Re-Ranking MLB's Top 10 Lineups Post-Trade Deadline
Pitching might win championships, but a sputtering offense can derail a title run just as quickly as an underperforming starting rotation or a porous bullpen.
More than a few notable hitters changed teams at this year's trade deadline, while other squads have made in-house additions in the form of top prospects stepping into key roles at the MLB level.
As we gear up for the stretch run, now is the perfect time to highlight the 10 most dangerous lineups in baseball.
One important stat to consider here is team OPS+, which is an adjusted statistic that takes into account a team's home ballpark, among other things. So while they may have lofty run totals, you won't find the Colorado Rockies (86 OPS+, 26th in MLB) or the Texas Rangers (95 OPS+, 19th) on the following list.
While that stat served as a good starting point, things like injuries, recent performance, deadline additions and a fair bit of subjectivity also played a part in determining which teams made the cut and where they ranked.
10. Cleveland Indians
Runs Per Game: 4.68
Team OPS+: 95
Starting Lineup: 1. SS Francisco Lindor, 2. CF Oscar Mercado, 3. 1B Carlos Santana, 4. RF Yasiel Puig, 5. 3B Jose Ramirez, 6. DH Franmil Reyes, 7. 2B Jason Kipnis, 8, C Roberto Perez, 9. LF Tyler Naquin
Bench: C Kevin Plawecki, IF/OF Mike Freeman, OF Jordan Luplow
The overall numbers admittedly do not look great for the Cleveland Indians.
They rank 19th in the majors in runs per game (4.68), sit at 18th in home runs (151) and are tied for 17th in OPS+ (95). For much of the year, finding consistent offense has been a real issue.
However, that hasn't been the case of late.
They're averaging 5.82 runs per game since the beginning of July, and they've slugged 47 home runs in 28 contests during that span. It's no coincidence they've significantly cut into what was once an 11-game lead by the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central standings.
After a dismal first half, Jose Ramirez has posted a 1.003 OPS with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 22 RBI in 23 games since the All-Star break. Tyler Naquin (.964 OPS, 7 XBH) and Jordan Luplow (.933 OPS, 7 XBH) have also picked up their production in the second half to form a solid platoon in left field.
Meanwhile, Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes have immediately stepped in as the starting right fielder and designated hitter, respectively, after they were acquired in the Trevor Bauer deal.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
Runs Per Game: 4.74
Team OPS+: 96
Starting Lineup: 1. CF Lorenzo Cain, 2. RF Christian Yelich, 3. 2B Keston Hiura, 4. C Yasmani Grandal, 5. LF Ryan Braun, 6. 3B Mike Moustakas, 7. 1B Eric Thames, 8. SS Orlando Arcia
Bench: C Manny Pina, IF Travis Shaw, IF/OF Ben Gamel, OF Trent Grisham
Any team with Christian Yelich penciled into the lineup is in pretty good shape offensively.
The reigning NL MVP is making a strong case to repeat and is in serious pursuit of the NL Triple Crown. He currently leads the Senior Circuit in home runs (37) while sitting second in batting average (.330) and seventh in RBI (82). His .330/.424/.688 line gives him a 1.112 OPS that leads all qualified hitters.
He's far from the only weapon in this lineup.
Rookie Keston Hiura can flat-out hit with a .307/.377/.575 line that includes 11 doubles and 11 home runs in his first 199 plate appearances in the big leagues. Fellow rookie Trent Grisham is worth keeping an eye on, as he's gone 3-for-8 with a home run since getting the call.
Free-agent signings Mike Moustakas (.861 OPS, 26 HR) and Yasmani Grandal (.845 OPS, 19 HR) have both provided some pop, while Travis Shaw will look to rebound to his previously productive level after a stint in Triple-A.
Pitching is a real question mark for the Brewers, and they're in a bit of a tailspin right now. But they're still going to slug their way to quite a few victories.
8. Chicago Cubs
Runs Per Game: 4.95
Team OPS+: 99
Starting Lineup: 1. CF Jason Heyward, 2. RF Nicholas Castellanos, 3. 3B Kris Bryant, 4. 1B Anthony Rizzo, 5. SS Javier Baez, 6. LF Kyle Schwarber, 7. C Victor Caratini, 8. 2B David Bote
Bench: C Taylor Davis, IF/OF Tony Kemp, OF Albert Almora Jr., OF Ian Happ
With the additions of Nicholas Castellanos and Tony Kemp at the trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs made an already good offensive unit even stronger.
The trio of Anthony Rizzo (.909 OPS, 21 HR, 71 RBI), Kris Bryant (.916 OPS, 21 HR, 51 RBI) and Javier Baez (.867 OPS, 26 HR, 73 RBI) has been terrific once again. Kyle Schwarber (.809 OPS, 25 HR) has strong numbers, as well, despite a .228 batting average.
