MLB 2011: Optimal Batting Lineups for All 30 Major League Baseball Teams

Sam KlineCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2011

MLB 2011: Optimal Batting Lineups for All 30 Major League Baseball Teams

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    As 2011 Spring Training games get underway, we will see many position battles take place in the next month which will determine which players will fill out Opening Day lineups. Although a great deal of activity and injuries can take place in the next few weeks, which will ultimately determine who starts versus who is benched or sent to the minor leagues for more development, this is a slideshow of each Major League team's optimal batting lineup as well as the position each start will likely field.  

    As injuries continue to shape the spring training landscape, much of this information is subject to change prior to April, and not every lineup necessarily matches up with what each manager will have filled out on his scorecard at the end of March. But what you'll find is the most optimal lineup based on the skill set of each player. Furthermore, there are plenty of lefty/righty platoons which will likely shake up the lineup on a regular basis.

New York Yankees

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    1. Derek Jeter, SS
    2. Curtis Granderson, CF
    3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
    4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
    5. Robinson Cano, 2B
    6. Jorge Posada, DH
    7. Russell Martin, C
    8. Nick Swisher, RF
    9. Brett Gardner, LF


    Coming off one of the worst years of his 16-year career at 36-years-old, Jeter no longer represents a prototypical top-of-the-lineup presence. Granderson provides a nice power/speed combination between Jeter and the middle of the Bombers’ lineup. Gardner, 27, is much younger and faster, but strikes out too much for a leadoff hitter. As a No. 9 hitter, the fleet-footed left fielder can be driven in by the top half of the Yanks’ vaunted lineup once he gets on base.

    Martin might be a better fit for the eight-hole, but he’ll get more pitches to hit with Swisher protecting him in the lineup. Posada’s health should benefit from his move to full-time designated hitter in what looks to be his swan song. He should still be good for 15-20 home runs, but don’t be shocked if Posada doesn’t finish the season. He’s still a 39-year-old catcher coming off surgery for a torn meniscus, and also dealt with a broken foot and a concussion in 2010.

Baltimore Orioles

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    1. Brian Roberts, 2B
    2. Nick Markakis, RF
    3. Derrek Lee, 1B
    4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
    5. Mark Reynolds, 3B
    6. Adam Jones, CF
    7. Luke Scott, LF
    8. Matt Wieters, C
    9. J.J. Hardy, SS


    The new-look Orioles boast a revamped heart of the order that should push streaky Luke Scott and his .214 RISP (average with runners in scoring position) down to seventh. Wieters belongs towards the bottom until he starts playing up to his potential, as Baseball America’s 2009 Prospect of the Year only hit .210 against lefties in what was supposed to be his breakout year.

    Although Jones’ speed would make him an ideal top-of-the-lineup candidate, his 23 walks against 119 strikeouts in 581 at bats provide all the reason to limit Jones’ role as a table setter. Instead, Markakis is a better fit for the No. 2 spot based on his ability to put the ball in play and get on base.  Hardy is about recovered from a wrist injury he suffered last May, and the 27-year-old shortstop could bounce back to decent power numbers in Baltimore. 

Boston Red Sox

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    1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
    2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
    3. Carl Crawford, LF
    4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
    5. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
    6. J.D. Drew, RF
    7. David Ortiz, DH
    8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
    9. Marco Scutaro, SS


    As Ellsbury enters the prime of his career, he needs to either sink or swim leading off. His elite speed is ultimately wasted in the nine-hole. Ortiz would be better served in the No. 7 slot in an effort to distribute power more evenly throughout the lineup with Drew and Youkilis benefiting from his protection.

    Saltalamacchia remains a question mark behind the plate, but has always had the tools to be a solid switch-hitting catcher. If he plays up to his purported potential, the Red Sox may have the most feared lineup in baseball in 2011. Scutaro is a candidate to be replaced by youngster Jed Lowrie at some point during the season if the 35-year-old can’t stay healthy.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    1. Rajai Davis, CF
    2. Yunel Escobar, SS
    3. Adam Lind, 1B/DH
    4. Jose Bautista, 3B/1B/LF
    5. Aaron Hill, 2B
    6. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
    7. Travis Snider, LF/RF
    8. Juan Rivera, RF
    9. J. P. Arencibia, C


    Most of the Blue Jays’ 2010 starters are looking to rebound from down years. Davis provides some badly-needed speed to the top of a lineup that ranked 28th in steals last season. Bautista presents the team’s biggest power threat whose protection should theoretically help Adam Lind see better pitches, and return to his 2009 level of play. Snider is still only 23-years-old, and this may be the year he finally figures out major league pitching after first being hastily called up at the tender age of 20.

