Power Ranking All 30 MLB Lineups Entering Opening Day
Baseball fans around the world rejoice! Opening Day has finally arrived!
What better time to take a look at how every team's expected "go-to" starting lineup stacks up against the competition?
We will look at the abilities and track records of the players we project as starters, factoring in how they produced in 2013 and what the future holds in 2014. We'll also pay some attention to their numbers in spring training, though as we've learned over the years, you can't put too much stock in them.
It's an inexact science, and with major league rosters in a continual state of flux, this is sure to be the first of several times that we will look at each team's lineup throughout the regular season.
But we've got to start somewhere, so sit back, grab your mouse and let's get going.
30. Miami Marlins
|Rafael Furcal||SS||Left hamstring||Likely headed to DL|
|Ed Lucas||3B||Fractured left hand||Likely headed to DL|
Miami was home to baseball's most inept offense in 2013, as the Marlins ranked last in runs scored (518), batting average (.231), OPS (.627) and a host of other offensive categories.
The team has some young talent (Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich) that offers hope for the future and still boasts one of the game's premier power hitters in Giancarlo Stanton, but Ozuna and Yelich's ability to adjust throughout the year and whether Stanton can stay on the field are major concerns.
Adding Jarrod Saltalamacchia will help, but none of the other veteran additions that the team made over the winter—Rafael Furcal, Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee—can be counted on to be legitimate difference-makers. If that trio puts up league-average numbers this year, it will be a surprise.
The Marlins may pick up a few more wins than the 62 they recorded in 2013, but it will be thanks to a rapidly improving pitching staff, not a lineup that remains full of holes.
29. Minnesota Twins
|Miguel Sano||3B||Tommy John surgery||Out for Season|
Even if prospect Miguel Sano was healthy and opening the season as the Minnesota Twins' third baseman, as many expected would be the case before he was injured, the Twins would still boast one of baseball's worst lineups.
Joe Mauer, one of the premier hitters of his generation and the active leader in batting average (.323), has moved out from behind the plate to first base, where less wear and tear on his body should mean an uptick in his production.
But there isn't much around him in the lineup.
Sure, a healthy Josh Willingham should improve upon his .208 batting average and .709 OPS, and Brian Dozier has quietly developed into a decent run producer at second base, but the former is 35 years old, while the latter is anything but an ideal leadoff hitter, lacking the plate discipline and speed teams look for.
Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and Josmil Pinto all have talent, but the trio is unproven, and as we've seen countless times before, it sometimes takes a few years before on-field results catch up to the talent level.
It's going to be another long season in Minnesota.
28. Houston Astros
Things aren't quite as dire in Houston as they are in Miami and Minnesota, but to say that the Astros lineup is far superior to the offenses of the Marlins or Twins would be...offensive.
Don't get all that excited about the arrival of Dexter Fowler. While athletic and talented, the 28-year-old center fielder's career numbers, including his .365 on-base percentage, have been heavily inflated by calling Coors Field home for the first six years of his career.
|Fowler's Splits||BA||OBP||OPS||XBH (HR)|
|At Coors Field (333 G)||.298||.395||.880||125 (27)|
|Elsewhere (334 G)||.241||.333||.694||88 (13)|
That said, he's an upgrade at the leadoff spot for the Astros, while Jose Altuve remains one of the more underrated second basemen in baseball, though he lacks the requisite power of your traditional cleanup hitter.
There's power with Jason Castro, Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez, though Castro is due to regress a bit after posting an unsustainable .359 BABIP last year.
Houston's offense will be better than it was a year ago, but there's still not enough quality major league talent for the Astros to make much noise with their bats.
27. New York Mets
|Eric Young Jr.||LF||S|
The New York Mets know what they're going to get from Daniel Murphy and David Wright: some power and speed to go along with batting averages hovering right around .300.
After that, it's anyone's guess what to expect from New York's lineup.
