The top 10 lineups for 2023 are ...

March 24th, 2023

After watching those Team USA games in the World Baseball Classic in which Mookie Betts led off, Mike Trout batted second, Trea Turner batted ninth (Trea Turner!), etc., it might feel like a letdown to look at … you know, normal lineups.

But don’t worry! There are still plenty of good ones going into the 2023 season. Here, as we kick off our annual tradition of ranking lineups, rotations and bullpens (an exercise that always leads to 100% agreement among the general public), are the 10 best in baseball.

1. Astros

1) Jose Altuve, 2B^
2) Jeremy Peña, SS
3) Yordan Alvarez, LF
4) Alex Bregman, 3B
5) Kyle Tucker, RF
6) José Abreu, 1B
7) Michael Brantley, DH
8) Chas McCormick, CF
9) Martín Maldonado, C

^Will begin the season on IL following thumb surgery

It will feel strange seeing somebody other than Jose Altuve at second base (specifically, the much taller David Hensley), and you can certainly make the argument that Altuve’s temporary absence should bump the Astros down in these rankings. But honestly, if any team can absorb such an absence for a couple months, it’s this one.

The Astros ranked sixth in the Majors in weighted runs created plus (112, or 12% better than league average) and eighth in runs (737) in 2022, and that was without the RBI machine known as Abreu and with Brantley’s sweet swing on the shelf for all but 64 games. Both of those guys are getting older, so that must be taken into account. But on the flip side, Alvarez, Tucker and Peña are really just beginning to come into their own. And Altuve should be back when it matters most.

2. Padres

1) Fernando Tatis Jr., RF^
2) Juan Soto, LF
3) Manny Machado, 3B
4) Xander Bogaerts, SS
5) Jake Cronenworth, 1B
6) Matt Carpenter, DH
7) Ha-Seong Kim, 2B
8) Austin Nola, C
9) Trent Grisham, CF

^Will miss 20 regular-season games while serving suspension

Gosh, it was fun to type out that top of the order. So just imagine how much fun Bob Melvin will have writing it out. The Padres’ offense didn’t really mesh in the last couple months of the regular season like we thought it would after the Soto trade, but the addition of Bogaerts (.880 OPS over the last five seasons) and pending return of Tatis would give them far and away the best 1-through-4 in MLB. There are more question marks in the bottom half, but, if Carpenter wants to go ballistic again, or if Nelson Cruz wants to turn back the hands of time, all the better.

3. Blue Jays

1) George Springer, RF
2) Bo Bichette, SS
3) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
4) Daulton Varsho, LF
5) Alejandro Kirk, C
6) Matt Chapman, 3B
7) Brandon Belt, DH
8) Whit Merrifield, 2B
9) Kevin Kiermaier, CF

This was one of the most explosive lineups in MLB last season, but it could run a bit hot and cold in part because of its lack of balance. Now, after the additions of Varsho and Belt, it is quite possibly deserving of the No. 1 spot (really, you could say that about any of the top three teams on this list … it’s essentially a coin flip). Last year, Toronto ranked second in MLB in wRC+ in 2022 (118), and the Blue Jays return four regulars (Springer, Kirk, Guerrero and Bichette) who were at least 29% better than league average last season, per wRC+. Add in Varsho, who discovered his power stroke in his first full season in Arizona last year, and Belt, whose veteran lefty bat balances the DH options, and this group can be an even bigger nightmare for opponents this year.

4. Cardinals

1) Brendan Donovan, 2B
2) Jordan Walker, LF
3) Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4) Nolan Arenado, 3B
5) Willson Contreras, C
6) Nolan Gorman, DH
7) Tyler O’Neill, CF
8) Lars Nootbaar, RF
9) Tommy Edman, SS

Though the Cards will sure miss that surprisingly vintage performance they got from Albert Pujols in the second half of 2022, Contreras (132 wRC+ in '22) replacing Yadier Molina (51) is pretty much as big an offensive upgrade as you can possibly make with a single signing. Thanks to MVP-caliber seasons from Goldschmidt and Arenado and the emergence of the likes of Donovan and Nootbaar, the Cards ranked fifth in runs (772) and wRC+ (114) last year. They should further be boosted by top prospect Walker, who has had a terrific spring.

5. Braves

1) Ronald Acuña Jr., RF
2) Matt Olson, 1B
3) Austin Riley, 3B
4) Travis d’Arnaud, DH
5) Ozzie Albies, 2B
6) Michael Harris II, CF
7) Sean Murphy, C
8) Eddie Rosario, LF
9) Orlando Arcia, SS

Another lineup that might be undersold here. (What can I say? This is hard.) For what it’s worth (and it could be worth a lot), FanGraphs’ current runs per game projections have the Braves at No. 1. I can see it, if Acuña -- further removed from knee surgery -- returns to MVP-level production and if Olson returns to his 2021 output now that he’s more comfortable in Atlanta. The Braves got great production from d’Arnaud and William Contreras at catcher and DH last season and that is a good bet to continue with Murphy aboard.

