Ranking MLB's 10 Best Offenses Ahead of 2020 Spring Training

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterFebruary 6, 2020

Ranking MLB's 10 Best Offenses Ahead of 2020 Spring Training

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    The Houston Astros' post-scandal offense is still scary.
    The Houston Astros' post-scandal offense is still scary.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    In a span of just six seasons, Major League Baseball went from an environment where home runs and runs were hard to come by to one in which offenses couldn't get enough of both.

    There are at least 10 lineups that should keep the party going in 2020.

    Though there may still be some dominoes left to fall in the wake of the Mookie Betts blockbuster, we've gone ahead and ranked the best offenses in MLB right now. We considered factors such as depth, power, speed and plate approach, and we equally weighed what happened in 2019 versus what might happen this season.

    Let's count 'em down.

10. Chicago Cubs

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Projected Lineup

    • 1. 1B Anthony Rizzo (L)
    • 2. 3B Kris Bryant (R)
    • 3. SS Javier Baez (R)
    • 4. LF Kyle Schwarber (L)
    • 5. C Willson Contreras (R)
    • 6. RF Jason Heyward (L)
    • 7. CF Ian Happ (S)
    • 8. 2B David Bote (R)

              

    Analysis

    Though the Chicago Cubs will miss slugging right fielder Nick Castellanos—who signed elsewhere in the National League Central with the Cincinnati Reds—their lineup is otherwise still built around the same core that was behind a .783 OPS (fourth in the NL) and 256 home runs (second in the NL) last season.

    The first five slots in Chicago's lineup, especially, are in good hands. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras collectively averaged an .887 OPS and 30 home runs last season. And that was despite relatively down years from Bryant and Baez, who might bounce back in 2020.

    Of course, the big picture will change if the Cubs end up trading Bryant. And even if they keep him, the lack of firepower outside of their front five puts a limit on their offense's ceiling.

    As things stand now, though, the Cubs offense at least has a solid floor.

9. New York Mets

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Projected Lineup

    • 1. CF Brandon Nimmo (L)
    • 2. 3B Jeff McNeil (L)
    • 3. 1B Pete Alonso (R)
    • 4. 2B Robinson Cano (L)
    • 5. LF J.D. Davis (R)
    • 6. RF Michael Conforto (L)
    • 7. C Wilson Ramos (R)
    • 8. SS Amed Rosario (R)

               

    Analysis

    Though the New York Mets seemingly had a good-not-great lineup last season, adjusted offensive metrics like OPS+ and wRC+ both ranked their offense as the second-best in the NL.

    Pete Alonso certainly led the way with a .941 OPS and an MLB-best 53 homers, yet he was only one of eight Mets hitters who took at least 250 plate appearances and topped a 100 OPS+. Among NL clubs, only the Los Angeles Dodgers had more.

    Todd Frazier is now absent from that mix, but the Mets can hope to replace his production and then some. The task especially figures to fall to Brandon Nimmo, who had an .886 OPS amid good health in 2018, and Dom Smith, who had an .881 OPS in limited duty last year.

    The Mets also have a major wild card in Yoenis Cespedes, who might be the healthiest he's been since going off for an .876 OPS and 66 homers across 2015 and 2016.

8. Los Angeles Angels

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Projected Lineup

    • 1. RF Joc Pederson (L)
    • 2. CF Mike Trout (R)
    • 3. 3B Anthony Rendon (R)
    • 4. DH Shohei Ohtani (L)
    • 5. LF Justin Upton (R)
    • 6. 2B Tommy La Stella (L)
    • 7. 1B Albert Pujols (R)
    • 8. SS Andrelton Simmons (R)
    • 9. C Jason Castro (L)

            

    Analysis

    Despite a 1.081 OPS and 117 home runs from the one and only Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels nonetheless wallowed in offensive mediocrity between 2017 and 2019.

    Hence why they were comfortable spending $245 million on Anthony Rendon. If he can carry over his 1.010 OPS and 34 homers from 2019, he and Trout might become MLB's best offensive duo.

    Even if fellow newcomer Joc Pederson has to sit against left-handers, he can do enough damage against right-handers to add to the .861 OPS and 61 long balls he's mustered since 2018. Shohei Ohtani, who's hit 40 homers in 210 career games, should also provide power from the left side of the plate.

    Health permitting, Justin Upton and Tommy La Stella are still two more power threats. And while none of the three can be counted on for above-average offense, Albert Pujols, Andrelton Simmons and Jason Castro shouldn't be much worse than average.