An offensive renaissance from Jason Heyward has been a pleasant surprise. He's hitting .276/.353/.472 with 17 home runs—his highest total since 2012—and recently moved into the leadoff spot in the lineup.
Getting catcher Willson Contreras healthy will be the biggest key for the Cubs offensively. He missed time in July with a right foot injury, and he's on the injured list once again, this time with a hamstring issue.
7. Oakland Athletics
Runs Per Game: 5.05
Team OPS+: 104
Starting Lineup: 1. SS Marcus Semien, 2. LF Robbie Grossman, 3. 3B Matt Chapman, 4. 1B Matt Olson, 5. DH Khris Davis, 6. CF Mark Canha, 7. RF Stephen Piscotty, 8. 2B Jurickson Profar, 9. C Chris Herrmann
Bench: C Dustin Garneau, IF/OF Chad Pinder, OF Nick Martini
With a patchwork starting rotation and a bullpen that has taken a step backward from a year ago, the Oakland Athletics are 16 games over .500 thanks in large part to their offensive attack.
Third baseman Matt Chapman (.858 OPS, 27 2B, 24 HR) has continued his rise to superstardom, while first baseman Matt Olson has slugged 22 home runs in just 79 games after missing time with a hand injury suffered during the team's opening series in Japan.
Center fielder Ramon Laureano (.853 OPS, 21 HR, 12 SB) will be sidelined for the next month with a stress reaction in his shin, and while that is a big blow, it has opened the door for utility man Mark Canha (292 PA, .901 OPS, 17 HR) to step into a regular role.
The catcher position is perhaps the biggest question mark on the roster now that Josh Phegley is sidelined with a thumb contusion. Could we see top prospect Sean Murphy called up sometime soon? He's hitting .360/.434/.685 with seven home runs in 23 games at Triple-A.
6. Atlanta Braves
Runs Per Game: 5.31
Team OPS+: 102
Starting Lineup: 1. RF Ronald Acuna Jr., 2. 2B Ozzie Albies, 3. 1B Freddie Freeman, 4. 3B Josh Donaldson, 5. C Brian McCann, 6. LF Adam Duvall, 7. CF Ender Inciarte, 8. SS Johan Camargo
Bench: C Tyler Flowers, IF Charlie Culberson, IF/OF Austin Riley, OF Matt Joyce
The Atlanta Braves are currently without shortstop Dansby Swanson (foot contusion) and right fielder Nick Markakis (fractured wrist), and they still have one of the best lineups in the NL.
With Ronald Acuna Jr. (.879 OPS, 27 HR, 25 SB) setting the table at the top and the veteran duo of Freddie Freeman (.950 OPS, 26 HR, 86 RBI) and Josh Donaldson (.894 OPS, 26 HR, 67 RBI) doing plenty of damage at the heart of the order, this is a high-powered group when everything is clicking.
Adam Duvall has gone 14-for-35 (.400 BA) with five home runs in nine games since being recalled from Triple-A to replace the injured Markakis, giving the team another dangerous power bat in the middle of the lineup.
Getting Swanson back healthy and rookie Austin Riley back producing at a high level would give this group a boost, but it's still a top-10 offense as things currently stand.
5. Boston Red Sox
Runs Per Game: 5.72
Team OPS+: 109
Starting Lineup: 1. RF Mookie Betts, 2. 3B Rafael Devers, 3. SS Xander Bogaerts, 4. DH J.D. Martinez, 5. LF Andrew Benintendi, 6. 1B Sam Travis, 7. 2B Michael Chavis, 8. C Christian Vazquez, 9. CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bench: C Sandy Leon, 1B Mitch Moreland, IF/OF Brock Holt
The Boston Red Sox led the majors by a wide margin with 173 runs scored and 6.92 runs per game in July, and the team hit a collective .302/.357/.534 for the month.
Still only 22 years old, Rafael Devers is enjoying a breakout season at the plate, hitting .320/.369/.562 with 22 home runs while leading the AL in hits (144), doubles (37) and total bases (253). His OPS is up 200 points from last season, and his 136 OPS+ ranks eighth in the AL.
Since the All-Star break, Xander Bogaerts (1.058 OPS, 16 XBH), Mookie Betts (.961 OPS, 14 XBH), Andrew Benintendi (.954 OPS, 15 XBH), J.D. Martinez (.904 OPS, 11 XBH) and Devers (.958 OPS, 19 XBH) have all been on a tear at the plate.
Now if only some of those guys could also pitch.
