Power Ranking All 30 MLB Lineups Entering Opening Day
Baseball fans around the world rejoice! Opening Day has finally arrived!
What better time to take a look at how every team's expected "go-to" starting lineup stacks up against the competition?
We will look at the abilities and track records of the players we project as starters, factoring in how they produced in 2013 and what the future holds in 2014. We'll also pay some attention to their numbers in spring training, though as we've learned over the years, you can't put too much stock in them.
It's an inexact science, and with major league rosters in a continual state of flux, this is sure to be the first of several times that we will look at each team's lineup throughout the regular season.
But we've got to start somewhere, so sit back, grab your mouse and let's get going.
30. Miami Marlins
|Rafael Furcal||SS||Left hamstring||Likely headed to DL|
|Ed Lucas||3B||Fractured left hand||Likely headed to DL|
Miami was home to baseball's most inept offense in 2013, as the Marlins ranked last in runs scored (518), batting average (.231), OPS (.627) and a host of other offensive categories.
The team has some young talent (Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich) that offers hope for the future and still boasts one of the game's premier power hitters in Giancarlo Stanton, but Ozuna and Yelich's ability to adjust throughout the year and whether Stanton can stay on the field are major concerns.
Adding Jarrod Saltalamacchia will help, but none of the other veteran additions that the team made over the winter—Rafael Furcal, Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee—can be counted on to be legitimate difference-makers. If that trio puts up league-average numbers this year, it will be a surprise.
The Marlins may pick up a few more wins than the 62 they recorded in 2013, but it will be thanks to a rapidly improving pitching staff, not a lineup that remains full of holes.
29. Minnesota Twins
|Miguel Sano||3B||Tommy John surgery||Out for Season|
Even if prospect Miguel Sano was healthy and opening the season as the Minnesota Twins' third baseman, as many expected would be the case before he was injured, the Twins would still boast one of baseball's worst lineups.
Joe Mauer, one of the premier hitters of his generation and the active leader in batting average (.323), has moved out from behind the plate to first base, where less wear and tear on his body should mean an uptick in his production.
But there isn't much around him in the lineup.
Sure, a healthy Josh Willingham should improve upon his .208 batting average and .709 OPS, and Brian Dozier has quietly developed into a decent run producer at second base, but the former is 35 years old, while the latter is anything but an ideal leadoff hitter, lacking the plate discipline and speed teams look for.
Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and Josmil Pinto all have talent, but the trio is unproven, and as we've seen countless times before, it sometimes takes a few years before on-field results catch up to the talent level.
It's going to be another long season in Minnesota.
28. Houston Astros
Things aren't quite as dire in Houston as they are in Miami and Minnesota, but to say that the Astros lineup is far superior to the offenses of the Marlins or Twins would be...offensive.
Don't get all that excited about the arrival of Dexter Fowler. While athletic and talented, the 28-year-old center fielder's career numbers, including his .365 on-base percentage, have been heavily inflated by calling Coors Field home for the first six years of his career.
|Fowler's Splits||BA||OBP||OPS||XBH (HR)|
|At Coors Field (333 G)||.298||.395||.880||125 (27)|
|Elsewhere (334 G)||.241||.333||.694||88 (13)|
That said, he's an upgrade at the leadoff spot for the Astros, while Jose Altuve remains one of the more underrated second basemen in baseball, though he lacks the requisite power of your traditional cleanup hitter.
There's power with Jason Castro, Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez, though Castro is due to regress a bit after posting an unsustainable .359 BABIP last year.
Houston's offense will be better than it was a year ago, but there's still not enough quality major league talent for the Astros to make much noise with their bats.
27. New York Mets
|Eric Young Jr.||LF||S|
The New York Mets know what they're going to get from Daniel Murphy and David Wright: some power and speed to go along with batting averages hovering right around .300.
After that, it's anyone's guess what to expect from New York's lineup.
Curtis Granderson, the team's big-ticket acquisition this winter, has become a one-dimensional player who moves from one of the more hitter-friendly venues in baseball, Yankee Stadium, to the far less hospitable Citi Field.
Ike Davis has become maddening, blessed with big talent but without a clue as to harness it (a change of scenery might do the trick); Chris Young hasn't hit above .250 in three years; and both of the team's center fielders, Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr., are better defenders than they are hitters.
Oh, and then there's Ruben Tejada, who simply doesn't hit, and Travis d'Arnaud, who is supposed to hit at the major league level but has yet to do so.
The Mets did enough to improve upon the 619 runs that they scored in 2013—but not by much.
