Highlighting MLB's Most Deadly Lineups 1 Month from 2016 Spring Training

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2016

Highlighting MLB's Most Deadly Lineups 1 Month from 2016 Spring Training

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Dominant pitching is still the most valuable weapon in contending for a World Series title, but with offense down around the league, having a potent lineup can go a long way as well.

    Just how valuable is a good offense?

    The four teams that reached the League Championship Series last season—the Blue Jays, Cubs, Mets and Royals—ranked in the top eight in the league in runs scored during the second half of the season.

    A strong pitching staff can carry a team to the World Series, but an offense that is firing on all cylinders heading into October can also make a serious impact.

    So with that in mind, what follows is a look at the 10 best offenses in baseball heading into the 2016 season.

    Where guys like Yoenis Cespedes, Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond and Howie Kendrick eventually wind up signing could certainly have an impact on these rankings, but this is how the top 10 shakes out as things currently stand.

    Teams are ranked simply on how dangerous their lineup is as a whole.

    Some teams rely heavily on three or four star players to shoulder the offensive load, while others employ a more balanced attack top to bottom.

    It doesn't matter how they do it, these are the 10 teams in the best position to consistently put a lot of runs on the board in 2016.

Just Missed the Cut

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Arizona Diamondbacks ranked seventh in the league last season at 4.44 runs per game, and their offense should be strong again with the duo of Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock leading the way.

    That said, Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed and Jake Lamb are all below-average options at their respective positions, and Yasmany Tomas will need to step up and prove he's worth his contract now that the team traded Ender Inciarte to Atlanta.

    The Minnesota Twins were also a surprisingly good offensive team last season at 4.30 runs per game, and they should be even better with the additions of Byung-ho Park and John Ryan Murphy.

    However, the bigger impact could come from full seasons from former top prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, as both have legitimate superstar potential and have only scratched the surface at the big league level.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Chicago White Sox had the worst offense in the American League last year at 3.84 runs per game, but they could be dramatically improved this season.

    Newcomers Brett Lawrie, Todd Frazier and the catching tandem of Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro should make for offensive upgrades at three difference positions.

    Meanwhile, Adam LaRoche (.634 OPS), Avisail Garcia (.675 OPS) and Melky Cabrera (.709 OPS) are all capable of more than they showed last season.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates have even less home run power than they did last year after trading Neil Walker to the Mets and non-tendering Pedro Alvarez. But they still have arguably the best outfield in baseball and Gregory Polanco could be one of the breakout stars of 2016.

    Injuries slowed the Washington Nationals from the onset last season, but there is still no shortage of talent in their lineup that centers around reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper.

    Newcomers Ben Revere and Daniel Murphy are solid replacements for Denard Span and Ian Desmond from a production standpoint, while healthy seasons from Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth could go a long way as well.

10. Colorado Rockies (2015 Rank: 5th, 4.55 RPG)

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    Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez
    Nolan Arenado and Carlos GonzalezAssociated Press

    Lineup Overview

    Not since the 2008 season have the Colorado Rockies finished outside of the top 10 in the league in scoring, and there's no reason to think they won't be back there again in 2016.

    A healthy Carlos Gonzalez proved he's still one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, putting together as good of a second half as anyone in baseball when he posted a .975 OPS with 27 home runs and 62 RBI in 71 games.

    Meanwhile, third baseman Nolan Arenado emerged as the present and future face of the franchise as his offensive game finally caught up to his Gold Glove defense.

    He finished tied for the NL lead with 42 home runs, and his 130 RBI were 20 more than anyone else in the league. There was a home/road split in his numbers, but he still had an .835 OPS and 22 home runs on the road.

    Another player who added some offensive noise to his stellar defensive game was second baseman DJ LeMahieu. His .362 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) makes him an obvious regression candidate, but he still proved to be more than a glove-only player.

    At some point, the team figures to trade an outfielder after signing Gerardo Parra to a three-year, $27.5 million deal in free agency. But whatever combination of CarGo, Parra, Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson winds up manning the outfield, it will figure to be one of the more productive trios in the league.

