My Community Ranking the Top 10 MLB lineup for 2020

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  • Posted By : admin
  • Posted On : Mar 23, 2020
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  • Category : MLB
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Overview



  • This unusual situation we’re all navigating has temporarily taken away our ability to watch baseball games … but it hasn’t taken away our ability to analyze and argue about baseball! So let’s move forward with our annual lists of MLB’s top 10 lineups, rotations, and bullpens.

    For this lineup list, one stat I’ll cite frequently is weighted runs created plus (wRC+). This quantifies run production with important external factors (ballparks and the offensive environment) taken into account, with 100 being the league average -- so a 120 wRC+ is 20 percent better than league average, while an 80 is 20 percent worse.


    This is important to note, because a team like the Rockies will always rate well in terms of runs scored (ninth in MLB last year), but didn’t rate nearly as well in wRC+ (26th). The context matters. (You can read all about this in my forthcoming book, “
    A Fan’s Guide to Baseball Analytics.”)


    With that in mind, these are the 10 lineups that I think would fare best, regardless of the environment, in 2020. As always, these are subject to change … and argument.


    1 -- Dodgers



    1) Mookie Betts, RF

    2) Max Muncy, 1B

    3) Justin Turner, 3B

    4) Cody Bellinger, CF

    5) A.J. Pollock, LF

    6) Corey Seager, SS

    7) Will Smith, C

    8) Gavin Lux, 2B


    The focus is understandably on the MVPs in the leadoff and cleanup spots, but don’t lose sight of the overall complexion here. No. 2 hitter Muncy has 70 homers and a .927 OPS over the last two seasons, and Turner (No. 3) has posted wRC+ marks anywhere from 123 (above-average) to 158 (excellent) in each of the last six seasons. You’ve got Seager -- a 2016 National League MVP finalist finally entering a season healthy -- lurking in the No. 6 spot. And don’t sleep on Lux, who has one of the highest-rated
    hit tools of any prospect in the game.


    Elsewhere, the Dodgers mix and match a lot from their bloated bench to gain the matchup edge within games. An NL team will inherently not have quite as much firepower as an American League unit while punting away opportunities in the No. 9 spot, but the devastatingly deep Dodgers could hold their own in either league.

    2 -- Twins



    1) Jorge Polanco, SS

    2) Josh Donaldson, 3B

    3) Nelson Cruz, DH

    4) Max Kepler, RF

    5) Miguel Sanó, 1B

    6) Luis Arraez, 2B

    7) Mitch Garver, C

    8) Eddie Rosario, LF

    9) Byron Buxton, CF

    It would be naive to expect the Twins, as a group, to duplicate their rate of production from 2019, when they set a team home run record. But the addition of Donaldson helps stave off potential regression. Granted, Donaldson is 34 and Cruz is 39, so the Twins are banking on age not catching up to them. And if defense was considered in this conversation, the Twins wouldn’t rank this high.


    But you can’t get any deeper than this: Every single member of the Twins’ starting nine is projected by Steamer (available at
    FanGraphs.com) to log at least 350 plate appearances and post a wRC+ mark that is better than the league average. No other team can say that. And utility man Marwin Gonzalez gives the Twins 10 such players.

    3 -- Astros



    1) George Springer, CF

    2) Alex Bregman, 3B

    3) José Altuve, 2B

    4) Carlos Correa, SS

    5) Yordan Alvarez, DH

    6) Yuli Gurriel, 1B

    7) Michael Brantley, LF

    8) Josh Reddick, RF

    9) Martín Maldonado, C

    Whenever this thing starts back up, the Astros will still be seen as the enemy to a bevy of baseball fans. The mental side of this sport is never to be underestimated, and it’s anybody’s guess how they’ll handle that public scrutiny. So the Astros, despite leading MLB in wRC+ last year, got dinged a couple spots here because of the sheer unknown associated with their highly unusual situation.


    On paper, though, Houston obviously retains one of the deepest and most balanced lineups in MLB, with both patience and power and an argument to be No. 1 on this list. A full season of Alvarez, who had a historic rookie year after arriving in June, provides added upside, as does the possibility that
    Kyle Tuckerblossoms and begins to assert himself in the right field.

    4 -- Yankees



    1) DJ LeMahieu, 2B

    2) Aaron Judge, RF

    3) Gleyber Torres, SS

    4) Giancarlo Stanton, DH

    5) Gary Sánchez, C

    6) Luke Voit, 1B

    7) Mike Tauchman, LF

    8) Brett Gardner, CF

    9) Gio Urshela, 3B

    This delay buys time for Judge (stress fracture of right rib) and Stanton (right calf strain) to get healthy, so I’ll pencil them in here -- though the durability of both big sluggers is certainly an open question. Aaron Hicks(Tommy John surgery) could also be back in June.

    The Yankees have the depth to handle adversity, as we saw in 2019 when LeMahieu (136 wRC+), Urshela (132), Tauchman (128) and Voit (126) took on unexpectedly prominent roles. Whether those guys can deliver similar in a new season is unknown, but it seems reasonable to suspect that Torres’ star is just beginning to shine after he posted a 125 wRC+ in 604 plate appearances at age 22. Even when battling injuries last year, Sánchez (116) put up particularly positive production for his position, and Miguel Andújar’s return from shoulder surgery makes him an interesting option at multiple spots.

    5 -- A's



    1) Marcus Semien, SS

    2) Matt Chapman, 3B

    3) Matt Olson, 1B

    4) Khris Davis, DH

    5) Ramón Laureano, CF

    6) Mark Canha, LF

    7) Stephen Piscotty, RF

    8) Sean Murphy, C

    9) Franklin Barreto, 2B


    The A's essentially return the group that posted the fifth-highest team wRC+ mark (107) in baseball last season. It’s an underrated cast, as tends to be the case in Oakland.


    Even though second base is a question, this is an all-world infield in which Semien (third) and Olson (sixth) ranked in the top 10 among qualifiers at their position in wRC+ last season, while Chapman was 12th. Davis returned to his homer rate of old -- he hit north of 40 from 2016-18 -- after a down year would augment the effort. Laureano is so-far known mostly for his unbelievable arm, but he had a .358/.411/.679 slash in 125 plate appearances in the second half and upped his launch angle last season, leading to a jump in homers.

    6 -- Mets



    1) Jeff McNeil, 3B

    2) Pete Alonso, 1B

    3) Michael Conforto, RF

    4) J.D. Davis, LF

    5) Robinson Canó, 2B

    6) Wilson Ramos, C

    7) Brandon Nimmo, CF

    8) