Projecting MLB's Most Lethal Offenses in 5 Years
Want a prediction for which of Major League Baseball's 30 clubs will have the best offense in 2021? Probably the New York Yankees. There. That was easy.
But five years from now? That's a different, much more difficult endeavor.
We took a whack at projecting which 10 clubs will have the league's most potent offenses come 2025. This might have involved building a house of cards out of hundreds of individual predictions, but we instead formulated subjective opinions out of three simple considerations:
- Controllable Major Leaguers: The more established players a team has locked up (including option years) through 2025, the better. However, we also weighed how players' ages might affect their outputs.
- Impact Prospects: Specifically, young up-and-coming players who made the cut as honorable mentions or top-100 talents in B/R's Joel Reuter's most recent list.
- Potential Free-Agent Splashes: We didn't want to go too wild here, but we did identify one potential free-agent signing for each of the teams.
Let's start with some honorable mentions and then count down the top 10.
Boston Red Sox
Much of the Red Sox's offensive core—including J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo—could be lost via free agency in coming years, but Boston will at least still have Xander Bogaerts come 2025.
It is also sitting on a wealth of hitting prospects headlined by infielders Jeter Downs, Triston Casas and Bobby Dalbec and outfielder Jarren Duran. Dalbec already has a full-time gig in The Show, and the others could have their own by 2022.
Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura were a dynamic duo in 2019, and they could be again in 2021 and beyond. Milwaukee might also still have high hopes for Luis Urias, who was an elite prospect not too long ago.
All three are under the Brewers' control through 2025, and they should be joined by three top prospects in the years to come: shortstop Brice Turang and outfielders Garrett Mitchell and Tristen Lutz.
Apart from infielders Jorge Polanco (vesting/club option for 2024; club option for 2025) and Luis Arraez, very little of Minnesota's "Bomba Squad" may remain by 2025. It's a good thing, then, that the Twins have some exciting prospects.
These notably include shortstop Royce Lewis and outfielders Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, though catcher Ryan Jeffers should not to be overlooked following his solid debut in 2020.
San Francisco Giants
Though he'll be 34 years old in 2025, Mike Yastrzemski will nonetheless still be with San Francisco. So will Mauricio Dubon, who enjoyed a low-key breakout last season.
Yet the real appeal is in relation to the farm system, which is loaded with catcher Joey Bart, shortstop Marco Luciano and outfielders Heliot Ramos, Alexander Canario, Hunter Bishop and Luis Matos.
St. Louis Cardinals
Assuming the Cardinals pick up Paul DeJong's options for 2024 and 2025, he, Nolan Arenado and Tommy Edman will still anchor the club's infield.
Prospect-wise, outfielder Dylan Carlson has plus tools across the board, and Nolan Gorman and Ivan Herrera are potential heirs for Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina at first base and catcher.
10. Philadelphia Phillies
Controllable Major Leaguers (2025 Age): RF Bryce Harper (32), C J.T. Realmuto (34), 3B Alec Bohm (28), INF/OF Scott Kingery (31), CF Adam Haseley (29)
Impact Prospects (2021 Rank): SS Bryson Stott (HM)
Potential FA Splash (Year): CF Byron Buxton (2023)
With Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Rhys Hoskins, Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura and Alec Bohm in the heart of their lineup, the Philadelphia Phillies should do damage in 2021.
Alas, only Harper, Realmuto and Bohm will remain in 2025. And whereas Bohm should still be in his prime, Harper and Realmuto will be relatively long in the tooth.
Or not. Power and patience tend to age better than other skills, after all, and Harper has both in abundance. Realmuto is becoming a more well-rounded hitter with age, and it's likely the National League will get something to help him age gracefully after 2021: the designated hitter.
Even if he's not a top-100 prospect, we are also not going to sell Bryson Stott short. The No. 14 pick in the 2019 draft was a standout hitter at UNLV, and he hit .295/.391/.494 in his first taste of pro ball.
Unless they want to trust Scott Kingery at the position for the long haul, the Phillies will need to find a center field in the near future. They'll have their chance after 2022, when power-speed dynamo Byron Buxton is slated to hit the open market.