Curtis Granderson, the team's big-ticket acquisition this winter, has become a one-dimensional player who moves from one of the more hitter-friendly venues in baseball, Yankee Stadium, to the far less hospitable Citi Field.
Ike Davis has become maddening, blessed with big talent but without a clue as to harness it (a change of scenery might do the trick); Chris Young hasn't hit above .250 in three years; and both of the team's center fielders, Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr., are better defenders than they are hitters.
Oh, and then there's Ruben Tejada, who simply doesn't hit, and Travis d'Arnaud, who is supposed to hit at the major league level but has yet to do so.
The Mets did enough to improve upon the 619 runs that they scored in 2013—but not by much.
26. Philadelphia Phillies
|John Mayberry Jr.||1B/OF||R|
|Tony Gwynn Jr.||OF||L|
|Freddy Galvis||2B||Staph infection||15-day DL|
|Darin Ruf||1B/OF||Strained left oblique||15-day DL|
It's the question we've been asking since the end of last season: How much production do Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have left in their respective bats?
If what we've seen this spring is any indication—they hit a combined .208 with 11 extra-base hits, 15 walks and 38 strikeouts—the answer is not much, and that's a major problem for a team that relies so heavily on those veteran bats to carry the offense.
Maybe we shouldn't put all of the blame on those three, as the Phillies as a whole were a disaster at the plate this spring, hitting .222 with a .298 on-base percentage and .632 OPS—all at or near the bottom of the spring leaderboards.
25. Chicago Cubs
None to report.
Long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans might cringe at the Opening Day lineup for their beloved team, but the forecast for Chicago's offense isn't quite as doom-filled as you might believe.
Contrary to popular opinion, there's some talent here, enough to overpower some opposing pitching staffs and pick up a couple of wins that nobody saw coming over the course of the season.
Starlin Castro has already proven that he can produce at an All-Star level, and while he's coming off of a career-worst season in 2013, it's hard to imagine that the 24-year-old won't bounce back to at least league-average levels.
As he told the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer, he is ready to put 2013 behind him:
I’m ready this year. Last year, I thought too much. Too much listening to some things. Too many things in my mind. It’s not good. When you’re ready to play baseball, you have to have your mind clean.
Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Mike Olt, who is entering his first full major league season, will need to show progress in their development for there to truly be progress in the team's rebuilding efforts—or for the lineup to produce like even a league-average group.
24. San Diego Padres
|Cameron Maybin||OF||Ruptured left biceps tendon||15-day DL|
|Carlos Quentin||OF||Bruised left knee||15-day DL|
The San Diego Padres have historically struggled to score runs since they play half of their games in cavernous Petco Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league.
While Jedd Gyorko established himself as a legitimate source of power for the Padres in 2013, going deep 23 times in his rookie season, questions remain about where the rest of the team's power will come from.
Will Venable hit a career-high 22 home runs in 2013, but the 31-year-old is due for some regression in the power department after hitting 15 of his 22 homers at Petco Park—an unsustainable rate despite the team having moved the right field fences in before last year.
As for Chase Headley, who is he, exactly? Is he the player that finished fifth in the 2012 NL MVP voting, hitting .286 with 31 home runs and an a NL-best 115 RBI? Or is he an average third baseman, a .260 hitter with 10 to 15 home runs a season?
23. Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners lineup immediately improved this winter with the addition of Robinson Cano, but the team failed to add the other impact bats that it needed to really overhaul the lineup.
The Mariners' two other additions to the lineup, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, are sluggers who don't figure to benefit from Safeco Field's unfavorable dimensions. Hart struggled badly this spring (.390 OPS), while Morrison has played in more than 100 games only once in his four-year career.
Neither one can be—or should be—counted on to provide a significant boost to an offense that, aside from Cano and Kyle Seager, has far more questions than it has answers.
There's no doubt that Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller have talent, but can the pair, coming off of scintillating springs, produce over the course of a 162-game schedule? Can Justin Smoak hit more than .240?
Can Abraham Almonte get on base enough—or hit enough—to be a useful table-setter? And what, if anything, can the Mariners expect from Mike Zunino?
With so many questions that need to be answered, it's impossible to push Seattle further up the rankings.
22. San Francisco Giants
|Marco Scutaro||2B||Lower back strain||15-day DL|
Even without Marco Scutaro, who has played the best baseball of his 12-year career since joining the San Francisco Giants at the 2012 trade deadline (.319 BA, .366 OBP, .770 OPS), the top half of San Francisco's lineup is capable of putting runs on the board in a hurry.
Angel Pagan is one of the more underrated leadoff hitters in baseball, and if Brandon Belt can pick up where he left off in 2013, hitting .326 with a .950 OPS in the season's second half, the heart of the order—Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence—will step to the plate with runners in scoring position more often than not.
The jury is still out as to whether we should be including Mike Morse as part of that group. While the 32-year-old outfielder had a solid spring, hitting .294 with a .782 OPS, he didn't flash any of the power that saw him swat 64 home runs from 2010 to 2012.
Sandoval is the key to it all. In the best shape of his six-year career, if the former "Fat Ichiro" can return to his 2009 and 2011 levels of production, when he hit a combined .324 with 48 home runs and 160 RBI, the Giants lineup would certainly crack the top 20.
If he's the average Sandoval that we've seen over the past two years, though, the Giants may need to find new and creative ways to score some runs.
21. Chicago White Sox
|Alejandro De Aza||LF||L|
|Jose Dariel Abreu||1B||R|
|Gordon Beckham||2B||Strained left oblique||15-day DL|
|Jeff Keppinger||IF||Right shoulder impingement||15-day DL|
The Chicago White Sox have improved their lineup from a year ago, with Adam Eaton and Jose Dariel Abreu both impact players capable of making a difference.
Abreu has big-time power potential, while Eaton is the kind of scrappy, toolsy leadoff hitter that fans and managers alike can't wait to see step into the batter's box.
But after the top four in the lineup—and Alexei Ramirez—there are questions about what the White Sox can expect. Avisail Garcia is talented but raw, while none of the team's options at second base, third base or catcher offer much in the way of production.
Things are moving in the right direction for the White Sox, but there are simply too many holes in the lineup—and too many youngsters trying to find their way as the season progresses—for the lineup to be looked at as anything but mediocre.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates
|Chris Stewart||2B||March 2014 right knee surgery||15-day DL|
The Pittsburgh Pirates have an excellent heart of the order with McCutchen, the reigning NL MVP, Alvarez and the always underrated Neil Walker, but there are questions surrounding the rest of the lineup.
A gaping hole remains at first base, where neither Gaby Sanchez nor Travis Ishikawa offers much in the way of production, while the underwhelming Jose Tabata offers little in right field.
Starling Marte has plenty of speed and talent, but he's a free swinger who doesn't draw walks, making him a poor choice as the table-setter for the offense.
19. Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers need bounce-back campaigns from Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, and if spring training in any indication, they'll get both.
The "clean" Braun looks a lot like the "dirty" version, a perennial MVP candidate hitting for average and power, while Ramirez, without a home run in exhibition play, looks to be healthy and comfortable at the plate.
One through five, Milwaukee's lineup looks to be solid, but there are major concerns about the bottom half of the order.
Mark Reynolds will provide some power, but he strikes out a ton and is relegated to facing only left-handed pitching, leaving Lyle Overbay, who, as evidenced by his numbers with the Yankees in 2013 (.240/.295/.383), is no longer the reliable bat that played in Milwaukee in 2004 and 2005.
There's no way that Khris Davis can maintain his unsustainable 28.2 home run/fly ball percentage from last season. While he has power, Davis's walk rate (7.2 percent) and strikeout rate (22.2 percent) indicate that a repeat of his .949 OPS from a year ago is not in the cards.
18. Arizona Diamondbacks
|Cody Ross||OF||Aug. 2013 hip surgery||15-day DL|
The Arizona Diamondbacks lineup is both deep and talented. From the grossly underrated Aaron Hill to the sometimes maddening Miguel Montero, the heart of the Diamondbacks batting order could prove to be one of the game's best by the end of the season.
Paul Goldschmidt has quickly become one of baseball's brightest young stars, and he'll look to build upon a hugely successful 2013 campaign that saw him finish second to Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen in the NL MVP voting.
Some may raise an eyebrow at the idea of Martin Prado, and not Mark Trumbo, batting in the cleanup spot, but Prado's ability to get on base in front of Trumbo's majestic power should result in a significant uptick in the team's run production.
17. Cincinnati Reds
|Jack Hannahan||3B||Oct. 2013 shoulder surgery||15-day DL|
|Skip Schumaker||IF/OF||Dislocated left shoulder||15-day DL|
Despite the presence of MVP-caliber talent in Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, any talk about the Cincinnati Reds lineup starts and ends with Billy Hamilton, the lightning-quick 23-year-old tasked with replacing on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo in the leadoff spot.
It's not hard to imagine Hamilton leading baseball in runs scored and stolen bases this season—just as it's not hard to imagine him struggling mightily and finding himself as either part of a platoon or back in the minor leagues by July.
With Brandon Phillips' aversion to drawing walks and getting on base consistently, Cincinnati needs Hamilton on base for its biggest bats, Votto and Bruce, to do what they do best—produce runs.
Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart all have some pop in their bats and are capable of putting together league-average (or slightly better) numbers at the plate this season. So is Ryan Ludwick, though there are questions about how productive he'll be coming off of a major shoulder injury.
While the Reds lineup is potentially one of baseball's most dangerous, questions about Hamilton and Ludwick make it impossible to rank them any higher.
16. Colorado Rockies
Scoring runs has never been a problem for the Colorado Rockies considering where they play half of their games, and the same will hold true again in 2014.
Two through seven, Colorado's lineup is both deep and talented, led by a pair of perennial MVP candidates in Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. But the duo can't stay healthy, with neither one appearing in more than 130 games last season, and that's a problem.
The team is ill-equipped to handle a lengthy absence by either one.
The leadoff spot is a mess, with multiple options that are less than appealing, putting the pressure on Michael Cuddyer to replicate his career-best numbers from a year ago, when he posted a .919 OPS and won the NL batting crown with a .331 mark.
But he's 35 years old, and it's far more likely that he puts up numbers closer to his career averages (a .277 BA and .801 OPS), numbers that are solid but unspectacular.
If key pieces of the puzzle can stay healthy—and if Cuddyer can fend off Father Time for another year—Colorado will prove that it belongs significantly higher than 16th in the rankings.
But those are big ifs.
15. Tampa Bay Rays
Here's the thing about Tampa Bay's lineup: It's deep and talented, but after Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Wil Myers, it's very ordinary.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes it impossible to rank the Rays ahead of the more high-octane lineups that their competition will be sending up to the plate in 2014.
Thankfully for the Rays, Zobrist, Longoria and Myers comprise what should be one of the more dangerous and productive trios in baseball, good enough to power the Rays to victory more often than not.
14. Baltimore Orioles
|Manny Machado||3B||Oct. 2013 knee surgery||15-day DL|
|Francisco Peguero||row 2, cell 2||Right wrist injury||15-day DL|
|Nolan Reimold||OF/DH||July 2013 neck surgery||15-day DL|
Adding Nelson Cruz to an offense that was already one of the more productive in baseball in 2013 can only be seen as a good thing, but that doesn't mean that the Baltimore Orioles lineup is without concerns and holes.
The heart of Baltimore's lineup—Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Cruz and J.J. Hardy—is solid, though whether Davis can replicate his career-best numbers from a year ago (.286, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 1.004 OPS) is a fair question to ask.
But there are holes that remain in the lineup, beginning with Matt Wieters' bat, which continues to trend in the wrong direction. The defensive whiz barely managed to post an OPS above .700 in 2013, an ominous sign for a five-year veteran who is supposed to be in the thick of his prime.
After suffering a major knee injury toward the end of the regular season, nobody knows what to expect from Manny Machado when he finally returns to action, and while talented, questions persist about Jonathan Schoop's ability to produce over the course of his first full major league season.
Could the Orioles wind up with one of the 10 best lineups at the end of the season? Absolutely. But a lot has to go right for that to happen.
13. Atlanta Braves
Last year, Justin Upton looked like an MVP candidate after hitting .286 with 13 home runs and a gaudy 1.032 OPS through his first 40 games in an Atlanta Braves uniform. But he batted only .256 with 14 home runs and a .745 OPS for the rest of the season, underwhelming to say the least.
Upton's not the only member of Atlanta's Opening Day lineup who is seeking redemption in 2014.
Coming off of miserable seasons, Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton have shown signs of life this spring, hitting a combined .268 with nine extra-base hits and 18 RBI. If they can at least get back to their career norms in 2014, Atlanta's lineup will be significantly improved from a year ago.
As long as Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons continue their development at the plate, the Braves should be able to put enough runs on the board to hang with the opposition.
12. New York Yankees
|Brendan Ryan||SS||Back injury||15-day DL|
No team in baseball saw its lineup undergo as drastic a change as the New York Yankees did this winter, with Brett Gardner the only starter from last year's Opening Day lineup still with a starting job.
Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury join Gardner in the outfield, while Brian McCann takes over behind the plate for a group of catchers that posted a woeful .585 OPS in 2013. Somehow, four other teams saw even less production out of the catching spot in 2013—irrelevant for our purposes but amazing nonetheless.
But questions remain.
Can Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson effectively replace Robinson Cano (free agency) and Alex Rodriguez (suspension) at second and third base, respectively? Will Beltran and Ellsbury stay healthy all year? Finally, what can the Yankees expect out of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, both returning from major injuries?
There's no doubt that the Yankees lineup is in a far better place than it was a year ago, but until we begin to get answers to those unanswered questions, it's impossible to put the Bronx Bombers into the top 10.
11. Cleveland Indians
|Michael Bourn||CF||Tight left hamstring||15-day DL|
|Jason Giambi||1B/DH||Fractured rib||15-day DL|
While many point to the Cleveland Indians' pitching as a reason for their surge into the playoffs last season, the team's offense had as much—if not more—to do with its success in 2013. Via MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince:
The Tribe tied for fifth in the Majors in runs last season, and it did so without anybody batting .300 or driving in 100 runs or logging anything higher than an .832 OPS. Only Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis significantly exceeded the league-average output at their positions.
Santana's move from catcher to the hot corner should see the 27-year-old's production increase, as he's no longer dealing with the wear and tear and random dings that come along with catching on a regular basis in the major leagues.
Yan Gomes, Santana's replacement behind the plate, hit .294 with 31 extra-base hits (11 home runs) and an .826 OPS in only 88 games last season. Now in the lineup on a full-time basis, he has a chance to become a significant run producer at the back end of an already solid lineup.
Questions about what to expect from David Murphy, former All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera (who enters his contract year coming off of a career-worst season) and Lonnie Chisenhall (who has flashed only glimpses of the talent that made him a highly touted prospect) keep the Indians from cracking the top 10 of our rankings.
10. Washington Nationals
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.
9. Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals serve a s cautionary tale about buying into spring training numbers. After leading baseball with 230 runs scored during the 2013 exhibition season, they put up only 648 runs when the games counted, good for 18th among major league clubs.
So what's different about this year, when the Royals once again put on an offensive show during the spring, ranking fifth in runs scored (167), second in batting average (.294) and fourth in OPS (.801)?
The Royals got better over the winter, adding a legitimate leadoff hitter (Norichika Aoki) and a consistent second baseman (Omar Infante) to their young, talented lineup.
Aoki, in particular, had a major impact on the lineup, as his arrival pushed Alex Gordon out of the leadoff spot and into the heart of the order, where his power and penchant for extra-base hits will find Kansas City crossing home plate far more often than it did a season ago.
8. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays' disappointing results in 2013 can't be pinned on the offense, which ranked ninth in runs scored (712) and fourth in home runs (185) despite having only two players, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind, play in more than 120 games.
Healthy heading into the regular season, the Blue Jays can boast one of, if not the game's best power-hitting duo in Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, who have combined for 127 home runs over the past two seasons, a stretch that saw Bautista play in only 210 of a possible 324 games.
With Jose Reyes' speed and on-base ability leading things off, the power and run-producing abilities of Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus and the still untapped potential of Brett Lawrie, Toronto will once again boast one of baseball's highest-scoring offenses in 2014.
7. Oakland Athletics
|Craig Gentry||OF||Lower back strain||15-day DL|
Oakland hasn't been thought of as a power-hitting offense since the days of the "Bash Brothers," Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, but few teams have the kind of power up and down their lineup that the A's do.
After hitting 181 home runs in 2013—the third-highest total in the game—Oakland should be able to crack the 200-home run plateau with a return to form from Yoenis Cespedes (26 HR) and Josh Reddick (12 HR), both of whom battled injury and inconsistency a season ago.
But it's not just power that keeps Oakland's offense going. Manager Bob Melvin has mastered the art of the platoon, consistently putting his players in a position to succeed. While not ideal, that strategy has delivered impressive results, as noted by MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince.
"Dating back to the midway point of 2012, they (the A's) are second only to the Red Sox in runs per game, and they've done it while playing in a pitcher-friendly home park," he wrote.
You can't argue with those results.
6. Detroit Tigers
|Andy Dirks||OF||March 2014 back surgery||15-day DL|
|Jose Iglesias||SS||Stress fractures in both shins||Likely out for the season|
The Detroit Tigers lineup isn't quite as potent as it once was, having lost Prince Fielder's on-base skills and power, but the Tigers remain a dangerous club, one that is capable of putting big numbers on the board in the blink of an eye.
Over the injuries that robbed him of the ability to drive the ball with conviction down the stretch last season, Miguel Cabrera is healthy and raked this spring (.352 BA, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 1.051 OPS), and a healthy Cabrera will certainly increase Detroit's run production.
Austin Jackson, miscast as a leadoff hitter for much of his career, drops down to the fifth spot in the order, replaced by Ian Kinsler, who has superior plate discipline and more speed to cause problems when he reaches base safely.
If there's a wild card in the equation, it's top prospect Nick Castellanos. He's been impressive this spring, hitting .333 with nine doubles two home runs and a .920 OPS, but fans may want to temper expectations of a Rookie of the Year-caliber season, as B/R's prospects guru, Mike Rosenbaum, wrote about recently:
Assuming he stays healthy and spends most of the season in the major leagues, Castellanos projects to hit anywhere from .255 to .277 as a rookie, with 15-plus home runs and upward of 60 RBI. He’s also expected to strike out in roughly 18 to 19 percent of his plate appearances, though that also leaves plenty of room for improvement in future seasons.
It's not out of the question that Castellanos could put together a monster debut, but it's not necessary for the Tigers lineup to remain among the best in baseball this year.
5. Los Angeles Angels
If you're wondering how deep the Los Angeles Angels lineup is, consider this: Howie Kendrick, a career .292 hitter, is batting seventh.
As new Angels DH Raul Ibanez recently told the Orange County Register's Jeff Fletcher, there's something special going on in Los Angeles:
I’ve never been in a lineup where you have three of the best players in the planet in the same lineup. If you have that, you are talking about a serious lineup. If you have a fantasy baseball team and you have Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, you feel pretty good about your chances. And this is reality here.
While that's the same bill of goods that we were sold last year, when Pujols and Hamilton combined to hit only .253 with 38 home runs and 143 RBI—the latter two a typical season's total for one of them—there's reason to believe that the pair of perennial MVP candidates will bounce back in a big way in 2014.
They're healthy, both mentally and physically.