    Rivera, who joins the Jays this season, is a decent veteran stopgap who can provide some pop and adequate defense. Arencibia is young and raw, but the presence of Molina will give the rookie time to mature at the major league level.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    1. BJ Upton, CF
    2. Johnny Damon, LF
    3. Evan Longoria, 3B
    4. Manny Ramirez, DH
    5. Dan Johnson, 1B
    6. Matt Joyce, LF/RF
    7. Ben Zobrist, RF/2B/1B
    8. John Jaso, C
    9. Red Brignac, SS


    The top five spots in the Rays’ lineup don’t figure to change much throughout the season barring injury or extensive slumps. Matt Joyce will not see many at-bats against left-handed pitching based on the fact that he went 2-25 against southpaws last season. Instead, Zobrist will see time in the outfield when Joyce hits the pine, and might spell Dan Johnson at first if he can’t put protect Ramirez from the five-hole.

    The Rays look at Zobrist in 2011 as a super-utility player who will get full-time at bats at a multitude of positions. Catcher Kelly Shoppach will replace Jaso against lefties, and Sean Rodriguez would take over at second while Zobrist starts for either Joyce or Johnson. 

Chicago White Sox

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    1. Juan Pierre, LF
    2. Alex Rios, CF
    3. Paul Konerko, 1B
    4. Adam Dunn, DH
    5. Carlos Quentin, RF
    6. Alexei Ramirez, SS
    7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
    8. Gordon Beckham, 2B
    9. Brent Morel, 3B 


    Rios’ power/speed combination makes him a fine choice in the two-hole, as the center fielder can both drive in Pierre as well as score from first on a double. Konerko will enjoy Dunn’s protection in the lineup. Ramirez enjoyed a fine all-around 2010, and should continue his maturation with plenty of RBI opportunities batting sixth.

    Pierzynski and Beckham both picked up the pace after slow starts to their respective seasons, and should bounce back to some degree in 2011. The 33-year-old backstop was recently signed to a two-year deal, which is an indication that prospect Tyler Flowers isn’t ready for full-time duty behind the plate yet. Morel is the front-runner for the third base job, but is more touted for his defense than his stick. 

Cleveland Indians

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    1. Grady Sizemore, CF
    2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
    3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
    4. Travis Hafner, DH
    5. Carlos Santana, C
    6. Orlando Cabrera, 2B
    7. Matt LaPorta, 1B
    8. Jayson Nix, 3B
    9. Michael Brantley, LF 


    If Sizemore comes back successfully from microfracture surgery, he’ll resume leadoff duties for the Tribe. Asdrubal Cabrera should bounce back from a 2010 broken forearm to his familiar place in the two-hole. Santana looks like he’s on track to make a full recovery from his knee issues, and may finish the season as one of the American League’s top hitting catchers. It’s now or never for LaPorta, as he should be recovered from offseason hip and toe injuries with enough major league at bats to take the next step in his maturation.

    Nix is battling prospect Jason Donald for third base duties, and this competition may come down to the final stages of Spring Training. Brantley is still a bit raw, and needs seasoning towards the bottom of the lineup, but the Indians would like to see him bat between Sizemore and Choo once he gets more comfortable in the majors. 

Minnesota Twins

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    1. Denard Span, CF
    2. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B/SS
    3. Joe Mauer, C
    4. Justin Morneau, 1B
    5. Delmon Young, LF
    6. Michael Cuddyer, RF
    7. Jason Kubel/Jim Thome, DH
    8. Danny Valencia, 3B
    9. Alexi Casilla, SS/2B


    Nishioka, the Japanese import, was the 2010 Nippon Professional Baseball batting champ, and should be an effective table setter for Mauer and Morneau if his abilities translate stateside. Valencia had a solid rookie campaign in 2010, but a repeat of his .311 batting average might be a little optimistic based on his fluky average on balls in play. If Morneau is recovered from last season’s concussion and Young proves that 2010 was the beginning of his prime as opposed to a career year, then this Twins offense could be the most balanced lineup in the division. 