4. New York Yankees
Runs Per Game: 5.81
Team OPS+: 117
Starting Lineup: 1. 1B DJ LeMahieu, 2. DH Aaron Judge, 3. SS Didi Gregorius, 4. 2B Gleyber Torres, 5. 3B Gio Urshela, 6. RF Cameron Maybin, 7. LF Mike Tauchman, 8. C Austin Romine, 9. LF Brett Gardner
Bench: C Kyle Higashioka, 1B Mike Ford, IF Breyvic Valera
The New York Yankees have dealt with injuries all season, and they continue to find ways to produce offensively.
Gary Sanchez, Edwin Encarnacion, Luke Voit, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton are all currently on the injured list, along with Miguel Andujar, who has been out since May following surgery to repair his torn labrum.
Offseason free-agent signing DJ LeMahieu deserves a lot of credit for keeping the lineup afloat with his stellar .335/.382/.530 line and 43 extra-base hits while moving all around the infield.
The front office has also done well to find surprise contributors in Gio Urshela (320 PA, .882 OPS), Mike Tauchman (186 PA, .860 OPS) and Cameron Maybin (160 PA, .890 OPS).
The Yankees have nowhere to go but up once those impact bats start to get healthy, and they've proven all season they have the depth to overcome injuries.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Runs Per Game: 5.44
Team OPS+: 112
Starting Lineup: 1. RF Joc Pederson, 2. 2B Max Muncy, 3. 3B Justin Turner, 4. 1B Cody Bellinger, 5. CF A.J. Pollock, 6. SS Corey Seager, 7. LF Alex Verdugo, 8. C Will Smith
Bench: C Russell Martin, 1B/3B Tyler White, IF/OF Matt Beaty, IF Kristopher Negron
The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the National League in runs scored (620), home runs (190) and OPS (.809), and manager Dave Roberts does a great job getting the most out of his entire roster.
With a staggering 17-game lead in the NL West standings, they can afford to give guys like A.J. Pollock and Corey Seager additional rest over the next two months in an effort to keep them healthy for the postseason.
The emergence of Will Smith (56 PA, 1.175 OPS, 6 HR) as the team's primary catcher has given the offense a major boost. Veteran Russell Martin remains in the backup role, while light-hitting Austin Barnes (.196 BA, .616 OPS) was optioned to Triple-A.
The top four of Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger has been as productive as any foursome in baseball, and when everyone is healthy and playing up to their potential, this offense features legitimate threats at every position on the diamond.
2. Houston Astros
Runs Per Game: 5.27
Team OPS+: 117
Starting Lineup: 1. CF George Springer, 2. 2B Jose Altuve, 3. LF Michael Brantley, 4. 3B Alex Bregman 5. DH Yordan Alvarez, 6. SS Carlos Correa, 7. 1B Yuli Gurriel, 8. RF Josh Reddick, 9. C Robinson Chirinos
Bench: C Martin Maldonado, C Garrett Stubbs, IF Aledmys Diaz, OF Jake Marisnick
The rich got richer when Yordan Alvarez emerged from the minors and immediately gave an already potent Houston Astros lineup another huge weapon.
The 22-year-old is hitting .340/.422/.693 with 14 doubles, 13 home runs and 41 RBI in 41 games since joining the MLB roster, good for a ridiculous 190 OPS+.
Veteran Michael Brantley has also been a nice pickup after signing a two-year, $32 million deal during the offseason. An All-Star for the fourth time this year, he's hitting .320/.379/.516 with 31 doubles and 16 home runs.
With those two newcomers alongside the incumbent core of Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa, the Astros once again have an offense capable of doing some serious damage.
1. Minnesota Twins
Team OPS+: 118
Starting Lineup: 1. CF Max Kepler, 2. SS Jorge Polanco, 3. DH Nelson Cruz, 4. LF Eddie Rosario, 5. 3B Miguel Sano, 6. RF Marwin Gonzalez, 7. 1B C.J. Cron, 8. 2B Jonathan Schoop, 9. C Jason Castro
Bench: C Mitch Garver, IF Ehire Adrianza, IF Luis Arraez, OF Jake Cave
The Minnesota Twins lead the majors in home runs (217), slugging percentage (.501) and OPS (.837), and the offense has continued to produce at a high level even as the division lead has dwindled.
Offseason additions Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez have all played a part in the team's power surge, while Max Kepler, Mitch Garver and Jorge Polanco have put together breakout seasons.
Cruz ranks among the AL leaders in OPS (1.031, second), home runs (30, tied for second) and RBI (72, 10th). Kepler has a career-high 30 home runs, Eddie Rosario is ninth in the AL with 74 RBI and Polanco is tied for fifth in hits (132) and sixth in doubles (30).
It's also worth mentioning how well Byron Buxton was playing before he suffered a shoulder injury. He has a career-high .827 OPS with 30 doubles, 10 home runs and 14 steals in 82 games.
This Twins offense is the real deal, though it will still only go as far as the pitching staff allows.