    Jose Reyes is the shortstop for the time being, and he'll be tough to move with two years and $48 million left on his deal. But at some point soon, the team will want to clear a path for prospect Trevor Story.

    Similarly, Nick Hundley had a solid season last year, but he's only keeping the catcher position warm for Tom Murphy, who had 26 doubles and 20 home runs in Triple-A last year.

    First base figures to be a platoon of Ben Paulsen, who was a surprise contributor as a 27-year-old rookie last year, and free-agent signing Mark Reynolds. Those two will make less than $4 million combined and should have no problem delivering positive value at that price.

    Projected Roster

    Starting LineupBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    1. CF Charlie Blackmon .287.7971763117589343
    2. SS Jose Reyes.274.688132257535724
    3. RF Carlos Gonzalez.271.864150254097872
    4. 3B Nolan Arenado .287.8981774342130972
    5. LF Corey Dickerson.304.86968181031300
    6. 2B DJ LeMahieu .301.746170216618523
    7. 1B Ben Paulsen .277.78790191149421
    8. C Nick Hundley .301.807110211043455
    BenchBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    C Tom Murphy (R)*.256.804101262063555
    1B/3B Mark Reynolds.230.71388211348352
    IF Daniel Descalso .205.607383522221
    OF Brandon Barnes.251.6556413217304
    OF Gerardo Parra .291.7801593614518314

    *Double-A and Triple-A stats

9. New York Yankees (2015 Rank: 2nd, 4.72 RPG)

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    Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira
    Alex Rodriguez and Mark TeixeiraAssociated Press

    Lineup Overview

    The New York Yankees roster has slowly but surely gotten younger in recent years, but it was a pair of aging veterans who led the offensive charge last season.

    Mark Teixeira played a combined 138 games in 2013 and 2014 and posted a .700 OPS, as his days as an elite run producer appeared to be a thing of the past. The 35-year-old rebounded with a .906 OPS this past season, though, and was the Yankees most consistent hitter before a fractured shin ended his season a month early.

    Then there's Alex Rodriguez, who missed most of the 2013 season with a hip injury and then all of the 2014 season serving a PED suspension.

    Expectations were low for the 40-year-old, to put it mildly. But when all was said and done, he had reached the 30-homer mark for the 15th time in his career and first time since 2010.

    Brian McCann (.692 to .756 OPS) and Carlos Beltran (.703 to .808 OPS) both improved on disappointing debut performances in 2014, while Jacoby Ellsbury (.747 to .663 OPS) saw his production go in the other direction due in part to a knee injury.

    Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley were the big newcomers last season, and while Headley had a mediocre season offensively, Gregorius showed flashes of more to come at the plate.

    The second base position produced a disappointing .223/.279/.403 line for the Yankees, and that triggered the move to acquire Starlin Castro from the Chicago Cubs this offseason.

    Castro didn't have his best season in 2015 by any means, but he finished on fire with a .369/.400/.655 line in September and he'll look to carry that production over into a big debut in pinstripes.

    That leaves left fielder Brett Gardner as the one significant question mark.

    The 32-year-old made his first All-Star appearance last season, but his production plummeted in the second half when he hit just .206/.300/.292 over 293 plate appearances.

    The addition of Aaron Hicks in a trade with the Minnesota Twins kicked trade rumors surrounding Gardner into high gear, but he's still on the roster. That could certainly change before the start of the season, though.

    Projected Roster

    Starting LineupBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury .257.663116157336621
    2. LF Brett Gardner.259.7421482616669420
    3. RF Carlos Beltran.276.808132341967570
    4. 1B Mark Teixeira.255.906100223179572
    5. DH Alex Rodriguez.250.842131223386834
    6. C Brian McCann.232.756108152694680
    7. 3B Chase Headley .259.693150291162740
    8. SS Didi Gregorius.265.68813924956575
    9. 2B Starlin Castro.265.671145231169525
    BenchBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    C Austin Romine*.260.6908819749380
    IF Pete Kozma .152.38815002153
    IF/OF Dustin Ackley .231.71255111030282
    OF Aaron Hicks.256.721901111334813

    *Triple-A stats

8. Kansas City Royals (2015 Rank: 7th, 4.47 RPG)

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    Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales
    Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Kendrys MoralesBob Levey/Getty Images

    Lineup Overview

    The Kansas City Royals ranked last in the majors in home runs (95) during their unexpected run to the World Series in 2014, and they were once again near the bottom of the league in that category with 139 long balls this past season.