    Given that both Thome and Kubel are left-handed, it’s unclear how the DH at bats will be divvied up between the two sluggers. Manager Ron Gardenhire may also elect to have Casilla and Nishioka swap middle infield positions by Opening Day since Nishioka was a shortstop in Japan, and Casilla can play either position.

Detroit Tigers

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    1. Austin Jackson, CF
    2. Ryan Raburn, LF
    3. Magglio Ordonez, RF
    4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
    5. Victor Martinez, DH
    6. Carlos Guillen, 2B
    7. Brandon Inge, 3B
    8. Jhonny Peralta, SS
    9. Alex Avila, C


    The addition of Martinez brings Cabrera much-needed protection in the Tigers’ lineup, and the transition to designated hitter should help to keep his knees healthy while the occasional start at catcher will enable Martinez to retain his fantasy eligibility at the position for 2012. Although Miggy is the team’s best hitter, his immense power makes him a better fit for cleanup duties while Ordonez’s .378 on base percentage will provide more RBI opportunities for Cabrera.

    Guillen would have been a better fit for the two-hole a few years ago with Raburn batting sixth. However, Guillen is coming off offseason microfracture surgery, and the 35-year-old might not be ready by Opening Day. If this is the case, Will Rhymes or Raburn could replace Guillen at second base, and Rhymes would bat ninth with Inge, Peralta and Avila each moving up a spot in the order. 

Kansas City Royals

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    1. Melky Cabrera, CF
    2. Jason Kendall, C
    3. Billy Butler, DH/1B
    4. Kila Ka’aihue, 1B/DH
    5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
    6. Alex Gordon, LF
    7. Wilson Betemit, 3B
    8. Mike Aviles, 2B
    9. Alcides Escobar, SS


    Cabrera may not be the ideal leadoff hitter given his .328 career OBP. There simply aren’t any better leadoff options in Kansas City. Aviles needs to improve his plate discipline before he can be trusted as a table setter. Ditto for the 24-year-old Escobar, who still has much room for improvement after coming over to the American League in the Zack Greinke trade.

    2011 will be the year Ka’aihue needs to prove he belongs in the majors, as the Royals are taking the training wheels off by giving him full-time at bats. He and Butler will likely alternate between first base and designated hitter. Betemit had a career-high .889 OPS in 2010, and the Royals desperately need him to infuse some power towards the bottom of their lineup. Gordon looks like he’ll never reach his potential as a former No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft, but he can still be a solid major league regular. 

Los Angeles Angels

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    1. Maicer Izturis, 3B
    2. Bobby Abreu, DH
    3. Kendry Morales, 1B
    4. Torii Hunter, RF
    5. Vernon Wells, CF
    6. Howie Kendrick, 2B
    7. Jeff Mathis, C
    8. Erick Aybar, SS
    9. Peter Bourjos, CF


    Having ranked 27th in the league with a team OBP of .311 in 2010, the Angels have a few holes in their lineup. Although the club boasts a preponderance of team speed, it lacks a legitimate leadoff hitter who can draw walks and get on base consistently. The injury-prone Izturis has never logged 400 at bats in a single season, but doesn’t strike out as much as Aybar, Kendrick and Bourjos. Abreu’s skills may have begun to decline, but the 36-year-old still makes a fine option in the two-hole. “Bobby Flares” should hit for a more respectable batting average than the .255 he posted last season, but he’s going to share DH duties with Morales now that Wells, a three-time Gold Glover, is in the outfield.

    Kendrick had a decent statistical output in his first season with 600+ at bats, but Manager Mike Scioscia hopes the 27-year-old continues to develop offensively. Mathis and his .199 career batting average create an easy out scenario for opposing pitchers, so switch-hitting rookie Hank Conger will share catching duties with Mathis. Aybar and Bourjos were both disasters batting leadoff in the past, so their speed makes them better suited for the bottom of the lineup so that Abreu, Morales or Hunter might drive them in.