26. Philadelphia Phillies
|John Mayberry Jr.||1B/OF||R|
|Tony Gwynn Jr.||OF||L|
|Freddy Galvis||2B||Staph infection||15-day DL|
|Darin Ruf||1B/OF||Strained left oblique||15-day DL|
It's the question we've been asking since the end of last season: How much production do Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have left in their respective bats?
If what we've seen this spring is any indication—they hit a combined .208 with 11 extra-base hits, 15 walks and 38 strikeouts—the answer is not much, and that's a major problem for a team that relies so heavily on those veteran bats to carry the offense.
Maybe we shouldn't put all of the blame on those three, as the Phillies as a whole were a disaster at the plate this spring, hitting .222 with a .298 on-base percentage and .632 OPS—all at or near the bottom of the spring leaderboards.
25. Chicago Cubs
None to report.
Long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans might cringe at the Opening Day lineup for their beloved team, but the forecast for Chicago's offense isn't quite as doom-filled as you might believe.
Contrary to popular opinion, there's some talent here, enough to overpower some opposing pitching staffs and pick up a couple of wins that nobody saw coming over the course of the season.
Starlin Castro has already proven that he can produce at an All-Star level, and while he's coming off of a career-worst season in 2013, it's hard to imagine that the 24-year-old won't bounce back to at least league-average levels.
As he told the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer, he is ready to put 2013 behind him:
I’m ready this year. Last year, I thought too much. Too much listening to some things. Too many things in my mind. It’s not good. When you’re ready to play baseball, you have to have your mind clean.
Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Mike Olt, who is entering his first full major league season, will need to show progress in their development for there to truly be progress in the team's rebuilding efforts—or for the lineup to produce like even a league-average group.
24. San Diego Padres
|Cameron Maybin||OF||Ruptured left biceps tendon||15-day DL|
|Carlos Quentin||OF||Bruised left knee||15-day DL|
The San Diego Padres have historically struggled to score runs since they play half of their games in cavernous Petco Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league.
While Jedd Gyorko established himself as a legitimate source of power for the Padres in 2013, going deep 23 times in his rookie season, questions remain about where the rest of the team's power will come from.
Will Venable hit a career-high 22 home runs in 2013, but the 31-year-old is due for some regression in the power department after hitting 15 of his 22 homers at Petco Park—an unsustainable rate despite the team having moved the right field fences in before last year.
As for Chase Headley, who is he, exactly? Is he the player that finished fifth in the 2012 NL MVP voting, hitting .286 with 31 home runs and an a NL-best 115 RBI? Or is he an average third baseman, a .260 hitter with 10 to 15 home runs a season?
23. Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners lineup immediately improved this winter with the addition of Robinson Cano, but the team failed to add the other impact bats that it needed to really overhaul the lineup.
The Mariners' two other additions to the lineup, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, are sluggers who don't figure to benefit from Safeco Field's unfavorable dimensions. Hart struggled badly this spring (.390 OPS), while Morrison has played in more than 100 games only once in his four-year career.
Neither one can be—or should be—counted on to provide a significant boost to an offense that, aside from Cano and Kyle Seager, has far more questions than it has answers.
There's no doubt that Dustin Ackley and Brad Miller have talent, but can the pair, coming off of scintillating springs, produce over the course of a 162-game schedule? Can Justin Smoak hit more than .240?
Can Abraham Almonte get on base enough—or hit enough—to be a useful table-setter? And what, if anything, can the Mariners expect from Mike Zunino?
With so many questions that need to be answered, it's impossible to push Seattle further up the rankings.
22. San Francisco Giants
|Marco Scutaro||2B||Lower back strain||15-day DL|
Even without Marco Scutaro, who has played the best baseball of his 12-year career since joining the San Francisco Giants at the 2012 trade deadline (.319 BA, .366 OBP, .770 OPS), the top half of San Francisco's lineup is capable of putting runs on the board in a hurry.
Angel Pagan is one of the more underrated leadoff hitters in baseball, and if Brandon Belt can pick up where he left off in 2013, hitting .326 with a .950 OPS in the season's second half, the heart of the order—Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence—will step to the plate with runners in scoring position more often than not.
The jury is still out as to whether we should be including Mike Morse as part of that group. While the 32-year-old outfielder had a solid spring, hitting .294 with a .782 OPS, he didn't flash any of the power that saw him swat 64 home runs from 2010 to 2012.
Sandoval is the key to it all. In the best shape of his six-year career, if the former "Fat Ichiro" can return to his 2009 and 2011 levels of production, when he hit a combined .324 with 48 home runs and 160 RBI, the Giants lineup would certainly crack the top 20.
