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30 offensive catalysts -- 1 for each team

March 26, 2019

Winning a baseball game is a team effort, and every team has a player whose presence alone seems to spark the offense. These catalysts run the gamut -- from proven power hitters to youngsters who will carry the team. Some of them haven't even played a regular-season game for their

Winning a baseball game is a team effort, and every team has a player whose presence alone seems to spark the offense. These catalysts run the gamut -- from proven power hitters to youngsters who will carry the team. Some of them haven't even played a regular-season game for their teams yet, but their track records with other teams mean we know what to expect.

Below, you'll find each team's offensive catalyst.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Baltimore Orioles
Trey Mancini: Now 27, Mancini still sports the most upside on the roster, and he inherits this role almost by default. Questions surround Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis. Unproven players litter the rest of the lineup. Mancini regressed after placing third in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2017, but he's the guy here, whether he likes it or not. -- Joe Trezza

Boston Red Sox
Mookie Betts: Betts is the catalyst everyone would love to have. There’s nothing he can’t do on the baseball field. Betts stands out with his power, yet he also won the batting title last year. He is also a weapon on the bases. Defensively? Betts is merely the best right fielder in the game, mastering the art of Fenway’s tricky patch of space out there like no one since Dwight Evans. He also has a cannon for an arm. The Red Sox have Betts under their contractual control for two more years and hope the arrangement winds up lasting a lot longer than that. -- Ian Browne

New York Yankees
Aaron Judge: Any question about Judge's impact on the Yankees' lineup seemed to be settled last summer, when the slugger was hit by a pitch that fractured his right wrist. From July 26 until Judge's return to the lineup on Sept. 18, the Yankees were 27-22, scoring 4.86 runs per game. Though there were other factors at play, they had been 64-36 before that errant Jakob Junis fastball smashed Judge's wrist. New York finished the regular season 73-39 when Judge played, scoring an average of 5.42 runs in those games. -- Bryan Hoch

Tampa Bay Rays
Tommy Pham: While many thought the Rays would be selling at last year’s Trade Deadline, they surprised by trading for Pham early in the day. Pham is known for playing the game hard and with intensity, which ended up being helpful to a young team. Pham hit .343 as a member of the Rays, and the team went 27-12 with him in the lineup and 5-6 when he missed some time due to injury. -- Juan Toribio

Toronto Blue Jays
Randal Grichuk: The Blue Jays don't have a prototypical leadoff man, so instead they are going with a home run threat at the top of the lineup. Enter Grichuk, who bounced back from a rough start in 2018 to hit .271/.319/.553 over the final four months. He might not walk much, but the power should be there. -- Gregor Chisholm

AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox
Jose Abreu: The White Sox feature top young talents such as Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada in their lineup, with Eloy Jimenez soon to join them. But it’s Abreu who is the driving force. In his sixth year with the White Sox, Abreu remains one of the American League’s top middle-of-the-order presences and the team’s true game-changer. He is back at full strength and poised to put up the same strong numbers in what might be his final year with the White Sox before free agency. -- Scott Merkin

Cleveland Indians
Jose Ramirez: Ramirez’s 7.9 WAR last season, as calculated by Baseball Reference, speaks for itself when it comes to his value to the Indians. But even though his numbers were enough to place him third in the MVP Award voting, he hit .174 in September before going 0-for-11 in the postseason. When Ramirez is hot, the team starts rolling. And in a season with a lot of new bats, the Indians will need him to get into a good rhythm at the plate. -- Mandy Bell

Detroit Tigers
Josh Harrison: While the Tigers have run producers with Miguel Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos, they needed a table-setter badly enough to sign Harrison in Spring Training. While his career .317 on-base percentage is comparatively low, his aggressiveness on the basepaths fits the mind-set manager Ron Gardenhire is trying to instill in his team. -- Jason Beck

Kansas City Royals
Adalberto Mondesi: It’s hard not to put Whit Merrifield in this role after he led the Majors in hits (192) and stolen bases (45). But rising five-tool star Mondesi likely will be the key to the Royals’ offense in 2019. Mondesi, who hit 14 home runs and stole 32 bases in less than half a season in 2018, has club officials pondering what his ceiling might be. Is Mondesi a 25- to 30-homer guy who can steal 70-80 bases? “Easily, he could do that,” one American League scout said. “When he’s on the field, he’s probably always the best player on the field.” Mondesi also could be a candidate to win a Gold Glove Award -- he has the range and the cannon arm to do so. -- Jeffrey Flanagan