Oakland Athletics

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    1. Coco Crisp, CF
    2. Daric Barton, 1B
    3. David DeJesus, LF
    4. Hideki Matsui, DH
    5. Josh Willingham, RF
    6. Kurt Suzuki, C
    7. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B
    8. Mark Ellis, 2B
    9. Cliff Pennington, SS 


    Crisp is the obvious choice to bat first with 32 steals in 35 attempts and the most leadoff experience. Barton is not an elite first baseman, but the 2010 American League leader in bases on balls is a good fit for the second slot. DeJesus could form a lefty/righty platoon with Conor Jackson in left. Matsui and Willingham make for a fine pair of acquisitions that the small-market A’s can feel good about, but it’s anyone’s guess how effective the 36-year-old Matsui will be hitting in spacious Oakland.

    Suzuki should rebound from a down season where injuries and a death in his family marred last year's performance, especially after the All-Star Break. Kouzmanoff’s perpetually declining OPS makes him a weak link in the lineup. Ellis is an capable, but unexciting, fit in the eight hole. Pennington’s impressive speed coupled with a lackluster OBP renders him perfect for the ninth spot in Oakland’s lineup.

Seattle Mariners

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    1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
    2. Chone Figgins, 3B
    3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
    4. Jack Cust, DH
    5. Miguel Olivo, C
    6. Justin Smoak, 1B
    7. Michael Saunders, LF
    8. Brendan Ryan, 2B
    9. Jack Wilson, SS


    Besides Ichiro and Figgins holding down the first two slots, this batting order remains in a state of flux. Smoak is probably still too green for the heart of the lineup just yet. Saunders boasts legit power, but has a ways to go in becoming a consistent major league hitter. The 24-year-old is expected to share left field duties with veteran Milton Bradley, who may also DH.

    Olivo is a reluctant fit for the five-hole, but the power-starved Mariners desperately need some veteran thump behind Cust so the slugger gets a pitch or two to hit. Ryan and Wilson combine to form the weakest double play combination in baseball from an offensive standpoint. Rookie Dustin Ackley is expected to take over second base duties from Ryan as soon as this year.

Texas Rangers

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    1. Elvis Andrus, SS
    2. Michael Young, DH
    3. Josh Hamilton, RF
    4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
    5. Ian Kinsler, 2B
    6. Nelson Cruz, RF
    7. Mike Napoli C
    8. Mitch Moreland, 1B
    9. Julio Borbon, CF 


    It’s almost unfair how superior the Rangers’ lineup is to the other three teams in the AL West. Borbon is faster than Andrus, but the speedy shortstop is a better leadoff option given his ability to reach base on a consistent basis. Young makes a perfect No. 2 hitter who can move Andrus over while setting the table for Hamilton, Beltre, Kinsler and Cruz.

    Napoli will shuffle between catcher, designated hitter and first base with capable backup Yorvit Torrealba spelling him behind the plate. Moreland is an unheralded young hitter who should see close to 500 at bats with Napoli platooning with him against lefties. Don’t be shocked if Moreland develops into Texas’ first baseman of the future, but in the meantime, he’ll cut his teeth towards the bottom of the lineup and might even see some time in the outfield to ensure Young gets regular at bats.

Atlanta Braves

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    1. Nate McClouth, CF
    2. Martin Prado, LF
    3. Chipper Jones, 3B
    4. Dan Uggla, 2B
    5. Brian McCann, C
    6. Jason Heyward, RF
    7. Freddie Freeman, 1B
    8. Alex Gonzalez, SS 


    McClouth has the most leadoff experience, but will need to shake off a terrible 2010 to prove that he belongs in the lineup, let alone atop the lineup. Don’t be shocked to see him sit against tough left-handed pitching. Newcomer Uggla’s power ties the heart of the order together and Heyward will benefit from the lower-pressure situation of batting sixth. 

    Freeman had a great 2010 in the minors, but it’s too early to see how the 21-year-old will handle major league pitching. Expect a learning curve from the rookie first baseman. Although Gonzalez has a underwhelming career K/BB ratio of more than 3:1, the 34-year-old would be a slightly better fit batting in front of the pitcher’s spot than the raw rookie. 

