Projecting MLB's Most Lethal Offenses 5 Years from Now
Predicting the league's top offensive teams for the upcoming season is not all that difficult.
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees had the highest-scoring lineups in MLB last year, while the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies paced the NL side of things. All four teams should pile up runs once again in 2019.
But predicting the league's top offensive teams five years down the road? That's a bit trickier.
A good deal of subjectivity is involved in this exercise, but three major factors determined the choices:
- Controllable MLB Talent: The cutoff year for this exercise was 2023. So any player who has already established himself at the MLB level and is under team control through the 2023 season was considered a piece of the puzzle for his team.
- Potential Impact Prospects: A wealth of prospect talent will enter the majors over the next five years. Any notable position players from a team's current group of top prospects were also taken into consideration. Prospect tiers come via Bleacher Report's most recent farm system rankings.
- Spending Power: While no speculation was made on where players who hit the free-agent market between now and 2023 will sign, extra consideration was given to teams with more spending power.
Let's get started with a few honorable mentions.
Second baseman Jose Altuve will still be under contract in 2023, along with second-half star Tyler White and versatile infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp. Top prospects Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez both have middle-of-the-order upside, while 2018 draft pick Seth Beer appears to be on the fast track.
Los Angeles Angels
The potential loss of Mike Trout after the 2020 season makes it tough to spin the Angels in a positive light. That said, a lineup anchored by Shohei Ohtani and top prospects Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh has a chance to pile up runs. David Fletcher and Taylor Ward should also still be around, while prospects like Jahmai Jones, Luis Rengifo and Matt Thaiss are capable of making an impact.
While the Twins are lacking MLB talent controllable through the 2023 season, the prospect duo of Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff gives them a pair of potential future superstars. Outfielders Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker, along with shortstop Wander Javier, could also emerge as impact players.
New York Mets
The prospect trio of Peter Alonso, Andres Gimenez and Mark Vientos gives the Mets three potential long-term pieces, while Ronny Mauricio and Shervyen Newton also offer compelling upside. Robinson Cano will still be under contract, while Amed Rosario, Jeff McNeil and spring star Dominic Smith will all be under team control.
10. Tampa Bay Rays
Controllable MLB Players: CF Kevin Kiermaier, SS Willy Adames, RF Austin Meadows, 2B Joey Wendle, IF/OF Daniel Robertson, 3B Yandy Diaz
Notable Prospects: SS Wander Franco (Top 25), 1B Brendan McKay (Top 50), OF Jesus Sanchez (Top 50), C Ronaldo Hernandez (Top 100), 2B/OF Brandon Lowe (Tier 2), 1B Nate Lowe (Tier 3), 2B Vidal Brujan (Tier 3), SS Lucius Fox (Tier 3), 2B/OF Nick Solak (Tier 3), OF Moises Gomez (Tier 3)
The Tampa Bay Rays have managed to stay competitive with a small market's payroll because of their ability to draft and develop pitching talent. As usual, the farm system has a lot of promising arms.
But it also features a wealth of offensive talent the likes of which the franchise has not seen before.
Wander Franco could be the No. 1 prospect in baseball by the end of the 2019 season. Two-way star Brendan McKay and precocious outfielder Jesus Sanchez are both elite prospects. Ronaldo Hernandez has been a revelation behind the plate. Guys such as Brandon Lowe, Nate Lowe and Nick Solak are ready to make an MLB impact now, and all three offer considerable offensive upside.
Meanwhile, Willy Adames and Austin Meadows are both prime breakout candidates after strong finishes to the 2018 season, while a healthy year from Kevin Kiermaier could again make him a valuable top-of-the-lineup threat.
Particularly with regards to prospects, the Rays have a bit more uncertainty than teams ranked ahead of them. But the talent is undeniable.
