Monday in the Major League Baseball season means it's time for the Official Power Rankings. Here in spring training, we're still going to take care of your content needs, though, and we'll pick something to rank each week. This time around we'll go with the starting lineups. More specifically, which lineup provides the best offense? That's all we care about here this week. Defense, pitching, baserunning, bench depth and anything else is ancillary while the almighty bat runs the show.
It's always fun to discuss and debate this time of year anyway, and the only thing that really hurts my feelings are those pesky laughing emojis on Facebook (for real, I almost cry every single time). Regardless, I shall power ahead. Let's do it.
What teams have the best offense heading into 2023?
One of the best offenses in baseball last season (second in home runs and third in runs scored), the Braves look better this time around. The loss of Dansby Swanson is mitigated by getting a full season of Ozzie Albies, a fully healthy Ronald Acuña Jr. along with another year of comfort for Matt Olson (newcomer in 2022) and Michael Harris (rookie). Vaughn Grissom takes over at short and there have never been questions about his bat. Oh, and they added Sean Murphy behind the plate. This offense is loaded.
If you have one pick to lead the majors in runs scored, take the Braves.
In the Michael Brantley (he only played in 64 games last season). One of the biggest questions last season was how the Astros would replace Carlos Correa, and Jeremy Peña passed the test with flying colors. The mainstays Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are still in their prime while Kyle Tucker is an All-Star and Yordan Alvarez is good enough to win MVP., the champs sit at the top and it wasn't even really a difficult decision. It's a well-rounded ballclub with one of baseball's best pitching staffs and the second-best lineup, says me. The Astros actually ranked seventh in runs last season, but they're better this year. José Abreu is a huge offensive upgrade at first base and we're now looking at a full season of
This is your AL pick for most runs and I wouldn't argue with anyone who wanted to take them over the Braves for the top spot.
The Padres got MVP-caliber work from Manny Machado last season, but otherwise they weren't nearly as good as they can be in 2023.
I don't see any reason Machado has a huge backslide coming. Juan Soto in several ways had the worst offensive season of his career, likely due in part to dealing with the trade rumors and then the actual trade. He lost roughly 70 points in average, 64 in on-base percentage and over 80 in slugging from 2021. He'll get all that back. And he only played in 52 games for the Padres anyway. Fernando Tatis Jr. played in zero and he's capable of an MVP season, especially now that his shoulder and wrist are fixed. He'll miss time finishing up his PED suspension, but he'll be back before May. Xander Bogaerts would be the best hitter on at least a handful of teams, probably more. He's the fourth-best hitter here. Jake Cronenworth is a fine fifth hitter.
Hell of a lineup.
4. Blue Jays
The 2022 Blue Jays felt so disappointing to me in several ways. It's not their fault I picked them to win the World Series, but it is their fault they only scratched the surface of their potential. And yet they still finished fourth in runs scored.
The trade of Teoscar Hernández hurts, sure, but Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and Bo Bichette are capable of much better (we've already seen it from Vlad). George Springer is still an elite leadoff man while the Alejandro Kirk breakout was real. Daulton Varsho is ready for a bigger breakout, too, especially in this lineup and hitting environment. Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt and Whit Merrifield aren't as good as they once were, but that's the bottom half of the lineup. Lots of potency here, not just with the power, though the power is there.
It remains to be seen how the pitching and defense react to Willson Contreras being behind the plate instead of Yadier Molina, but, as noted, this is an offense-only ranking and Contreras is a gigantic upgrade over Molina. Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan are great supporting guys for Contreras and perennial MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. There's a lot more depth, too, because the potential for guys like Juan Yepez, Lars Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson, Nolan Gorman and Tyler O'Neill says this offense could be downright scary when everyone is right. Uber-prospect Jordan Walker isn't far off, either.
Too low? It's possible. The Dodgers led the majors in runs scored by 40 last season. They also lost Justin and Trea Turner. Still, it's a great group. Starting with two MVPs in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman is always going to move the needle. Will Smith is one of the best hitting catchers in baseball and we've seen Max Muncy and J.D. Martinez provide a big punch in recent years.
There are questions, though, which is why they aren't higher. Past Freeman, Betts and Smith it's basically all questions, in fact. Will Muncy bounce back after a brutal 2022? Has Martinez run into his decline phase? Is Gavin Lux ever going to break out? What will the likes of Trayce Thompson, David Peralta, Miguel Vargas and Miguel Rojas provide? How about Chris Taylor?
It's an awful lot of questions and as I've grown accustomed to saying, every question won't be answered in the positive. Still, there's a lot of potential here.
In the second half, the Yankees probably had the most annoying offense in baseball. It just seemed like they should be so much better and not so reliant on a player having one of the greatest offensive seasons ever. They still finished second in baseball in runs scored in 2022.
We could nitpick the rest of the lineup and say there's only so much Aaron Judge can do, but he's back and there isn't much reason to believe he'll be substantially worse. Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton are capable of hot streaks that can carry an offense. Gleyber Torres still has plenty of potential to be great. A full season of Harrison Bader will be interesting. I don't have much faith in Aaron Hicks or any at all in Josh Donaldson, but youngsters Oswald Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera provide upside.
We know the Yankees are polarizing. I'm likely to get many complaints that they are too high with the nonsense trope that it's a "one-man offense," but if anything, I'm too low on them.
I liked them a lot better in December when they "had" Carlos Correa!
Still, this is a solid top half. Brandon Nimmo is a very good table-setter who gets on base. Starling Marte is still a well-above-average offensive player and then it's MVP-potential Francisco Lindor in front of perhaps the best cleanup man in Mets history, Pete Alonso. The high-average, low-strikeout skills of Jeff McNeil make this a very well-balanced offense, too.
Overall, it's a very good, if not great, offense. There's a reason they are in the top eight, after all. I just feel like there's a chance they'll go through more funks than one would expect from a team so talented.
One of the most important things I'll say in this column is to stress that Bryce Harper will likely miss around half the season. That's a big deal and cause for a demotion of several spots. By the end of the season, it's entirely possible the Phillies are sporting a top-three offense in baseball.
Let's focus on all the negatives from last year.
Nick Castellanos was actually, relatively, pretty terrible after finishing 12th in MVP voting for the Reds in 2021. I mentioned the Harper issue this season, but he only played in 99 games last year. Alec Bohm is capable of more and was essentially a league average hitter in the regular season. Bryson Stott was a rookie and had plenty of growing pains. Rhys Hoskins was incredibly inconsistent. They had, basically, dregs in center field before Brandon Marsh for only 41 games.
I'm being mean to the defending NL champs to prove a point: All this happened and they were seventh in the majors in runs scored.
They added Trea Turner. Kyle Schwarber is a great bet to lead the NL in homers, again. JT Realmuto is one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. Castellanos surely can't be worse and he's capable of a huge season. Bohm and Stott are likely to be better. A full season of Marsh should be good. Harper will be on a mission once he's back.
There's a lot to like here.
Yes, the Angels are perpetually overrated in the spring at this point, but if we're zeroing in on the offense -- and dreaming on a fully healthy group -- this is a very talented group. They don't just have two MVP-caliber hitters, they actually have three. No, I'm not counting on Anthony Rendon actually winning MVP, but when he's your third best hitter behind Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, that's stellar. Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Drury were nice, cheap adds in the offseason while Taylor Ward and Jared Walsh are plenty capable of providing plenty of production in supporting roles. They will put runs on the board, at least until the seemingly inevitable injuries hit.