Florida Marlins

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    1. Chris Coghlan, CF
    2. Omar Infante, 2B
    3. Hanley Ramirez, SS
    4. Mike Stanton, LF
    5. Gaby Sanchez, 1B
    6. Logan Morrison, LF
    7. John Buck, C
    8. Wes Helms, 3B 


    The Marlins’ 4-7 slots are subject to change regularly, but Stanton’s tape measure power is more befitting of a cleanup hitter while Morrison is a superior contact hitter with modest pop. Sanchez delivers enough power for the five-hole and proved to be a reliable run producer in 2010.

    Buck moves from a hitter’s milieu in Toronto to pitcher-friendly Florida, and may experience some statistical regression in a bigger ballpark. Regardless, his feast-or-famine style of hitting makes him ideal for the seven-hole. Helms is the walking definition of “veteran stopgap”, and is merely keeping the hot corner warm until touted prospect Matt Dominguez is ready for The Show. If the 34-year-old struggles, Emilio Bonifacio could spell him at third base, but with just one home run in four major league seasons, the latter has hardly impressed as an everyday player thus far in his career.

New York Mets

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    1. Jose Reyes, SS
    2. Angel Pagan, RF
    3. David Wright, 3B
    4. Jason Bay, LF
    5. Carlos Beltran, CF
    6. Ike Davis, 1B
    7. Daniel Murphy, 2B
    8. Josh Thole, C


    Reyes was not as effective an option batting third in 2010, and belongs atop the order where his speed is most effective in front of the Mets’ best hitters. Pagan had a career year, and will be expected to set the table for the heart of the lineup. Bay and Beltran need to shake off down seasons from last year and bounce back for the Mets to contend in the competitive NL East.

    Davis impressed in his rookie campaign, but the 24-year-old has yet to reach his ceiling of potential. For the time being, he’s a nice fit for the six-hole, but needs to cut down on the strikeouts. Murphy has a decent stick for a second baseman, and hopes to rebound to his 2009 stats after an injury-plagued 2010. Thole is a formidable contact hitter, but the backstop doesn’t pose much of a power threat to opposing pitchers. Backup Ronny Paulino is the more offensive-minded of the Mets’ two catchers, and could siphon at-bats away from Thole if the 24-year-old struggles early.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
    2. Placido Polanco, 3B
    3. Chase Utley, 2B
    4. Ryan Howard, 1B
    5. Raul Ibanez, LF
    6. Domonic Brown, RF
    7. Carlos Ruiz, C
    8. Shane Victorino, CF


    Rollins might be slightly past his prime as a 32-year-old shortstop, but still brings enough speed and experience to flourish at the top of the Phillies’ lineup as long as the injury-prone former MVP stays healthy. Polanco is an ideal option batting second, as he put the ball in play almost 87 percent of the time in 2010, good for fourth in the National League. Utley, Howard and Ibanez continue to make a fearsome heart of the lineup

    Brown needs protection in the lineup in order to better mature as a hitter. The 23-year-old would be a lost cause batting eighth, as he’d get nothing to hit with the pitcher on deck. Last season, Ruiz performed much better batting seventh (.337 BA) as opposed to eighth (.263 BA), and should be kept in the seven hole. Victorino could easily lead off if Rollins gets hurt, but his speed and low strikeout rate serve the Phillies well at the eighth spot and evenly balances out the talent in the batting order.

Washington Nationals

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    1. Nyjer Morgan, CF
    2. Ian Desmond, SS
    3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
    4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
    5. Jayson Werth, RF
    6. Ivan Rodriguez, C
    7. Rick Ankiel, LF
    8. Danny Espinosa, 2B


    Morgan and Desmond are speedy options hitting in front of the Nats’ power hitters, but have struggled to reach base consistently. LaRoche replaces Adam Dunn at the cleanup spot, and Jayson Werth will make for an expensive option batting fifth in place of the departed Josh Willingham. Rodriguez is more of a mentor at the late stage of his Hall-of-Fame career as opposed to the offensive dynamo he was 10-15 years ago. However, his experience and intricate knowledge of opposing pitchers prevents the 39-year-old from being an automatic out despite his declining skill set. 