9. Cincinnati Reds
Controllable MLB Players: 1B Joey Votto, 3B Eugenio Suarez, LF Jesse Winker
Notable Prospects: IF/OF Nick Senzel (Top 25), OF Taylor Trammell (Top 25), 3B Jonathan India (Top 100), C Tyler Stephenson (Tier 2), OF Mike Siani (Tier 3), OF Mariel Bautista (Tier 3), OF Stuart Fairchild (Tier 3), OF Michael Beltre (Tier 3), OF Jose Siri (Tier 3)
Joey Votto will be 39 years old in 2023 and earning $25 million in the final guaranteed year of his contract. His on-base-centric approach should age better than a more power-focused mentality, but some decline is inevitable.
The Reds locked up breakout star Eugenio Suarez on a long-term deal last season, and former top prospect Jesse Winker appears primed for a breakout season after hitting .299/.405/.431 with 23 extra-base hits in 89 games last year.
Top prospect Nick Senzel will debut at some point early in the 2019 season while he makes the transition to center field. The former No. 2 overall pick has a 65-grade hit tool and 20-homer power, which should make him a contender for NL Rookie of the Year.
Toolsy outfielder Taylor Trammell and Jonathan India, last year's No. 5 overall pick, also look like future impact players, while catcher Tyler Stephenson could be the long-term answer behind the plate after hitting .250/.338/.392 with 20 doubles and 11 home runs at High-A.
8. Chicago White Sox
Controllable MLB Players: 3B Yoan Moncada, SS Tim Anderson, OF Daniel Palka, CF Adam Engel
Notable Prospects: OF Eloy Jimenez (Top 25), OF Luis Robert (Top 50), SS Nick Madrigal (Top 100), OF Micker Adolfo (Tier 2), OF Luis Gonzalez (Tier 3), OF Blake Rutherford (Tier 3), OF Luis Alexander Basabe (Tier 3), C Zack Collins (Tier 3)
The Eloy Jimenez era will soon begin on the South Side of Chicago.
The 22-year-old slugger hit .337/.384/.577 with 28 doubles and 22 home runs in 108 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year. With a 65-grade hit tool and 70-grade power, he has a chance to be an immediate star.
Cuban-born outfielder Luis Robert, 2018 first-round pick Nick Madrigal and outfielders Micker Adolfo, Luis Gonzalez, Blake Rutherford and Luis Alexander Basabe all have a chance to become long-term pieces, while the development of Zack Collins could be a major X-factor.
At the MLB level, Yoan Moncada's stalled development has been a bit disappointing,. But he's still just 23 years old and has time to figure it out.
Shortstop Tim Anderson is signed through 2022 with team options for 2023 and 2024. He set career highs with 20 home runs and 26 steals last season. However, he hit just .240/.281/.406 with 30 walks in 606 plate appearances.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
Controllable MLB Players: 1B/OF Cody Bellinger, CF A.J. Pollock
Notable Prospects: OF Alex Verdugo (Top 25), 2B/SS Gavin Lux (Top 50), C Keibert Ruiz (Top 100), C/3B Will Smith (Tier 2), SS Jeter Downs (Tier 2), OF DJ Peters (Tier 3), C Diego Cartaya (Tier 3), C Connor Wong (Tier 3), OF Jeren Kendall (Tier 3)
Slugger Cody Bellinger and free-agent signee A.J. Pollock will still be part of the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup during the 2023 season.
They'll be joined this season by top prospect Alex Verdugo. The 22-year-old outfielder has a 65-grade hit tool, and he has nothing left to prove in the minors after hitting .329/.391/.472 at Triple-A last season.
Gavin Lux looks like a long-term piece up the middle after a breakout offensive season in 2018, and Keibert Ruiz is one of baseball's best catching prospects. Will Smith might still beat Ruiz to the majors and get the first crack at the catcher job, while Connor Wong and Diego Cartaya are also catching prospects worth watching.
Trade pickup Jeter Downs could be another everyday player up the middle, and DJ Peters, if he can make enough consistent contact to tap into it, has 60-grade power.
