, former MVP Howard and free-agent-to-be Werth. All three are expected to drive in over 325 runs.
Unlike most teams, the Phillies run productions falls to the sixth hole with Ibanez (34 home runs and 93 runs batted in) filling that spot.
It's scary to think that this offense may have improved from last year. That may be the case with the acquisition of Polanco to replace Pedro Feliz.
Ouch...I wouldn't want to be a starting pitcher who needs to face this lineup three times a game.
It will be interesting to see if this team is projected to be the best in the majors.
1 - Hanley Ramirez, ss
2 - Chase Utley, 2b
3 - Albert Pujols, 1b
4 - Ryan Braun, lf
5 - Matt Kemp, cf
6 - David Wright, 3b
7 - Justin Upton, rf
8 - Brian McCann, c
Here's the perfect line-up, which easily can be the starting team in this year's All-Star game.
1 - Jose Reyes, ss
2 - Chase Utley, 2b
3 - Albert Pujols, 1b