    However, that lack of power didn't stop them from being a top-10 offense en route to their first World Series title since 1985.

    The addition of Kendrys Morales on a two-year, $17 million deal to replace Billy Butler proved to be one of the best moves of the offseason, as he finished among the league leaders in doubles (41, fourth) and RBI (106, sixth).

    Also giving the lineup a boost was a breakout season from Mike Moustakas, who saw his OPS improve from .632 to .817 as he made his first All-Star appearance.

    Lorenzo Cain is not the prototypical No. 3 hitter from a power standpoint, but he did see an uptick in his power numbers with career highs in doubles (34), home runs (16) and RBI (72) on his way to a third-place finish in AL MVP voting.

    First baseman Eric Hosmer built off a strong 2014 season with solid numbers across the board again, while catcher Salvador Perez continued to provide solid power and run production numbers despite his on-base deficiencies (.280 OBP).

    The biggest question mark was how the team would replace free agent Alex Gordon, who was expected to sign elsewhere. But when the outfield market was slow to develop, the Royals took advantage and brought him back on a four-year, $72 million deal.

    It appears speedster Jarrod Dyson will get the first crack at the open right field job, and he could steal 50-plus bases with regular playing time. Paulo Orlando also will likely see time there after a solid rookie season.

    That leaves second base as the one glaring hole in this lineup.

    Omar Infante was nothing short of a disaster last season. His .552 OPS ranked dead last among the 211 players that made at least 400 plate appearances.

    He's just two years removed from a .795 OPS in 2013, though, so he's capable of more.

    Projected Roster

    Starting LineupBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    1. SS Alcides Escobar .257.614157203477617
    2. 3B Mike Moustakas .284.817156342282731
    3. CF Lorenzo Cain.307.83816934167210128
    4. 1B Eric Hosmer .297.822178331893987
    5. DH Kendrys Morales.290.8471654122106810
    6. LF Alex Gordon.271.80996181348402
    7. C Salvador Perez.260.706138252170521
    8. 2B Omar Infante .220.5529723244392
    9. RF Jarrod Dyson.250.6915082183126
    BenchBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    C Tony Cruz.204.54529721160
    IF Christian Colon.290.6923150683
    OF Reymond Fuentes*.308.781122109467029
    OF Paulo Orlando.249.7136014727313

    *Triple-A stats

7. Houston Astros (2015 Rank: 6th, 4.50 RPG)

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    Carlos Correa and George Springer
    Carlos Correa and George SpringerAssociated Press

    Lineup Overview

    An improved bullpen may have been the biggest change for the Houston Astros last season, but their offense also took a huge step forward as they went from 3.88 to 4.50 runs per game in the span of a year.

    A total of 11 different players hit at least 10 home runs in 2015, and their 230 home runs as a team were second-most in the majors behind only the 232 hit by the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Offseason additions Evan Gattis and Luis Valbuena provided good pop, but the biggest addition came with the promotion of top prospect Carlos Correa.

    The 21-year-old got the call on June 8, and before long, he was entrenched as the team's everyday shortstop and No. 3 hitter on his way to setting a franchise record with 22 home runs from the shortstop position.

    He joined All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve to form arguably the most productive middle infield in baseball, and those two should be together for the foreseeable future.

    Despite the offense taking such a big step forward last year, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

    George Springer was on his way to a breakout season when he hit .321/.387/.518 in June, but he would miss the next two months after being hit in the hand with a pitch. A full season from him could give the lineup a huge boost.

    The same goes for an entire season of center fielder Carlos Gomez, who was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers at the deadline. He too struggled with injuries last year but had established himself as one of the most dynamic players in the league in previous seasons.