7. Atlanta Braves

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Projected Lineup

    • 1. CF Ronald Acuna Jr. (R)
    • 2. 2B Ozzie Albies (S)
    • 3. 1B Freddie Freeman (L)
    • 4. LF Marcell Ozuna (R)
    • 5. RF Nick Markakis (L)
    • 6. C Travis d'Arnaud (R)
    • 7. SS Dansby Swanson (R)
    • 8. 3B Austin Riley (R)

                   

    Analysis

    The 2019 Atlanta Braves ranked third in the National League with both their .789 OPS and 5.3 runs per game, and yet it's possible they underachieved.

    On balls in play, Braves hitters compiled the third-best xwOBA (which is based on contact quality) in MLB behind only the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees. In layman's terms: They flat-out crushed the ball.

    Of course, Josh Donaldson was a major part of this effort and he's gone now. Yet Marcell Ozuna could be a capable stand-in for him, as he managed an .800 OPS and 29 homers last season even in spite of an apparently extraordinary degree of bad luck.

    The Braves will otherwise take more of the same from Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman after they teamed up for an .890 OPS, 103 home runs and 58 stolen bases in 2019. And while the back half of their lineup doesn't look as strong, Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley each have unexplored upside.

6. Chicago White Sox

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Projected Lineup

    • 1. 2B Leury Garcia (S)
    • 2. SS Tim Anderson (R)
    • 3. 1B Jose Abreu (R)
    • 4. 3B Yoan Moncada (S)
    • 5. C Yasmani Grandal (S)
    • 6. DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
    • 7. LF Eloy Jimenez (R)
    • 8. RF Nomar Mazara (L)
    • 9. CF Luis Robert (R)

              

    Analysis

    In 2019, the Chicago White Sox's offense more or less survived on the production of four hitters.

    Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson did most of the heavy lifting by combining for a .325 average, 43 homers and 27 steals. Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez, meanwhile, kept the power coming with 64 total long balls.

    Now, the White Sox have Yasmani Grandal, who's slugged 101 homers as an everyday catcher since 2016. There's also Edwin Encarnacion, the only hitter who's annually topped 30 home runs since 2012.

    That adds up to six well-above-average hitters out of nine slots in Chicago's lineup, and we haven't even gotten to its upside yet. Moncada, Anderson, Jimenez and Nomar Mazara fall under that umbrella, but not as much as Luis Robert. The rookie is coming off a 1.001 OPS, 32 homers and 36 steals in the minors.

5. Oakland Athletics

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Projected Lineup

    • 1. SS Marcus Semien (R)
    • 2. 3B Matt Chapman (R)
    • 3. 1B Matt Olson (L)
    • 4. DH Khris Davis (R)
    • 5. CF Ramon Laureano (R)
    • 6. LF Mark Canha (R)
    • 7. RF Stephen Piscotty (R)
    • 8. C Sean Murphy (R)
    • 9. 2B Franklin Barreto (R)

                 

    Analysis

    Though theirs wasn't the best, the Oakland Athletics offense was probably the most overlooked offense in baseball last season. 

    The A's quietly ranked fourth in the AL with a 108 OPS+ and 257 home runs, and their peripherals included an MLB-low-tying 28.0 chase percentage and the majors' fourth-best rate of barrels (i.e., perfectly hit batted balls) per balls in play.

    With the exception of Jurickson Profar, all the primary hitters from Oakland's 2019 offense are back for 2020. And the A's won't at all miss Profar's decidedly pedestrian production if youngsters Franklin Barreto and Sean Murphy and veteran Khris Davis fulfill expectations.

    Davis, specifically, is a huge bounce-back candidate. Provided he's fully recovered from the injuries that killed his power in 2019, he can get back on the track that led him to 133 home runs between 2016 and 2018.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Projected Lineup

    • 1. RF Mookie Betts (R)
    • 2. 1B Max Muncy (L)
    • 3. 3B Justin Turner (R)
    • 4. CF Cody Bellinger (L)
    • 5. LF A.J. Pollock (R)
    • 6. SS Corey Seager (L)
    • 7. C Will Smith (R)
    • 8. 2B Gavin Lux (L)

             

    Analysis

    Following Tuesday's big trade, the Los Angeles Dodgers offense is now headlined by the wins above replacement leaders from each of the last two seasons, according to Baseball Reference.