6. Mets

1) Brandon Nimmo, CF
2) Starling Marte, RF
3) Francisco Lindor, SS
4) Pete Alonso, 1B
5) Jeff McNeil, 2B
6) Daniel Vogelbach, DH
7) Mark Canha, LF
8) Eduardo Escobar, 3B
9) Omar Narváez, C

When the Mets agreed to terms with Carlos Correa (remember those days?), they vaulted to the top of the list, having meaningfully addressed their need for thump at third base. Without Correa, it’s basically back to square one. But that’s not a terrible place to be. After all, the Mets did rank third in the Majors in wRC+ (116, or 16% better than league average) in 2022 and first in the second half (124). And there is a pretty good chance the Mets’ top prospect, catcher Francisco Álvarez, who was optioned on Wednesday, will make his presence felt this season. He's a big upgrade in power and production at the catching spot, where the Mets were one of the worst-performing teams last year.

7. Yankees

1) Harrison Bader, CF^
2) Aaron Judge, RF
3) Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4) Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5) Gleyber Torres, 2B
6) Josh Donaldson, 3B
7) Jose Trevino, C
8) Oswald Peraza, SS
9) Aaron Hicks, LF

^Will begin season on IL with oblique injury

The Yankees ranked second in runs (807) and fourth in wRC+ (115) in 2022. Keep in mind, though, that was with Judge having a season for the ages and Carpenter (as mentioned above) briefly resembling Barry Bonds. In the second half, the lineup’s overall output was much more pedestrian. Re-signing Judge and Rizzo was a must, and it keeps the Yanks in the top 10. But this remains a very Judge-reliant offense, and Judge repeating his '22 performance will of course be difficult. The X-factor will be what the Yankees get from Anthony Volpe and, possibly, Jasson Domínguez, because those top prospects could potentially impact them in a big way.

8. Phillies

1) Trea Turner, SS
2) Kyle Schwarber, LF
3) J.T. Realmuto, C
4) Bryce Harper, DH^
5) Nick Castellanos, RF
6) Darick Hall, 1B
7) Alec Bohm, 3B
8) Bryson Stott, 2B
9) Brandon Marsh, CF

^Will begin the season on IL following Tommy John surgery

The Phillies are very clearly a top 10 lineup, but probably the hardest team to rank within the top 10 right now. For one, they just lost Rhys Hoskins to a torn ACL. Further, we don’t yet know when exactly Harper will be back from Tommy John surgery and how quickly he’ll get back to his usual caliber of production. It was encouraging to see the Phillies keep their options open by not putting Harper on the 60-day IL, but the loss of Hoskins definitely hurts.

With Harper limited to DH duties (and missing more than 50 games because of a thumb injury), the Phillies managed to rank 10th in wRC+ (106) and seventh in runs (747) last year. Now, Turner gives them a huge burst of speed near the top of the order, and a Castellanos bounce-back is well within the realm of possibility.

9. Dodgers

1) Mookie Betts, RF
2) Freddie Freeman, 1B
3) Will Smith, C
4) Max Muncy, 3B
5) J.D. Martinez, DH
6) David Peralta, LF
7) Miguel Vargas, 2B
8) Jason Heyward, CF
9) Miguel Rojas, SS

It didn’t show up in the National League Division Series vs. the Padres, but this was the best lineup in baseball last season, hands down. The Dodgers were No. 1 in every category that matters. So it feels strange to have them ninth. But they lost the Brothers Turner -- Trea and Justin (no, they’re not really brothers), both of whom had wRC+ marks around 25% better than league average. Martinez was an All-Star last year, but, on measure, it was his worst full season since he became a big league regular in Detroit. Gavin Lux looked ready for his star turn before suffering a season-ending knee injury this spring. The Dodgers figure to take on a more youthful look in the bottom half of their lineup. Knowing them, it will work out just fine. But for now, let’s wait and see.

10. Guardians

1) Steven Kwan, LF
2) Amed Rosario, SS
3) José Ramírez, 3B
4) Josh Bell, 1B
5) Josh Naylor, DH
6) Oscar Gonzalez, RF
7) Andres Giménez, 2B
8) Mike Zunino, C
9) Myles Straw, CF

The 10th spot is always a wild card spot on this list. If the Angels have Mike Trout, Shoehei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon healthy all year, they better rank a heck of a lot higher than 25th in runs, where they finished last season. You could make arguments for the Mariners, Twins and maybe others to be here.

But look at the pesky young Guards weaseling their way into the top 10. They were decisively a middle-of-the-pack offense last year, ranked 15th in runs per game (4.31). But it’s not really a big leap from 15th to 10th, and I would argue that Cleveland can make it by drastically improving two positions (DH and catcher) where it ranked 29th in OPS last season (Bell and Naylor can now essentially share the 1B/DH at-bats). Bell and Zunino both bring needed power to the equation. Add a little muscle to a club that had the best contact rate (80.8%) and ranked fourth in FanGraphs’ Baserunning score (13.2) last year, and you’ve got the makings of a top 10 offense.