    Catcher Jason Castro has fallen quite a way since he posted an .835 OPS with 35 doubles and 18 home runs during the 2013 season, but he still has some decent pop, if nothing else.

    The biggest question mark is the first base position, as Chris Carter was non-tendered and Jon Singleton has yet to establish himself at the big league level, despite continuing to rake against Triple-A pitching.

    Top prospect A.J. Reed hit .340/.432/.612 with 30 doubles, 34 home runs and 127 RBI between High-A and Double-A last season, and he could be the answer at first before the season is over.

    Projected Roster

    Starting LineupBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    1. RF George Springer.276.8261071916415916
    2. 2B Jose Altuve .313.8122004015668638
    3. SS Carlos Correa .279.8571082222685214
    4. CF Carlos Gomez.255.7241112912566117
    5. LF Colby Rasmus .238.789103232561672
    6. DH Evan Gattis .246.748139202788660
    7. 3B Luis Valbuena .224.74897182556621
    8. 1B Jon Singleton*.254.86596252283722
    9. C Jason Castro.211.64871191131380
    BenchBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    C Max Stassi*.211.6636281343371
    1B/OF Preston Tucker.243.73473191333350
    IF Marwin Gonzalez.279.75996181234444
    OF Jake Marisnick .236.66580159364624

    *Triple-A stats

6. San Francisco Giants (2015 Rank: 12th, 4.30 RPG)

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    Hunter Pence and Buster Posey
    Hunter Pence and Buster PoseyDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Lineup Overview

    The San Francisco Giants may not have a huge power threat in the middle of their lineup, but their offense is as deep as any in baseball, and they make a ton of contact with an 18.8 percent strikeout rate that ranked sixth in the majors last year.

    "The Giants’ lineup is a lot like that of the Royals—a lot of contact, relatively few strikeouts, tough at-bats— and the anchor of the San Francisco lineup is one of the best hitters in baseball, Buster Posey," wrote Buster Olney of ESPN.

    There's no question about Posey being both the anchor of the lineup and one of the game's elite hitters, as he's a .310 career hitter who finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting last year for the third time in his career.

    Then there is the homegrown infield of Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford and Matt Duffy, a testament to the team's ability to develop its in-house talent.

    Belt and Duffy don't have prototypical power for corner infielders, but that group as a whole ranks as one of the most productive infields in the league, and a breakout offensive season from Crawford (21 HR) helps offset the lack of power at the corners.

    The addition of Denard Span gives the team a quality table-setter atop the lineup provided he's injury-free. But the biggest difference from 2015 to 2016 may wind up being a healthy Hunter Pence.

    Pence played in just 52 games last season while battling an oblique injury. But his impact was obvious, as the Giants went 34-18 (.654) with him in the lineup and 50-60 (.455) without him.

    Left field is the biggest question mark, as the at-bats will go to some combination of Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and rookies Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson.

    Blanco had a solid season last year, and Pagan can still make an impact when healthy. But keep an eye on Parker who could play his way into a bigger role after homering six times in 49 at-bats down the stretch last year.

    Projected Roster

    Starting LineupBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    1. CF Denard Span.301.79674175223811
    2. 2B Joe Panik .312.83311927837593
    3. C Buster Posey.318.849177281995742
    4. 1B Brandon Belt.280.834138331868739
    5. RF Hunter Pence.275.8065713940304
    6. 3B Matt Duffy.295.7621692812777712
    7. SS Brandon Crawford.256.782130332184656
    8. LF Angel Pagan.262.635134213375512
    BenchBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    C Andrew Susac .218.666297314140
    IF Ehire Adrianza .186.569217011113
    IF Kelby Tomlinson.303.762546220235
    OF Gregor Blanco .291.78195195265913
    OF Jarrett Parker (R).3471.163172614111

5. Boston Red Sox (2015 Rank: 4th, 4.62 RPG)

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    Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts
    Mookie Betts and Xander BogaertsAssociated Press

    Lineup Overview

    There's a changing of the guard going on for the Boston Red Sox right now, as Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts take over for David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia as the faces of the franchise.