    Ankiel brings some pop along with major holes in his swing, and will vie with Roger Bernadina for the left field job. Neither lefty is a particularly enticing long-term option. Espinosa brings a power/speed combination to the eighth spot in the order, but strikes out too much to project as a reliable regular in the major leagues. 

Chicago Cubs

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    1. Tyler Colvin, RF
    2. Starlin Castro, SS
    3. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
    4. Carlos Pena, 1B
    5. Marlon Byrd, CF
    6. Alfonso Soriano, LF
    7. Geovany Soto, C
    8. Blake DeWitt, 2B


    Castro is the Cubs’ ideal option as leadoff hitter, but is more comfortable in the two spot. The shortstop, who turns 21 in March, will need to draw more walks and improve his base stealing to take the next step in his maturation. That said, the kid is a special talent. Colvin may platoon with Kosuke Fukudome in right field, but the 24-year-old should eventually receive regular at bats over the Japanese import. 

    Pena replaces Derrek Lee at first base, and brings a powerful bat along with a sub-.200 average from the 2010 season. Byrd led the team in hits last year, and proved to be a worthwhile acquisition for General Manager Jim Hendry. Soriano still has legitimate offensive talent, although the 35-year-old has always been an adventure to watch in the outfield. Soto bounced back from a dreadful 2009 to a .280 batting average, and should remain one of the better hitting catchers in the National League based on his patient approach at the plate. DeWitt, 25, is more of a “clubhouse guy” than someone whose stats will jump off the sports page. 

Cincinnati Reds

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    1. Brandon Phillips, 2B
    2. Drew Stubbs, CF
    3. Joey Votto, 1B
    4. Scott Rolen, 3B
    5. Jay Bruce, RF
    6. Ramon Hernandez, C
    7. Jonny Gomes, LF
    8. Paul Janish, SS


    Rolen may not be the quintessential slugger to have batting cleanup, but he’s a quality hitter who splits up the two lefties in Votto and Bruce. Stubbs could be poised for another breakout year batting in front of the 2010 National League MVP all season.

    Hernandez has always been a plus-hitting catcher, but has had problems staying healthy his first two years in Cincinnati. Gomes delivers some pop to the bottom of the lineup, but will likely sit in favor of Fred Lewis against tougher left-handed pitching. Janish is in the lineup for his defense, and has been named the starting shortstop over veteran Edgar Renteria despite a light stick.

Houston Astros

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    1. Michael Bourn, CF
    2. Chris Johnson, 3B
    3. Hunter Pence, RF
    4. Carlos Lee, LF
    5. Bill Hall, 2B
    6. Brett Wallace, 1B
    7. Clint Barmes, SS
    8. Jason Castro, C


    Johnson is a talented albeit impatient hitter based on his ungodly strikeout to walk ratio of more than 6:1. But with the right lineup protection, he could be an offensive asset to the Astros, though he was rather lucky (.379 BABIP) in his first season. Hall hasn’t typically been a five-hole hitter throughout his career, but playing for a lower-tier team like Houston should afford him the opportunity to become a more integral part of the offense. 

    The jury is out on Wallace, who was traded to his third organization in spite of legitimate upside. The Astros are hoping he wins the first base job. Otherwise, Lee will have to shift to 1B if Wallace can’t hang in the majors with Jason Michaels being plugged into left field. Some feel Barmes’ experience should put him in the two-hole, but his career on-base percentage of .300 (for the Rockies, mind you) means he’s a better fit for the bottom of the lineup. Castro is being counted on strictly for his defense.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    1. Rickie Weeks, 2B
    2. Corey Hart, RF
    3. Ryan Braun, LF
    4. Prince Fielder, 1B
    5. Casey McGehee, 3B
    6. Yuniesky Betancout, SS
    7. Jonathan LuCroy, C
    8. Carlos Gomez, CF


    Milwaukee benefits from having substantial power at the top half of their lineup, as the one through five hitters are all capable of hitting 30 home runs. Betancourt would be a more logical fit for the two hole except that his OBP is .296 and he’s a below-average baserunner (26 career stolen bases against 25 times caught).