9. New York Yankees
Controllable Major Leaguers (2025 Age): 2B DJ LeMahieu (36), DH Giancarlo Stanton (35), CF Aaron Hicks (35), 1B Mike Ford (32), INF Thairo Estrada (29)
Impact Prospects (2021 Rank): OF Jasson Dominguez (43)
Potential FA Splash (Year): RF Joey Gallo (2023)
Apropos of our introductory note, FanGraphs projects the Yankees to lead the majors with 5.5 runs per game in 2021.
For our purposes, the catch is that many core members of the lineup are slated for free agency before 2025. But on the plus side, DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks will still be around, and there's hope for each to age well.
Hicks has only 708 major league games' worth of mileage. LeMahieu is perhaps baseball's best hitter. And if the DH helps keep him healthy, Stanton's power will have lasting, well, power.
Concerning free agency, the Yankees' next big spending window could coincide with Aaron Judge's and Gary Sanchez's reaching the open market after 2022. If New York doesn't simply re-sign Judge, it might aim for a younger player with just as much power and a swing better suited for Yankee Stadium: Joey Gallo.
Yet arguably the most exciting name is that of Jasson Dominguez. Though he's yet to play a single minor league game since the Yankees signed him in 2019, here are two reasons to get hyped: He is still only 18, and his comps include Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout.
8. Tampa Bay Rays
Controllable Major Leaguers (2025 Age): 2B Brandon Lowe (30), INF/OF Mike Brosseau (31)
Impact Prospects (2021 Rank): SS Wander Franco (1), OF Randy Arozarena (3), 2B Vidal Brujan (50), 2B Xavier Edwards (58), OF Josh Lowe (100), SS Greg Jones (HM)
Potential FA Splash (Year): C Christian Vazquez (2023)
As other core members of the Tampa Bay Rays offense get stripped away in the coming years, at least Brandon Lowe will remain in 2025 (he has club options for 2025 and 2026).
The 181 games he's played in the majors have yielded a 130 OPS+ and 37 home runs, and few players barreled the ball like he did in 2020. So even as he nears age 30, he should still be an outstanding hitter.
And then there's Tampa Bay's prospect cavalry, for which the charge will be led by Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena. Despite being only 19, Franco is perhaps the best hitter in the minors. Arozarena, meanwhile, showed what he can do in a record-setting postseason in 2020.
Vidal Brujan and Xavier Edwards have the hit and speed tools to become top-of-the-lineup stalwarts, while Josh Lowe has middle-of-the-order power potential. Greg Jones needs some refinement, but the power and speed are there.
The only thing missing from the soup that the Rays have boiling for 2025 is someone solid behind the plate. That could change after 2022, when they could bypass Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras for a more affordable free-agent option in Christian Vazquez (2022 club option).
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
Controllable Major Leaguers (2025 Age): RF Mookie Betts (32), C Will Smith (30), 3B/1B Edwin Rios (31), 2B/SS Gavin Lux (27), 1B/LF Matt Beaty (32)
Impact Prospects (2021 Rank): C Keibert Ruiz (61), 3B Kody Hoese (95)
Potential FA Splash (Year): SS Trea Turner (2023)
Though Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger could be lost via free agency before 2025, Mookie Betts and Will Smith aren't going anywhere. The former needs no introduction and won't be ancient in five seasons' time. By way of a 146 OPS+ through 91 games, the latter is only getting started on a fruitful career.
Edwin Rios and Matt Beaty have each had their moments in the majors, and nobody should give up on Gavin Lux yet. He had a rough 2020, but it was just 2019 when he was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year after exploding for a .347/.421/.607 batting line.
Even if he moves to first base in deference to Smith, Keibert Ruiz has All-Star-caliber offensive upside. If his power plays, Kody Hoese will supplant Justin Turner at the hot corner one day.
The big question is how the Dodgers will handle their long-term plans at shortstop. If they don't retain Seager or sign another shortstop after 2021, perhaps they'll scoop up a dynamic offensive threat when Trea Turner becomes available after 2022.