While the Angels lost Mark Trumbo's power over the winter, both Hamilton and Pujols are capable of picking up the slack on their own. And they'll get help from Ibanez and David Freese, the team's two big offseason additions to the lineup.
Of course, there's also that Mike Trout guy hanging around, and, you know, he might be capable of doing something with a bat in his hands.
4. Texas Rangers
|Engel Beltre||OF||Fractured right tibia||60-day DL|
|Jurickson Profar||2B||Torn muscle in right shoulder||Out 10-to-12 weeks|
|Geovany Soto||C||March 2014 knee surgery||Out 10-to-12 weeks|
The overwhelming belief about the Texas Rangers is that they added one on-base machine to the mix this winter: Shin-Soo Choo, whose .423 on-base percentage ranked fourth in baseball last season.
The truth is that they added two: Choo and Prince Fielder, who has posted a .387 on-base percentage over the past two years, right in line with his career .389 mark.
Putting those two ahead of the likes of Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios is only going to see a Rangers club that scored 730 runs last year—the eighth-most in baseball—see a significant increase in its run production.
While Jurickson Profar hadn't shown much at the plate in the parts of two major league seasons in which he's played and wasn't being counted on to be a significant run producer in 2014, losing the 21-year-old for an extended period of time certainly stings a bit, as does the loss of Geovany Soto.
But the team has capable backups in Donnie Murphy and J.P. Arencibia, the latter possessing some big-time power that could play well in Arlington, where he's hit seven home runs in 11 career games.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
Yes, the St. Louis Cardinals lost Carlos Beltran to free agency and traded David Freese to the Angels. But the reigning National League Champions actually improved their lineup over the winter, making the club potentially even more dangerous than it was a year ago.
Jhonny Peralta represents a massive upgrade at shortstop, where Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma combined to hit .226 with a .596 OPS for the Cardinals a season ago. With the ability to hit for average and power, he only lengthens the St. Louis attack.
Matt Adams hit .284 with 17 home runs and 51 RBI in only 108 games in 2013, and a 25-home run, 85-RBI season as a full-time member of the lineup certainly isn't out of the question. Really, those might be on the low-side of where Adams winds up at the end of the year.
Then there's the depth that St. Louis has—and I'm not talking about farmhands like Stephen Piscotty and Oscar Taveras. While those on the bench are there for a reason, each one is capable of stepping in and producing, at least at a league-average level.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
|Scott Van Slyke||IF||R|
|Matt Kemp||OF||Oct. 2013 left ankle surgery||15-day DL|
The Los Angeles Dodgers lineup is absolutely stacked as presently constituted—and it's only going to become more explosive if and when Matt Kemp, a perennial MVP candidate when he's healthy, returns to action.
Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier may not be the players that they once were, but both are still above-average talents that would start on most teams. Along with a trio of studs—Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez—few teams in baseball can match the amount of talent that Los Angeles has one through five in the order.
Some expected regression from Juan Uribe, questions about whether A.J. Ellis can get back to his 2012 levels of production (.270 batting average and a .786 OPS) and little faith in Dee Gordon keeps the Dodgers from claiming the top spot, but even if the bottom of the order fails to produce, Los Angeles will still have one of the more dangerous and explosive lineups in all of baseball.
1. Boston Red Sox
|Shane Victorino||OF||Strained right hamstring||May miss Opening Day|
The Boston Red Sox may not put up 853 runs during the regular season as they did in 2013, but the defending world champions return a deep, potent lineup that is capable of putting runs on the board in a hurry. I mean, really, how many lineups around baseball have a guy with 20-plus-home run power hitting ninth?
You know what you're going to get from the bulk of Boston's lineup, and as Grady Sizemore continues to get stronger—and shake off the considerable rust that he's accumulated after not playing for two years—he'll only prove to be another asset at manager John Farrell's disposal.
If Xander Bogaerts is half as good as everyone thinks he's going to be, Boston's lineup will once again be light years ahead of the competition.