    LuCroy is the Brewers’ catcher of the future, so he’ll get regular at bats in a sink-or-swim situation. First, Wil Nieves will fill in as an uninspiring backup until LuCroy returns from preseason surgery on his finger. Gomez has long been a serious liability at the plate with a career K/BB ratio of over 4:1.  The 25-year-old may be blazing fast on the basepaths and in center field, but if he can’t reach base, he’s pretty useless from an offensive standpoint outside of pinch running duties.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    1. Andrew McCutchen, CF
    2. Jose Tabata, CF
    3. Neil Walker, 2B
    4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
    5. Garrett Jones, RF
    6. Lyle Overbay, 1B
    7. Chris Snyder, C
    8. Ronny Cedeno, SS 


    This 2011 squad is probably the most promising Pirate lineup to ever take the field at ten-year-old PNC Park. McCutchen looks like a bonafide future All-Star. Tabata and Alvarez didn’t disappoint in their rookie seasons, although the latter needs to cut down on his already-historic strikeout rate. Jones also has major holes in his swing, especially against lefties, and might not be a long-term solution for the Bucs. Matt Diaz might take over in right field if the 30-year-old can’t turn the corner.

    Overbay brings a solid veteran presence in addition to protection for Jones. Snyder has some pop to go along with a meager batting average. He’ll share catching duties with Ryan Doumit, who was unable to handle the full-time job by himself without sustaining injuries on a regular basis. Cedeno will contribute little more than a handful of home runs and stolen bases to the Pirate offense, but the six-year veteran isn’t necessarily an automatic out compared to other defensive-minded shortstops. 

St. Louis Cardinals

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    1. Skip Schumaker, 2B
    2. Colby Rasmus, CF
    3. Albert Pujols, 1B
    4. Matt Holliday, LF
    5. Lance Berkman, RF
    6. David Freese, 3B
    7. Yadier Molina, C
    8. Ryan Theriot, SS


    Schumaker isn’t considered a consummate leadoff hitter by most standards, and struggles against left-handed pitching. Theriot would likely bat first against southpaws. Rasmus makes a nice fit hitting in front of Pujols, and should see many a fastball this season. Berkman will have plenty more opportunities for run production in St. Louis than he has had as an Astro last season. Assuming he stays healthy, another 100 RBI season seems probable for the 35-year-old. 

    Freese is a capable young hitter coming off a rookie season fraught with injuries. He is slated to start at third base with the majority share of a quasi-platoon role with Nick Punto, playing roughly two out of every three games and sitting against tougher right-handed starting pitchers. Molina and Theriot are each capable hitters who fill out a solid bottom of the batting order.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    1. Kelly Johnson, 2B
    2. Stephen Drew, SS
    3. Justin Upton, RF
    4. Miguel Montero, C
    5. Chris Young, CF
    6. Melvin Mora, 3B
    7. Xavier Nady, LF
    8. Juan Miranda, 1B


    Johnson had an outstanding first year in Arizona, and there’s no reason he can’t duplicate his 2010 stats playing half his games in hitter-friendly Chase Field, where he posted a .976 OPS. Drew, similarly to his older brother J.D., looks like he’ll plateau as an above-average major league talent in spite of overblown hype that accompanied him as he came up in the Diamondbacks’ farm system. 

    Young might be a more natural fit for batting cleanup, but Arizona’s lineup is less vulnerable if Montero splits up the two talented right-handed bats. Mora is a veteran band-aid with a declining skill set who was signed to a short-term deal after Mark Reynolds left for Baltimore. Nady is a, good albeit impatient hitter, and is slated for regular playing time despite coming back from two Tommy John surgeries.  Miranda was hand-picked by new GM Kevin Towers, and will be given first crack to win the first base job.

Colorado Rockies

27 of 30
    1. Dexter Fowler, CF
    2. Todd Helton, 1B
    3. Carlos Gonzalez, LF
    4. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
    5. Ian Stewart, 3B
    6. Jose Lopez, 2B
    7. Seth Smith, RF
    8. Chris Iannetta, C 


    The speedy Fowler is the obvious choice leading off, but needs to cut down his strikeouts to be a bigger offensive asset. Despite being in the waning years of his storied career, Helton is still adept at providing quality at bats and getting on base for the heart of the order. Gonzalez and Tulowitzki form the most potent one-two punch in the NL West. Stewart is an improving talent, but needs to improve against left-handed pitching and, like Fowler, cut down on the whiffs.