If he's the average Sandoval that we've seen over the past two years, though, the Giants may need to find new and creative ways to score some runs.
21. Chicago White Sox
|Alejandro De Aza||LF||L|
|Jose Dariel Abreu||1B||R|
|Gordon Beckham||2B||Strained left oblique||15-day DL|
|Jeff Keppinger||IF||Right shoulder impingement||15-day DL|
The Chicago White Sox have improved their lineup from a year ago, with Adam Eaton and Jose Dariel Abreu both impact players capable of making a difference.
Abreu has big-time power potential, while Eaton is the kind of scrappy, toolsy leadoff hitter that fans and managers alike can't wait to see step into the batter's box.
But after the top four in the lineup—and Alexei Ramirez—there are questions about what the White Sox can expect. Avisail Garcia is talented but raw, while none of the team's options at second base, third base or catcher offer much in the way of production.
Things are moving in the right direction for the White Sox, but there are simply too many holes in the lineup—and too many youngsters trying to find their way as the season progresses—for the lineup to be looked at as anything but mediocre.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates
|Chris Stewart||2B||March 2014 right knee surgery||15-day DL|
The Pittsburgh Pirates have an excellent heart of the order with McCutchen, the reigning NL MVP, Alvarez and the always underrated Neil Walker, but there are questions surrounding the rest of the lineup.
A gaping hole remains at first base, where neither Gaby Sanchez nor Travis Ishikawa offers much in the way of production, while the underwhelming Jose Tabata offers little in right field.
Starling Marte has plenty of speed and talent, but he's a free swinger who doesn't draw walks, making him a poor choice as the table-setter for the offense.
19. Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers need bounce-back campaigns from Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, and if spring training in any indication, they'll get both.
The "clean" Braun looks a lot like the "dirty" version, a perennial MVP candidate hitting for average and power, while Ramirez, without a home run in exhibition play, looks to be healthy and comfortable at the plate.
One through five, Milwaukee's lineup looks to be solid, but there are major concerns about the bottom half of the order.
Mark Reynolds will provide some power, but he strikes out a ton and is relegated to facing only left-handed pitching, leaving Lyle Overbay, who, as evidenced by his numbers with the Yankees in 2013 (.240/.295/.383), is no longer the reliable bat that played in Milwaukee in 2004 and 2005.
There's no way that Khris Davis can maintain his unsustainable 28.2 home run/fly ball percentage from last season. While he has power, Davis's walk rate (7.2 percent) and strikeout rate (22.2 percent) indicate that a repeat of his .949 OPS from a year ago is not in the cards.
18. Arizona Diamondbacks
|Cody Ross||OF||Aug. 2013 hip surgery||15-day DL|
The Arizona Diamondbacks lineup is both deep and talented. From the grossly underrated Aaron Hill to the sometimes maddening Miguel Montero, the heart of the Diamondbacks batting order could prove to be one of the game's best by the end of the season.
Paul Goldschmidt has quickly become one of baseball's brightest young stars, and he'll look to build upon a hugely successful 2013 campaign that saw him finish second to Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen in the NL MVP voting.
Some may raise an eyebrow at the idea of Martin Prado, and not Mark Trumbo, batting in the cleanup spot, but Prado's ability to get on base in front of Trumbo's majestic power should result in a significant uptick in the team's run production.
17. Cincinnati Reds
|Jack Hannahan||3B||Oct. 2013 shoulder surgery||15-day DL|
|Skip Schumaker||IF/OF||Dislocated left shoulder||15-day DL|
Despite the presence of MVP-caliber talent in Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, any talk about the Cincinnati Reds lineup starts and ends with Billy Hamilton, the lightning-quick 23-year-old tasked with replacing on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo in the leadoff spot.
It's not hard to imagine Hamilton leading baseball in runs scored and stolen bases this season—just as it's not hard to imagine him struggling mightily and finding himself as either part of a platoon or back in the minor leagues by July.
With Brandon Phillips' aversion to drawing walks and getting on base consistently, Cincinnati needs Hamilton on base for its biggest bats, Votto and Bruce, to do what they do best—produce runs.
Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart all have some pop in their bats and are capable of putting together league-average (or slightly better) numbers at the plate this season. So is Ryan Ludwick, though there are questions about how productive he'll be coming off of a major shoulder injury.
While the Reds lineup is potentially one of baseball's most dangerous, questions about Hamilton and Ludwick make it impossible to rank them any higher.
16. Colorado Rockies