MLB's most loaded lineups? We ranked 'em

March 28th, 2022

It’s the most wonderful time of year! Time to pontificate and prognosticate what will happen in the fast-approaching Major League season … and then, of course, argue about it incessantly.

Each year, we use this space to rank the top 10 lineups, rotations and bullpens in baseball. It is, well, an inexact and highly subjective science. But we can use last year’s results and this year’s projections as our guide in this fruitless-but-fun exercise.

Let’s begin with the top 10 lineups. And to be clear, this is entirely about offense. Let the nerds worry about who can catch the ball (just kidding, nerds). Here we’re only interested in who can knock it around.

All teams are listed with their projected Opening Day lineup. Let the debates begin.

1) Dodgers

  1. Mookie Betts, R, RF
  2. Freddie Freeman, L, 1B
  3. Trea Turner, R, SS
  4. Max Muncy, L, 2B
  5. Will Smith, R, C
  6. Justin Turner, R, 3B
  7. Cody Bellinger, L, CF
  8. Chris Taylor, R, LF
  9. AJ Pollock, R, DH

Honestly, the hyperventilating that went on when the Dodgers signed Freeman was a bit overdone. Because it’s not as if this team didn’t already field a ridiculous, superstar-laden lineup in recent years -- and let’s not dismiss the fact that Corey Seager left in free agency. The Dodgers were unbelievable before. Now, they’re just a little different form of unbelievable.

Anyway, Freeman’s control of the zone makes it likely that the Dodgers will continue to post one of the best team on-base percentages in the game. In this projected lineup, only Smith has never been an All-Star … and he’s one of the most productive catchers in the sport. This projection also doesn’t even include Gavin Lux, who is only 24 and whose hit tool not long ago made him one of the most highly rated prospects in the game. The biggest questions here are Muncy’s health and Bellinger’s ability to bring his career back on track. But those questions barely register in a lineup this deep and dynamic.

2) Blue Jays

Toronto had the highest team OPS (.797) in MLB last season. Of course, that was with a 45-homer, 39-double season from Marcus Semien, who departed in free agency. (It was also with more than half of their home games in the hitter havens of Buffalo, N.Y., and Dunedin, Fla.) Chapman was a huge add for this infield defensively, but he’s coming off his worst offensive season (.210/.314/.403 slash line), so we’ll see if the move to the AL East and Rogers Centre benefits him.

Regardless, we have only begun to witness what Guerrero, the 2021 AL Hank Aaron Award winner, can accomplish in this league. And if Springer, who only played 78 games last season, can stay healthy, that’s a big boost atop the order. In Guerrero, Springer, Hernández, Bichette, Chapman and Gurriel, the Blue Jays have six players projected by Steamer (available at FanGraphs) for at least 20 homers and 20 doubles this year. The only concern is how right-handed they are.

3) White Sox

Last season, the Sox were seventh in the Majors in runs (796) and OPS (.758), and that was with Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez combining for only 527 plate appearances due to injury. A full season of health from those dynamic outfielders, and the sky is the limit on the South Side.

Abreu is one of MLB’s most consistent run-producers, Grandal one of its most productive catchers, Moncada is still only 26 and (as we saw in 2019) capable of a monster year, and Anderson has emerged as an annual threat to win the batting title. Also, don’t sleep on Vaughn, a pure hitter who jumped from Single-A to the big leagues after the lost 2020 Minor League season and will be better for the experience he gained. At full strength, this is one of the most fun lineups in baseball.

4) Braves

The departures of Freeman, Joc Pederson and Jorge Soler mean the Braves’ lineup will look quite a bit different from their October run. But something tells us that between the pending return of Ronald Acuña Jr. (who is not listed in the Opening Day projection but could join the team before the end of April) and the arrival of Olson, they’re probably going to be just fine.

Olson has 89 homers and 65 doubles over the last three seasons, and he drastically cut his strikeout rate last year. Riley’s 2021 breakout (.303/.367/.531) added to the depth and dimension of Atlanta’s lineup. The big X-factors here are how quickly Acuña can get back to his MVP level and how Ozuna, who was injured and then suspended under the domestic violence policy last season, fares in his return.

5) Yankees

While it was strange to see the Yankees forgo the dynamic free-agent shortstop market, prompting questions about what kind of production they’ll get up the middle of the diamond, there’s no denying there’s a load of power and productivity on the corners and at DH in the Bronx. Judge (146), Stanton (141), Donaldson (131), Rizzo (128) and Gallo (124) are all projected by Steamer to post wRC+ marks above 120. If Torres, who is still only 25, can return to his 2019 offensive level and if LeMahieu can shake off his sluggish 2021, all the better.