The Dodgers will also continue to be one of the most free-spending teams in the majors, so they'll be in as good a position as anyone to plug holes on the open market.
6. Atlanta Braves
Controllable MLB Players: LF Ronald Acuna Jr., 2B Ozzie Albies, IF Johan Camargo
Notable Prospects: 3B Austin Riley (Top 25), OF Cristian Pache (Top 50), OF Drew Waters (Top 100), C William Contreras (Top 100), OF Greyson Jenista (Tier 3), 3B CJ Alexander (Tier 3)
The Atlanta Braves farm system is overflowing with pitching talent.
It's not all arms, though.
Slugger Austin Riley looks like a future middle-of-the-order run producer and the long-term answer at third base, Cristian Pache is a Gold Glove-caliber defender with significant offensive upside, Drew Waters is a potential five-tool talent and William Contreras has quickly emerged as one of the top catching prospects in baseball.
Meanwhile, reigning NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies have already established themselves as cornerstone players at the MLB level, while versatile infielder Johan Camargo was a 3.7 WAR player in 2018.
Acuna, in particular, has the upside to be one of the game's best players five years from now.
5. Colorado Rockies
Controllable MLB Players: 3B Nolan Arenado, RF Charlie Blackmon, OF David Dahl, IF Ryan McMahon, OF Ramiel Tapia
Notable Prospects: 2B/SS Brendan Rodgers (Top 25), 3B Colton Welker (Top 100), 1B/3B Tyler Nevin (Top 100), 2B/SS Garrett Hampson (Tier 2), 1B Grant Lavigne (Tier 3), 3B Ryan Vilade (Tier 3), SS Terrin Vavra (Tier 3), OF Daniel Montano (Tier 3), OF Yonathan Daza (Tier 3), SS Eddy Diaz (Tier 3)
Third baseman Nolan Arenado and right fielder Charlie Blackmon have each signed long-term contracts, and they should be at the center of Colorado's offense five years from now.
But they won't be alone.
David Dahl will also be in his final year of team control, and he's one of 2019's biggest breakout candidates after he posted a .985 OPS with nine home runs and 27 RBI in 24 games last September. Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson are in the mix for playing time at second base this season, and both players have the offensive upside to carve out impactful everyday roles.
Something will have to give with third base prospects Colton Welker, Tyler Nevin and Ryan Vilade now that Arenado is signed long-term, but all three players have intriguing ceilings. Top prospect Brendan Rodgers will also be a factor on the future infield and in the middle of the batting order.
Nevin (21 years old) could be the first from that group to make a major impact after he hit .426 with three doubles and three triples in 71 Arizona Fall League plate appearances.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Controllable MLB Players: 2B Lourdes Gurriel Jr., OF Teoscar Hernandez, OF Billy McKinney
Notable Prospects: 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Top 25), SS Bo Bichette (Top 25), C Danny Jansen (Top 100), SS/3B Jordan Groshans (Tier 2), SS/3B Kevin Smith (Tier 2), IF/OF Cavan Biggio (Tier 2), OF Anthony Alford (Tier 3), SS Orelvis Martinez (Tier 3), 3B Miguel Hiraldo (Tier 3), 1B Rowdy Tellez (Tier 3)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has a chance to be a generational talent for the Toronto Blue Jays, and he'll be manning third base in the majors long before the 2019 All-Star break rolls around.
An infield of Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette, Jordan Groshans and Kevin Smith, with a few guys forced into position changes, would have a chance to be the most productive infield in baseball. Add catcher Danny Jansen's 55-grade hit tool and strong minor league track record, and you can see how this has the makings of an offensive juggernaut.
Lourdes Gurriel is also an infield factor, though he—or any of a number of players—could wind up in left field to accommodate the influx of talent.
Until some of these prospects prove themselves at the MLB level, this group can't justify higher placement. But five years from now, it has a chance to form the No. 1 offense in baseball.
