We are not far away from opening night of the 2017 MLB season, and with that comes Prediction Machine's traditional MLB preview. To start things off, we will rank the top ten offenses in baseball.
The offensive rankings are ballpark adjusted and relative to the league, based on our strength-of-schedule-adjusted statistics and current rosters. While parks like Coors Field are great hitters' parks, we account for the ballpark being friendly to batters and adjust their projections accordingly.
Following a bit of a down year from perennial All-Star Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates still sit at number ten in our offensive rankings. They have two up-and-coming stars in Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco. A bounce-back year from McCutchen could be a big help, especially with some doubts that Jung-Ho Kang will be allowed back in the United States after his third DUI in South Korea this offseason. With a heart of the order that features three potential .350 OBP bats in Josh Bell, and the aformentiond McCutchen and Marte, the Pirates can still swing the sticks.
The Mets were able to resign Yoenis Cespedes, which means that they still boast one of the league's best power bats. There are definitely some concerns in the lineup, including Asdrubal Cabrera, who had a big ofensive outbreak last season at shortstop but may struggle to replicate his 119 wRC+ this year. Despite the concerns though, expect a big turnaround from Lucas Duda, who will be looking for a bounce-back of his own after a 91 wRC+ season last year; well below his 122 wRC+ career average.
The Tigers come in at number eight; however, they already took a blow that may impact the beginning of their season. J.D. Martinez is currently out with a foot injury. Nonetheless, they'll still be rostering three pure power hitters in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Justin Upton. After a putrid start to the season, Upton was able to piece together a nice season. Pre-All Star break, Upton supported a 77 wRC+ but after the break, Upton shot all the way up to 140 wRC+ thanks to his 22 home runs. With Martinez potentially missing some time, they'll need the more recent Upton to show up to start the season. If not, Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos will be asked to carry a lot of the load (and they are certainly fully capable).
The Cardinals may not have massive fire power, but pitchers will be hard pressed to find any hole in the lineup outside of the pitcher spot. They were able to add Dexter Fowler in center field to stand between the two youngsters, Stephen Piscotty and Randall Grichuck. Aledmys Diaz had a massive breakout season at shortstop last year where he showed off a very impressive .300/.369/.510 triple slash. Matt Carpenter is the spark plug in the leadoff spot and will now move to first base where he'll be able to focus more on the offensive side of the game. With Aledmys Diaz, Yadier Molina, and Jhonny Peralta rounding out the lineup, it's really tough to identify an easy out in St. Louis.
The Orioles will continue to have firepower on offense. They were able to keep Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Pedro Alvarez this offseason, which means there will be no shortage of power in their lineup, especially when considering that Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Jonathan Schoop also have some serious pop in their bat. Sure, they'll strike out a bunch---potentially more than any other team in baseball---however, they may hit more home runs than any other team as well. Don't be surprised to see six or seven players potentially hit 20 bombs in this stakced lineup.
The Marlins offense is a bit surprising at number five but health is key to them. The Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna outfield is one of the best all-around trios in baseball, who are fully capable of combining for 70 home runs with an average .800 OPS. With Dee Gordon playing an entire season, along with power-hitting Justin Bour, the Marlins offense has a ton of pop and athleticism. They likely won't get the credit they deserve playing in one of the biggest parks in baseball, but with a lineup that features a very underrated hitter in J.T. Realmuto in the seven-hole, this offense is very deep.
The Nationals made a few big moves in the offseason by adding Adam Eaton and Matt Wieters. The Nats really have no apparent hole in the lineup, but the key is obviously Bryce Harper. Harper has had a bit of a roller coaster career thus far, ranging anywhere from a slightly above average hitter to the best in baseball at times. Trea Turner is another young guy to watch this season. In just 324 plate appearances at the shortstop position, he hit 13 home runs with a 147 wRC+. Daniel Murphy will be another weapon for the middle infield after having his career season last year at a .347/.390/.595 triple slash. There is a ton of talent here and if they can get some production out of veterans Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman, the Nats boast one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball.
The Astros move all the way up to third this season with the additions of Nori Aoki and Josh Reddick. Youngster Alex Bregman should get a full season at third base as well, and could potentially hit 25 homers and drive in 85 runs. With Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer making up the middle of the field, they should have a huge season at the plate collectively. Correa, Altuve, and Springer are all projected at an OPS of .800 or more this season. Yulieski Gurriel may get the reigns at first base and while he struggled in his brief stint it the Majors last season with just 137 plate appearances, he could potentially piece things together this season, which would be an added bonus.
In no surprise, the best team in baseball makes an appearance as the second best offense. We can write all day about the excellent Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Ben Zobrist. The interesting pieces for the Cubs this year will be Kyle Schwarber, who is potentially back for a full season in the outfield after a devastating injury last year, as well as, Albert Almora and Addison Russell. Russell was not a plus hitter last year but he showed flashes of power and may not need to be a great hitter with his defensive ability. Almora is a bit of a question mark. He's shown a great skill set in the minors but has been previously blocked in the Cubs outfield until this season. We've all seen what a healthy Kyle Schwarber can do. Though he's advocating to play catcher, it seems Joe Maddon will want to keep his bat in the outfield. In just 278 plate appearances in his brief career, Schwarber has shown immense power, hitting 16 home runs in those appearances. The core of the team will keep them scoring regardless, but the back end of the lineup could have massive potential.
The biggest hole in the top offense in baseball seems to be Andre Ethier, who has a career 123 wRC+. Yasmani Grandal, Corey Seager, Yasiel Puig, and Joc Pederson are all under 30. Despite the frustrations with Puig, it seems the front office has moved on from their reservations with him, which is obviously a key to their offense. The Dodgers made two of the most underrated additions of the offseason as well in Logan Forsythe and Franklin Gutierrez. Forsythe and Gutierrez will likely be platooning with Chase Utley and Ethier, respectively, to get optimal match ups against left and right-handed pitchers. We shouldn't push aside veterans Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez, either, who will both hit in the middle of the lineup. Simply put, this lineup is deadly.
Red Sox - Sandoval, Moreland, and Leon at the bottom of the order are a trio of question marks.
Rockies - Colorado's offensive numbers are extremely inflated due to half of their games being played at Coors Field.
Blue Jays - Absence of Edwin Encarnacion leaves a void in the lineup. Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera, Melvin Upton Jr. and Justin Smoak are all minus bats.
Indians - Top of the lineup is stacked but Lonnie Chisenhall, Yan Gomes, and Giovanny Urshela leave much to be desired.
Rangers - Lots of pop here but Carlos Gomez atop the lineup is not ideal, while the bats of Nomar Mazara, Elvis Andrus, and Jurickson Profar are far from consistent.