    One is Mookie Betts, who put up a .915 OPS, 29 homers and 16 steals in 2019 even though he took a step back from his AL MVP-winning 2018 campaign. The other is Cody Bellinger, who won last season's NL MVP on the strength of a 1.035 OPS, 47 homers and 15 steals.

    Meanwhile, Max Muncy has clubbed 70 homers over the last two years. Justin Turner owns an .887 OPS in six seasons as a Dodger. Corey Seager, A.J. Pollock and Will Smith were above-average hitters in 2019. Gavin Lux is unproven but also coming off a star-making .347/.421/.607 slash line in the minors.

    The Dodgers offense led the NL with an .810 OPS, 279 homers and 5.5 runs per game last year. It's even better now.

3. Minnesota Twins

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Projected Lineup

    • 1. RF Max Kepler (L)
    • 2. SS Jorge Polanco (S)
    • 3. DH Nelson Cruz (R)
    • 4. 3B Josh Donaldson (R)
    • 5. LF Eddie Rosario (L)
    • 6. 1B Miguel Sano (R)
    • 7. C Mitch Garver (R)
    • 8. 2B Luis Arraez (L)
    • 9. CF Byron Buxton (R)

               

    Analysis

    The Minnesota Twins coasted to 101 wins in 2019 primarily because their offensive attack was overwhelming. They hit a record 307 home runs and ranked second in MLB with an .832 OPS and 5.8 runs per game.

    The Twins offense was just as good and perhaps even a little better than its results indicated. To wit, they pulled off both a bottom-five strikeout rate and an unparalleled onslaught of loud contact, leading the majors in barrels per balls in play and xwOBA on contact.

    Nelson Cruz, who hit 41 homers in only 120 games last season, is back. So are Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver, who pitched in another 155 homers in 2019.

    Factor in what the Twins stand to gain from newcomer Josh Donaldson, who's coming off a .900 OPS and 37 long balls, and there's ultimately little reason to think they can't match or surpass last season's offensive output in 2020.

2. New York Yankees

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Projected Lineup

    • 1. 2B DJ LeMahieu (R)
    • 2. RF Aaron Judge (R)
    • 3. SS Gleyber Torres (R)
    • 4. DH Giancarlo Stanton (R)
    • 5. C Gary Sanchez (R)
    • 6. CF Brett Gardner (L)
    • 7. 1B Luke Voit (R)
    • 8. 3B Gio Urshela (R)
    • 9. LF Mike Tauchman (L)

              

    Analysis

    The 2019 New York Yankees finished just one home run shy of the Twins, and they actually finished ahead of them with a 118 OPS+ and (by a hair) 5.82 runs per game.

    Edwin Encarnacion and Didi Gregorius have since left the Yankees, but healthy versions of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton can account for that all on their own. The two sluggers are capable of turning back the clock to 2017, when they would have combined for a 1.028 OPS and 111 homers as teammates.

    Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez give the Yankees two more candidates for 30-to-40 home runs in 2020. DJ LeMahieu and Brett Gardner could at least make a run at 30 long balls after hitting 26 and 28, respectively, last season. The former also hit .327 with a huge pile of hard-hit balls.

    As back-end trios go, the Yankees could do far worse than Luke Voit, Gio Urshela and Mike Tauchman, who collectively had an .866 OPS and 55 home runs last year.

1. Houston Astros

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Projected Lineup

    • 1. CF George Springer (R)
    • 2. 2B Jose Altuve (R)
    • 3. 3B Alex Bregman (R)
    • 4. LF Michael Brantley (L)
    • 5. 1B Yuli Gurriel (R)
    • 6. DH Yordan Alvarez (L)
    • 7. SS Carlos Correa (R)
    • 8. RF Josh Reddick (L)
    • 9. C Martin Maldonado (R)

             

    Analysis

    The Houston Astros may have scored "only" 5.7 runs per game last year, but they led the majors in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage and could generally do no wrong offensively.

    For instance, they had both the lowest strikeout rate and the highest walk rate, and they also finished third with 288 home runs. And despite conspiracy theories about illegal buzzers, the league's investigation into the Astros' sign-stealing scandal found no evidence of any wrongdoing during their '19 campaign.

    All the players who made Houston's offense go last season are back once again for 2020, and it's possible that 2019 doesn't even represent their peak performance. Carlos Correa, for example, has proved he has MVP-caliber upside if only he could stay healthy.

    This could also be the year that former top prospect Kyle Tucker finally breaks through. If his .946 OPS, 58 homers and 50 steals over the last two seasons at Triple-A are any indication, he can be an all-around offensive superstar.

             

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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