Controllable Major Leaguers (2025 Age): LF/DH Marcell Ozuna (34), RF Ronald Acuna Jr. (27), 2B Ozzie Albies (28), 3B Austin Riley (28), C Alex Jackson (29)
Impact Prospects (2021 Rank): OF Cristian Pache (7), OF Drew Waters (21), C William Contreras (HM), Shea Langeliers (HM)
Potential FA Splash (Year): 1B Freddie Freeman (2022)
The Atlanta offense just missed leading the majors in runs last year, finishing one behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Marcell Ozuna did his part with a 175 OPS+ and 18 homers, so it's little wonder he's back on a four-year deal that includes an option for 2025. Assuming the position becomes universal after 2021, he should be entrenched as Atlanta's everyday designated hitter by then.
Though Ronald Acuna Jr. played more of a supporting role in 2020, he had another excellent year and now boasts a 133 OPS+, 81 home runs and 61 stolen bases in three seasons. He and Ozzie Albies should still be in their primes come 2025. So will Austin Riley if he ever establishes consistency with his power.
In Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, Atlanta has two potential cornerstones ready to join Acuna in the outfield. And between William Contreras and Shea Langeliers, the club has not one but two heir apparents for Travis d'Arnaud in the crouch.
Atlanta doesn't have one of those for reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman, who's only signed through 2021. Nonetheless, all signs point to his staying put.
5. Seattle Mariners
Controllable Major Leaguers (2025 Age): CF Kyle Lewis (29), 1B Evan White (29), 3B/2B Ty France (30), LF Jose Marmolejos (32), C Luis Torrens (29), 2B Shed Long Jr. (29), OF Braden Bishop (31)
Impact Prospects (2021 Rank): OF Jarred Kelenic (10), OF Julio Rodriguez (12), OF Taylor Trammell (31), SS Noelvi Marte (64)
Potential FA Splash (Year): 3B Kris Bryant (2022)
With all respect to the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, Kyle Lewis isn't the only reason to be excited about the future of the Seattle Mariners outfield.
Jarred Kelenic has arguably the best tools of any offensive prospect, though Taylor Trammell is no slouch in that department. At the least, Julio Rodriguez's superb hit and power tools could point him toward a long-term home at designated hitter.
For his part, Noelvis Marte could supplant J.P. Crawford as Seattle's everyday shortstop if free agency claims the latter after 2024. Alongside him in the infield would be Evan White, who made impressive contact as a rookie in 2020, and Ty France, who quietly had a 133 OPS+.
Meanwhile, the Mariners are nowhere close to their peak payroll of $157.9 million from 2018. They're thus a good bet to eventually invest heavily in free agents—possibly as soon as the coming offseason.
Because they figure to decline Kyle Seager's $15 million option for 2022, the Mariners' first big move might be for a third baseman. By way of both his MVP track record and plentiful playoff experience, Kris Bryant could be their guy.
4. Los Angeles Angels
Controllable Major Leaguers (2025 Age): CF Mike Trout (33), 3B Anthony Rendon (35), 1B Jared Walsh (31), RF Jo Adell (26), 3B/LF Taylor Ward (31), 3B/1B Matt Thaiss (30), 2B Luis Rengifo (28)
Impact Prospects (2021 Rank): OF Brandon Marsh (83), SS Jeremiah Jackson (HM), OF Jordyn Adams (HM)
Potential FA Splash (Year): SS Trevor Story (2022)
The Los Angeles Angels endured their fifth straight losing season in 2020, but they at least salvaged some fun as their offense went off for 5.4 runs per game over the club's last 29 contests.
That was largely thanks to Jared Walsh, who finished with a 158 OPS+ and nine home runs. He may only grow in stature as a slugger in coming seasons, while Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon should age gracefully as two of the league's most feared hitters.
Speaking of talented young outfielders, Brandon Marsh can hit and run, and his power is developing. Jordyn Adams has the goods to be a table-setter in the long run, while Jeremiah Jackson has huge power upside.
What's more, the Angels figure to take full advantage of all the payroll space they will free up after 2021. Expect them to be in on the market's five elite shortstops, among whom Trevor Story could appeal to them courtesy of his power, speed and slick defense.