    Lopez was disappointing in Seattle, and could probably have used a change of scenery to a more offensive-friendly and competitive ballclub. Smith gets the right field job with Brad Hawpe gone to San Diego, but will probably sit against most lefties for Ryan Spilborghs. Iannetta seems to have regressed offensively in spite of finally securing the starting catcher’s gig. Perhaps the 27-year-old will turn things around will more job security.

Los Angeles Dodgers

28 of 30
    1. Rafael Furcal, SS
    2. Matt Kemp, CF
    3. Andre Ethier, RF
    4. Casey Blake, 3B
    5. James Loney, 1B
    6. Juan Uribe, 2B
    7. Jay Gibbons, LF
    8. Rod Barajas, C


    Kemp should rebound from a disappointing season to his All-Star level of play, and makes sense batting second. Ethier rounds out the best part of Los Angeles’ lineup: Slots one through three. There’s a dropoff afterwards, as Blake and Loney are about as unexciting a corner infield tandem as you’ll find in Major League Baseball. It’s not that these two veterans are poor players, but their slightly above-average skill set hardly strikes fear into many pitchers.

    Gibbons made an unlikely resurfacing from the minor leagues, and new Dodger Manager Don Mattingly will start the season with a left field platoon of Gibbons and Marcus Thames. Barajas is a 35-year-old stopgap with a little pop left in his bat, but made a career off of playing home games in much hitter-friendly environments like Texas, Toronto, Arizona and Philadelphia before coming back to Chavez Ravine. 

San Diego Padres

29 of 30
    1. Jason Bartlett, SS
    2. Orlando Hudson, 2B
    3. Chase Headley, 3B
    4. Brad Hawpe, 1B
    5. Ryan Ludwick, LF
    6. Will Venable, RF
    7. Nick Hundley, C
    8. Cameron Maybin, CF


    Bartlett will get plenty of green lights this season, assuming he reverts to his 2009 form as opposed to his dreadful 2010 form. Headley’s skill set makes him a better fit for the six hole as opposed to the third spot in the order, but this Padre offense lacks significant overall punch, so he should bat third by default. 

    Hawpe is moving to a pitcher’s paradise in San Diego. Temper your expectations for the former Rockie, who will occasionally lose playing time to Jorge Cantu and Kyle Blanks. Ludwick has solid pop, but won’t approach the 37 homers he hit as a Cardinal in 2008. Venable brings a nice power/speed skill set to right field, but struggles to make contact consistently. Maybin strikes out too much to bat high in the order, so the 23-year-old belongs in the eight hole until he improves his contact rate.

San Francisco Giants

30 of 30
    1. Andres Torres, CF
    2. Freddy Sanchez, 2B
    3. Buster Posey, C
    4. Aubrey Huff, 1B
    5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
    6. Cody Ross, RF
    7. Pat Burrell, LF
    8. Miguel Tejada, SS


    The defending World Series Champs don’t look particularly imposing on paper. Torres is a late bloomer who had a career year. At 33, he may not get much better, but the Giants will certainly take a duplicate of his impressive 2010 season. Sanchez is a good fit for the No. 2 spot in the Giants’ lineup based on his ability to consistently make contact, but may be spelled by utilityman Mark DeRosa on occasion. Posey will be a mainstay at the focal point of the Giants’ offense for years to come, and is already a top-five catcher after just one season in the majors.

    Huff exceeded expectations in his first season as a Giant. Sandoval needs to bounce back to 2009 form. He was unlucky with his BABIP in 2010 and he rarely got good pitches to hit. However, Kung Fu Panda lost a lot off weight this offseason, and is dead set on proving that 2010, not 2009, was a fluky season. Ross made a home for himself in San Francisco with a heroic postseason performance, but shouldn’t be viewed as more than a candidate for 20 or so home runs and 80 RBIs. Tejada, signed to a one-year-deal, is nearing the end of his career, but might have one productive season left in him. His defense at shortstop, however, could be an issue for the Giants moving forward.