3. New York Yankees
Controllable MLB Players: DH Giancarlo Stanton, 2B Gleyber Torres, CF Aaron Hicks, 3B Miguel Andujar, 1B Luke Voit, IF Tyler Wade, OF Clint Frazier
Notable Prospects: OF Estevan Florial (Top 100), OF Everson Pereira (Tier 2), C Anthony Seigler (Tier 3), OF Antonio Cabello (Tier 3)
Giancarlo Stanton is signed all the way through 2027 with a club option for the following year, so he's not going anywhere. Using him primarily in the DH role should keep him performing at a high level, and it's easy to forget he's still only 29 years old.
Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar were immediately impactful as rookies, and both still have room to improve. Torres, in particular, has superstar potential.
Aaron Hicks will be a fixture in center field after signing a seven-year extension, while Luke Voit could still be manning first base if he proves his late-season breakout was the real deal. Will Clint Frazier ever get a chance at an everyday job?
But while spending power is another obvious factor here, a thin farm system keeps the Yankees from ranking any higher. That could still change. Estevan Florial has the tools to be a star, while teenagers Everson Pereira and Antonio Cabello both have huge ceilings.
2. Philadelphia Phillies
Controllable MLB Players: RF Bryce Harper, 1B Rhys Hoskins, SS Jean Segura, CF Odubel Herrera, IF/OF Scott Kingery, OF Roman Quinn, OF Nick Williams
Notable Prospects: 3B Alec Bohm (Top 100), SS Luis Garcia (Tier 2), OF Adam Haseley (Tier 2), 2B Daniel Brito (Tier 3), OF Mickey Moniak (Tier 3), OF Jhailyn Ortiz (Tier 3)
The Philadephia Phillies significantly changed their long-term outlook by signing Bryce Harper to a massive 13-year, $330 million contract. The 26-year-old will still be in the prime of his career five years from now.
They also added shortstop Jean Segura as a long-term piece. He's signed through the 2022 season with a $17 million club option for 2023. If Scott Kingery can play up to the potential that convinced the Phillies to sign him to a six-year, $24 million extension before he even made his MLB debut, he would give the team another cornerstone piece.
Alec Bohm (No. 3 in 2018), Adam Haseley (No. 8 in 2017) and Mickey Moniak (No. 1 in 2016) were all high draft picks, and they also need to live up to expectations.
But the X-factor here could be shortstop Luis Garcia, who flew up prospect rankings after he hit .369/.433/.488 with 15 extra-base hits and 12 steals in 43 rookie league games while making his stateside debut as a 17-year-old.
1. San Diego Padres
Controllable MLB Players: 3B Manny Machado, 1B Eric Hosmer, LF Wil Myers, OF Hunter Renfroe, OF Franmil Reyes, OF Franchy Cordero
Notable Prospects: SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (Top 25), 2B/SS Luis Urias (Top 50), C Francisco Mejia (Top 50), SS Xavier Edwards (Top 100), 3B Hudson Potts (Tier 2), 1B/OF Josh Naylor (Tier 3), OF Buddy Reed (Tier 3), 2B Esteury Ruiz (Tier 3), OF Tirso Ornelas (Tier 3), C Luis Campusano (Tier 3)
The San Diego Padres have baseball's best farm system, and the talent pool is evenly split between pitchers and hitters.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is a superstar in the making, and he'll presumably join Manny Machado on the left side of the infield for the next decade once he gets the call later this spring. Luis Urias should also be a staple, setting the table at second base for his fellow infielders with good wheels and a 70-grade hit tool. Francisco Mejia is still a defensive work-in-progress behind the plate, but his bat will play anywhere.
While the Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers deals both look regrettable, they're at least productive offensive players capable of holding down their spots in the lineup.
As if all that talent isn't enough, the development of less hyped prospects such as Josh Naylor, Buddy Reed, Esteury Ruiz and Hudson Potts could ultimately make this lineup the best in baseball.