Minnesota Twins
Nelson Cruz: The Twins scored the most runs among non-playoff teams in the American League last season with a young core featuring Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Polanco. Minnesota should once again score plenty of runs after adding the ageless Cruz as the centerpiece of that lineup. Cruz has at least 37 homers and 93 RBIs in each of the past five seasons, and he'll get plenty of opportunities to showcase his consistent run-producing ability batting behind Kepler and Polanco, the Twins' most selective hitters. -- Do-Hyoung Park

AL WEST

Houston Astros
Jose Altuve: The Astros have big-time star power in the lineup with George Springer, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Michael Brantley, but Altuve is what makes the Astros’ offense go. Altuve played on a bum knee in the second half of last year. He’s healthy and eager to return to his MVP form of 2017. -- Brian McTaggart

Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout: Trout is the engine that makes the Angels go as a true five-tool talent, and the consensus best player in baseball isn't going anywhere after signing a 12-year, $426.5 million extension last week that will keep him with the club through the 2030 season. -- Rhett Bollinger

Oakland A’s
Khris Davis: Davis is undoubtedly the star of the show here. He’s the A’s most vital offensive cog, a force to be reckoned with in the middle of their lineup. Oakland’s cleanup hitter has more home runs than any other player since the start of the 2016 season. -- Jane Lee

Seattle Mariners
Mitch Haniger: The All-Star outfielder is one of the few holdovers from the 2018 club, and there's a good reason the Mariners chose to build around the 28-year-old California native. Haniger is a five-tool player capable of hitting anywhere in the lineup. He could lead off to start the season while Mallex Smith is sidelined, filling a role he excelled in the final two months of last season. But he's also a capable run producer and had the highest bWAR on the team last year at 6.1 while slugging 26 homers with 93 RBIs. -- Greg Johns

Texas Rangers
Nomar Mazara: Mazara replaces Adrian Beltre in the cleanup spot and is the link between two sets of hitters. He will bat behind the table-setters: Delino DeShields, Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and possibly Rougned Odor. Behind him will be the power guys: Joey Gallo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Ronald Guzman. Mazara is the one guy in the lineup who has had a 100-RBI season, and he has the talent to do much more. -- TR Sullivan

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Atlanta Braves
Freddie Freeman: Josh Donaldson is capable of winning another MVP Award, and Ronald Acuna Jr. could soon capture his first. But the value of their production will be significantly influenced by the other MVP candidate who will bat between them. If Freeman regains some power and continues to be one of the game’s best three-hole threats, he’ll force pitchers to remain aggressive against Donaldson and consistently provide run-producing opportunities for Acuna in the cleanup spot. -- Mark Bowman

Miami Marlins
Brian Anderson: Now that J.T. Realmuto has been traded to the Phillies, Anderson is the new face of the franchise. The 25-year-old finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting, and with the ability to hit to all fields, he is one of the top young third basemen in the National League. -- Joe Frisaro

New York Mets
Brandon Nimmo: The Mets are confident in the middle of their order, with Robinson Cano and Michael Conforto providing left-handed thump. The question is how much Nimmo, now their full-time leadoff hitter, can do to set the table in his age-26 season. Last year, Nimmo's .404 on-base percentage trailed only Joey Votto among qualified National League hitters. -- Anthony DiComo

Philadelphia Phillies
Bryce Harper: The Phillies signed Harper to a then-record-breaking 13-year, $330 million contract earlier this month to help them try to win the third World Series championship in franchise history. If Harper posts numbers like he did in 2015, when he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award, or 2017, when he posted a 1.008 OPS, the Phillies’ offense is going to be fun to watch. Even if he hits like he did in the second half of last season (.972 OPS), the offense will be tough to hold down. -- Todd Zolecki

Washington Nationals
Juan Soto: How much will the Nats miss Bryce Harper? It might depend on his replacement. If Soto is capable of repeating or, gulp, improving on his special rookie season, the Nats will be fine in the middle of the order. If the league adjusts to Soto in year two, the offense could have a huge hole where Harper left. -- Jamal Collier

NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs
Kris Bryant: The offensive tailspin experienced by Chicago over the final two months of 2018 was greatly influenced by the ineffectiveness of an injury-impacted Bryant. The former NL MVP dealt with a left shoulder issue that forced him to alter his swing, sapping his power (.460 slugging percentage in 2018 vs. .527 from 2015-17). What Bryant needed was a solid rest period, and he got that in October after the Cubs' early exit. Now healthy, Bryant is the key to unlocking the lineup's full potential. -- Jordan Bastian

Cincinnati Reds
Joey Votto: One of the best hitters of this generation, the first baseman will certainly need to have his usual high level of production for Cincinnati to be successful. Although he led the NL in on-base percentage, Votto had what he considered a very disappointing 2018 season as he batted .284/.417/.419 with 12 home runs and 67 RBIs in 145 games. Now age 35, Votto will likely move from third to second in the lineup and should provide chances for others to drive him in. -- Mark Sheldon

Milwaukee Brewers
Lorenzo Cain: Christian Yelich is the reigning NL MVP, but Cain is the Brewers’ catalyst atop the lineup and in center field. After signing the richest free-agent contract in club history (five years, $80 million), he delivered a career-best .395 on-base percentage. Coupled with his sensational defense, it produced a 6.9 bWAR that was seventh in the Majors last season, just behind Yelich. -- Adam McCalvy

Pittsburgh Pirates
Starling Marte: During Marte’s exit interview last season, Pirates management told him that the team tends to go as he goes. So if they’re going to surprise people and contend this season, they need Marte to lead the way. He can contribute in a number of ways, likely from the two-hole, by hitting for average and power while also representing the team’s only true threat on the basepaths. The Pirates aren’t truly built around any one player, however, so they’re going to need high-level production out of Marte, Adam Frazier, Corey Dickerson, Josh Bell, Francisco Cervelli and, eventually, Gregory Polanco. -- Adam Berry

St. Louis Cardinals
Paul Goldschmidt: Goldschmidt profiles as the impact bat the Cards have lacked since Albert Pujols departed and Matt Holliday began to decline. Goldschmidt, acquired via trade in December, ranks second among NL hitters in homers, RBIs, hits, runs, walks and extra-base hits since 2013. He’ll bring that dynamic offensive profile to the second or third spot in the Cardinals’ lineup. -- Jenifer Langosch

NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks
David Peralta: The D-backs installed a humidor in Chase Field last year, but that couldn’t stop Peralta from hitting 30 homers and collecting his first Silver Slugger Award. Peralta got on base at a .352 clip for the second straight year as he filled in at times as the team’s leadoff hitter. At other times he hit third or fourth, showing his offensive versatility. -- Steve Gilbert

Colorado Rockies
Nolan Arenado: The star third baseman has won six straight Gold Glove Awards, tied or led the National League in home runs three of the past four years and been a leader in two straight postseason appearances. But nationally, he was a mid-market curiosity until this spring, when his signing for eight years and $260 million was a signal to all that if he believed the Rockies were cool enough to sign with, just maybe they should be taken seriously as a championship contender. With accomplished hitters Charlie Blackmon, Daniel Murphy and Trevor Story around him, the offense could help ignite the first NL West title in club history. -- Thomas Harding

Los Angeles Dodgers
Justin Turner: The Dodgers have one of the deepest lineups in the league, but Turner is the flywheel that makes everything hum smoothly. He might be the most overlooked superstar in the game, but the team’s offensive struggles when he missed the first six weeks last year with a broken wrist were further proof of what everyone on the team already knew. -- Ken Gurnick

San Diego Padres
Manny Machado: It’s hard to overstate the impact of the Machado signing on the Padres’ offense -- an offense that has finished last in the Majors in OBP in five straight seasons. With Machado on board, the rest of the lineup falls into place. Big bats like Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Franmil Reyes slot in around him. Ian Kinsler is expected to lead off. Luis Urias and Austin Hedges are solid options toward the bottom of the order. Indeed, the Padres finally have that middle-of-the-order bat they’ve been looking to build around. -- AJ Cassavell

San Francisco Giants
Brandon Belt: Belt appeared poised for a monster season last year before an emergency appendectomy and a hyperextended knee waylaid his hot start and limited him to 112 games. Now healthy, the 30-year-old first baseman finished Cactus League play batting .447 with four home runs and at one point hit safely in nine consecutive at-bats. A full season of Belt will be key to boosting the Giants' lineup, which ranked 29th in the Majors with a .667 OPS in 2018. -- Maria Guardado