3. Chicago White Sox
Controllable Major Leaguers (2025 Age): 3B Yoan Moncada (30), CF Luis Robert (27), LF/DH Eloy Jimenez (28), C Zack Collins (30), INF Danny Mendick (31)
Impact Prospects (2021 Rank): 1B Andrew Vaughn (27), 2B Nick Madrigal (40)
Potential FA Splash (Year): RF Aaron Judge (2023)
Even after AL MVP Jose Abreu led the way to a league-best 96 home runs in 2020, there is little doubt the Chicago White Sox lineup can be even more terrifying in 2021.
Alas, Abreu, Tim Anderson and Yasmani Grandal could be lost via free agency in coming seasons. Yoan Moncada (2025 club option), Luis Robert (2026 and 2027 club options) and Eloy Jimenez (2025 and 2026 club options), however, are in for the long haul.
Moncada and Robert are two of the most athletic hitters in all of baseball. Jimenez is more of a one-note guy, but that particular note is responsible for a .319/.355/.604 line and 23 homers over his last 82 games.
Though he's less than two years removed from being selected with the No. 3 pick in 2019, Andrew Vaughn has hit and power tools that should pave the way to everyday action in 2021. Nick Madrigal, an excellent hitter with good speed, already has a job at second base.
After Abreu reaches free agency following the 2022 campaign, the White Sox might look to make a splash on the open market. Aaron Judge's thunderous power would suit them well, and there will be space for him both in right field and on the club's payroll.
2. San Diego Padres
Controllable Major Leaguers (2025 Age): SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (26), 3B Manny Machado (32), 1B Eric Hosmer (35), 2B Jake Cronenworth (31), CF Trent Grisham (28), INF Ha-seong Kim (29), C/UTIL Austin Nola (35)
Impact Prospects (2021 Rank): SS CJ Abrams (26), C Luis Campusano (68), OF Robert Hassell (HM)
Potential FA Splash (Year): CF Cody Bellinger (2024)
Yes, you're reading this right. Apart from Wil Myers and Tommy Pham, all the core members of the San Diego Padres lineup are controlled through 2025.
Headlining the list is Fernando Tatis Jr., whose freshly signed 14-year, $340 million deal underscores the Hall of Fame trajectory he is already on after just two major league seasons. Tatis, fellow young star Trent Grisham and Korean star Ha-seong Kim should still be in their primes come 2025.
Because they'll be over 30, there's less certainty with Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Jake Cronenworth and Austin Nola. But given that all four were well above average hitters in 2020, even diminished versions might still be formidable in 2025.
Down on the farm, CJ Abrams' plus hit tool and elite speed cast him as a future leadoff hitter. Luis Campusano could become a standout offensive catcher, while Robert Hassell III was one of the best hitters in the 2020 draft class.
If the Padres indeed part ways with Myers after 2023, there will be holes in their outfield and in the middle of their lineup. In the best-case scenario, they will patch both by stealing Cody Bellinger from the Dodgers.
1. Toronto Blue Jays
Controllable Major Leaguers (2025 Age): CF George Springer (35), 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (26), SS Bo Bichette (27), 3B/2B Cavan Biggio (30), C Reese McGuire (30)
Impact Prospects (2021 Rank): SS/OF Austin Martin (32), 3B Jordan Groshans (67), C Alejandro Kirk (HM), SS Orelvis Martinez (HM)
Potential FA Splash (Year): OF Juan Soto (2025)
Young stars Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio each did their part to drive the bus, and the sky is the limit going forward. Guerrero, in particular, still has tremendous upside beyond the 109 OPS+ he boasts through 183 games.
The Jays also aren't done adding to their young core. The newly svelte Alejandro Kirk is ready for the big time behind the plate, and Austin Martin and Jordan Groshans could soon slot into center field and third base. Wherever he ends up, pitchers will learn to fear Orelvis Martinez's power.
By 2025, newcomer George Springer probably won't be as spry as he is now before the first season of a six-year, $150 million contract. But perhaps through the help of occasional DH duty, he might nonetheless persist as one of the league's most consistent hitters.
If Lourdes Gurriel Jr. follows Teoscar Hernandez out the door in free agency after 2024, the Jays will be in the market for a slugging outfielder. Maybe they'll be first in line for Juan Soto, aka the new Ted Williams.