    B/R MLB lead writer Zachary D. Rymer wrote on that very topic earlier this week, and there is little question that Betts (23) and Bogaerts (23) are among the most promising young players in the game.

    That said, Ortiz is still one of the most feared hitters in the game heading into what will be the final season of his career, and Pedroia was as solid as ever last season when he was healthy.

    The big question for the Red Sox offense is whether or not the high-priced duo of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval can bounce back from wildly disappointing first seasons with the team.

    Those two will make a combined $40.35 million this coming season, and they'll have to provide more than the combined 28 home runs and 100 RBI they contributed a year ago.

    Rusney Castillo began last season in the minors and got off to a slow start. But in the second half, he showed flashes of the tools that earned him a seven-year, $72.5 million contract after he defected from Cuba. He's a potential breakout candidate to keep an eye on.

    Joining him in what should be a fantastic defensive outfield is former top prospect Jackie Bradley Jr., who opened more than a few eyes with a .354/.429/.734 line and 17 extra-base hits in a huge month of August.

    His production dropped off from there, and he's never going to post those numbers over a full season. But there is some legitimate offensive potential beyond his dynamic defense.

    Blake Swihart has as much upside as any young catcher in the game, and the 23-year-old hit .303/.353/.452 in the second half last season. He, too, is a potential breakout candidate heading into the 2016 season.

    Projected Roster

    Starting LineupBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    1. RF Mookie Betts.291.8201744218779221
    2. 2B Dustin Pedroia .291.797111191242462
    3. SS Xander Bogaerts .320.776196357818410
    4. DH David Ortiz.273.9131443737108730
    5. 1B Hanley Ramirez.249.717100121953596
    6. 3B Pablo Sandoval.245.658115251047430
    7. LF Rusney Castillo.253.6476910529354
    8. C Blake Swihart .274.7127917531474
    9. CF Jackie Bradley Jr..249.83255171043433
    BenchBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    C Ryan Hanigan .247.664438216280
    1B/3B Travis Shaw.270.81361101336310
    IF/OF Brock Holt.280.72712727245568
    OF Chris Young.252.77380201442533

4. Detroit Tigers (2015 Rank: 14th, 4.25 RPG)

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    J.D. Martinez and Miguel Cabrera
    J.D. Martinez and Miguel CabreraAssociated Press

    Lineup Overview

    The Detroit Tigers would have earned a spot on this list even prior to the recent addition of Justin Upton, who signed a six-year, $132 million contract earlier this month. But that signing successfully elevates them into the top five in these rankings.

    "We've got another huge player," second baseman Ian Kinsler told 97.1 FM The Ticket (h/t mLive.com) of Upton. "You know, he runs well, he does everything really well, so it's real exciting to have a player like that added to the roster and added to what we've done this winter."

    While Detroit was a middle-of-the-pack offense last season, much of that had to do with the fact that Miguel Cabrera missed 35 games with a calf strain and Victor Martinez never really got things going amid multiple knee issues.

    Healthy seasons from those two, along the addition of Upton and breakout star J.D. Martinezwho was eighth in the AL in home runs (38) and seventh in RBI (102)—give the team four dangerous run producers.

    Ian Kinsler remains one of the more productive second basemen in the game with his solid mix of power and speed, and his .296 average last year was his best since 2008.

    Atop the lineup, Anthony Gose will have a new platoon partner in center field after Cameron Maybin was acquired from the Atlanta Braves to replace the departed Rajai Davis.

    Nick Castellanos has been slow to develop since debuting as a 21-year-old, but after posting an .800 OPS with 20 doubles, nine home runs and 35 RBI in the second half last season, he could be headed for a breakout performance.

    Catcher James McCann showed flashes as a rookie, but he seemed to hit the wall with a .234/.264/.317 line over the final two months. He still has some solid upside, though, and the team added a quality backup option in Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

    Slick-fielding Jose Iglesias rounds out the starting lineup, and despite his lack of power (22 XBH, .370 SLG) he provides a solid average and double-digit stolen base ability out of the No. 9 spot.