The usual caveats about the health of Stanton and Judge apply, but bringing in Donaldson and a full season of Gallo puts the Bronx Bombers in good position to surge back from a surprising middle-of-the-pack finish in the MLB slugging percentage pecking order last year.

6) Red Sox

All you really need to know is that, over the last four seasons, Story ranks second in the Majors in extra-base hits (254), Martinez ranks third (249), Devers is tied for eighth (239) and Bogaerts ranks 11th (233). Story is coming off a down year and will have to adjust to a new position, but adding him gives Boston the potential to field one of the most dynamic offensive infields in history.

Of course, while Story’s arrival is a big deal, we can’t ignore that the Red Sox did part ways with Hunter Renfroe, who hit 31 homers and 33 doubles last year, to take a chance on Bradley bouncing back. And Kyle Schwarber, who put up huge numbers after a midseason trade to Boston, is also gone. The performances of Verdugo and Dalbec, both of whom are still establishing themselves, are important X-factors here.

7) Phillies

The Phillies’ gloves aren’t getting any love from the prognosticators, and that’s understandable. But the additions of Schwarber (.928 OPS, 32 homers, 19 doubles in 2021) and Castellanos (.939, 34, 38) instantly make this one of the more attractive lineups in the league.

Last year, Harper became just the 15th player in history with 100 walks, 100 runs, 40 doubles and 35 homers in a season. And yet the Phillies ranked 13th in the Majors in runs (734) and 14th in OPS (.726). The new additions give Harper the support he needs. They also allow Hoskins to hit in a lower-pressure lineup spot. To reach its full potential, the Phillies’ lineup will need Bohm, the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, and Gregorius, who played most of last year with right elbow inflammation, to return to form.

8) Astros

To lose George Springer and Carlos Correa in successive offseasons and still make this list speaks to the absurd level of talent the Astros have. But once again, this team will be tested. Houston is still trying to figure it out in center field, and now the prospect Peña will try to fill Correa’s sizable shoes at short.

Still, with Alvarez (147), Tucker (139), Bregman (139) and Altuve (126) all projected by Steamer to post wRC+ marks above 120, the Astros retain a high floor and one of the most disciplined lineups in MLB. Tucker hilariously batted sixth and seventh in the postseason last year after posting a .294/.359/.557 slash in the regular season, but he has even more opportunity to shine now.

9) Rays

Sure, there are teams with much bigger offensive stars that did not crack this list. But the fact remains that the mixin’, matchin’ mashin’ Rays ranked second in the Majors in runs (857) last season while equaling the Dodgers in slugging percentage (.429) and the Yankees in homers (222).

With largely the same cast that made up their 158 different batting orders returning -- and the phenomenal Franco venturing into his first full season after reaching base in 43 straight games in his rookie year -- the Rays deserve a spot here.

10) Angels

This lineup became way more Ohtani-centric than intended last season. Trout and Rendon combined to play less than 100 games. That the Halos nevertheless managed to outscore the Yankees on the season (723 to 711) is ultimately a credit to Ohtani having the most mesmerizing individual season in history and Walsh further asserting himself with an .850 OPS and 64 extra-base hits.

Hopefully, health will cooperate for Trout and Rendon this time around, because it would give the Angels a terrific enough quartet atop the order to justify this spot in the Top 10. For the Angels to truly reach their ceiling would require breakthroughs for former top prospects Adell and Marsh, and a better on-base mark from Fletcher than they received in his down 2021.

Honorable mentions
The Mets have a lot to prove after last year’s surprising offensive ineptitude, but the offseason acquisitions of Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar will help a lot. … The Twins have an argument to make this list after adding Carlos Correa, but Byron Buxton has to stay healthy and Miguel Sanó and Gary Sánchez have to produce at a high level. … The Padres would be listed above if not for losing Fernando Tatis Jr. for half a season, but there’s still a lot to like about that lineup. … The Nationals have a lot of question marks beyond Juan Soto, Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell, but that’s a really fun 2-3-4. … If Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez find their footing, a Mariners team that added Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez could rise up the ranks quickly. … The Giants ranked a surprising sixth in MLB in runs last year but will have to account for the losses of Buster Posey and 2021 trade acquisition Kris Bryant.