    Projected Roster

    Starting LineupBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    1. CF Anthony Gose .254.688123245267323
    2. 2B Ian Kinsler.296.7701853511739410
    3. 1B Miguel Cabrera.338.974145281876641
    4. RF J.D. Martinez.282.8791683338102933
    5. DH Victor Martinez.245.667108201164390
    6. LF Justin Upton.251.7901362626818519
    7. 3B Nick Castellanos .255.721140331573420
    8. C James McCann.264.68310618741320
    9. SS Jose Iglesias .300.717125172234411
    BenchBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    C Jarrod Saltalamacchia .225.7454515924260
    IF/OF Mike Aviles .231.5996710517373
    IF/OF Andrew Romine .255.6224752152510
    OF Cameron Maybin .267.6971351810596523

3. Texas Rangers (2015 Rank: 3rd, 4.64 RPG)

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    Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder
    Adrian Beltre and Prince FielderAssociated Press

    Lineup Overview

    After ranking 17th in the league in runs scored (3.93) in 2014, the Texas Rangers bounced back nicely this past season to again rank as one of the game's top offenses.

    The team didn't have anyone top the 25-homer or 100-RBI marks, but it boasted a balanced attack top-to-bottom with no clear-cut weakness.

    Prince Fielder rebounded from an injury-shortened 2014 season to win AL Comeback Player of the Year honors, while Shin-Soo Choo was arguably the MVP of the second half with a .343/.455/.560 line to help lead the playoff push.

    Delino DeShields Jr. was a terrific find in the Rule 5 draft, as he took over for Leonys Martin in center field and posted a .344 on-base percentage, 10 triples and 25 stolen bases out of the leadoff spot.

    Mitch Moreland had the best season of his career and ranked 22nd in the AL with an .812 OPS, while 21-year-old second baseman Rougned Odor returned from an early-season demotion to emerge as one of the league's most productive second basemen.

    Adrian Beltre had a down year by his standards, but that was a direct result of playing through a thumb injury that would have sidelined most players. He still managed an impressive .318/.376/.509 line in the second half despite the nagging issue, and he should be back to 100 percent in 2016.

    Elvis Andrus might not be worth $15 million per year, but he's still a decent bottom-of-the-lineup run producer and base-stealing threat.

    On the surface the catching tandem of Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez may look like a weakness, but those two combined for a 2.5 WAR last year and the catcher position contributed a .225/.307/.403 line with 19 home runs and 75 RBI.

    The big question is what the team will get out of Josh Hamilton in left field. But signing Justin Ruggiano as a platoon option and insurance policy was a solid move to protect against Hamilton missing time or struggling.

    Projected Roster

    Starting LineupBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    1. CF Delino DeShields Jr..261.718111222378325
    2. RF Shin-Soo Choo .276.838153322282944
    3. DH Prince Fielder.305.841187282398780
    4. 3B Adrian Beltre.287.788163321883831
    5. 1B Mitch Moreland .278.812131272385511
    6. LF Josh Hamilton.253.732438825220
    7. SS Elvis Andrus.258.667154347626925
    8. 2B Rougned Odor.261.781111211661546
    9. C Robinson Chirinos .232.76254161034330
    BenchBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    C Chris Gimenez .255.820256514192
    IF Hanser Alberto.222.50022204121
    OF James Jones.103.299310011
    OF Justin Ruggiano .248.805318615205

2. Chicago Cubs (2015 Rank: 16th, 4.25 RPG)

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    Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo
    Kris Bryant and Anthony RizzoDavid Banks/Getty Images

    Lineup Overview

    Detractors will be quick to point to the fact that the Chicago Cubs led the majors with 1,518 strikeouts last season. But that's to be expected when four rookies are seeing regular playing time.

    Despite piling up strikeouts, the team also ranked 12th in the league with a .321 on-base percentage, and that number should only improve with the additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist.

    An elite defender in the outfield, Heyward also had 50 extra-base hits and 23 stolen bases while posting a .359 on-base percentage, and he'll bring those table-setting abilities to the top of the lineup.

    Zobrist posted the same .359 on-base percentage and had an OPS over .800 for the third time in the past five years, as he profiles as the ideal No. 2 hitter.

    Anthony Rizzo has emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate, and the veteran leader of this young Cubs team despite being just 26 years old.

    Rookie phenom Kris Bryant led the NL with 199 strikeouts, but he also showed a good overall approach with an 11.8 percent walk rate and a .369 on-base percentage. He's only going to get better, and he should have no problem blowing past the 30-homer mark in 2016.

    Kyle Schwarber didn't join the everyday lineup until the second half, and Jorge Soler was limited to just 101 games while dealing with ankle and oblique injuries. So full seasons from those two up-and-coming sluggers should help as well.

    Catcher Miguel Montero managed 11 doubles and 15 home runs in 347 at-bats, as he remains a plus offensive catcher, and Chris Coghlan posted solid all-around numbers while providing some defensive versatility before being bumped to the bench.

    The X-factor here could be shortstop Addison Russell, who got off to a slow start offensively but quietly picked things up in the second half with a .744 OPS, 22 extra-base hits and 32 RBI hitting at the bottom of the lineup.

    Projected Roster

    Starting LineupBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    1. CF Jason Heyward .293.7971603313607923
    2. 2B Ben Zobrist .276.809129361356763
    3. 1B Anthony Rizzo.278.89916338311019417
    4. 3B Kris Bryant.275.8581543126998713
    5. LF Kyle Schwarber .246.8425761643523
    6. RF Jorge Soler .262.72396181047393
    7. C Miguel Montero .248.75486111553361
    8. SS Addison Russell.242.696115291354604
    BenchBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    C David Ross.176.5182891961
    IF Tommy La Stella.269.72718611142
    IF/OF Javier Baez.289.7332261441
    IF/OF Chris Coghlan .250.7841102516416411
    OF Matt Szczur .222.6121651852

1. Toronto Blue Jays (2015 Rank: 1st, 5.50 RPG)

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    Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion
    Jose Bautista and Edwin EncarnacionAssociated Press

    Lineup Overview

    The Toronto Blue Jays scored 127 more runs than any other team last season, and their offense has a chance to be even better in 2016.

    Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion formed what was unquestionably the best middle-of-the-order trio in baseball, as they combined for 120 home runs and 348 RBI—and there's no reason to think they can't repeat that level of production.

    They'll be joined by a full season of Troy Tulowitzki, who was acquired from the Rockies at the trade deadline. And as long as he stays healthy, he's still capable of being the game's best offensive shortstop.

    Russell Martin ranked second among catchers with 23 home runs in his first year in Toronto, while the first base position contributed an .809 OPS with 39 home runs and 110 RBI behind the unheralded platoon of Chris Colabello and Justin Smoak.

    Kevin Pillar was best-known for his defense, but he also tallied 45 extra-base hits and stole 25 bases in 29 attempts.

    Second baseman Ryan Goins is also a defensive-first option, but his offensive game came on in the second half, and at some point, he figures to be supplanted by a healthy Devon Travis.

    The decision to trade speedy Ben Revere to the Washington Nationals leaves Michael Saunders as the everyday left fielder and also leaves the team without a clear leadoff hitter.

    Saunders played just nine games last season while recovering from a freak knee injury and subsequent issues, but he hit .273/.341/.450 with the Seattle Mariners in 2014, so he, too, could emerge as a solid bat.

    Projected Roster

    Starting LineupBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    1. SS Troy Tulowitzki .280.777136271770771
    2. 3B Josh Donaldson.297.93918441411231226
    3. RF Jose Bautista .250.91313629401141088
    4. DH Edwin Encarnacion .277.9291463139111943
    5. 1B Chris Colabello .321.886107191554552
    6. C Russell Martin.240.787106232377764
    7. CF Kevin Pillar.278.7131633112567625
    8. LF Michael Saunders.194.499600320
    9. 2B Ryan Goins.250.6729416545522
    BenchBAOPSH2BHRRBIRSB
    C Josh Thole.204.4951020250
    1B Justin Smoak .226.76867161859440
    IF Darwin Barney.259.804712440
    OF Ezequiel Carrera .273.693478326272

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.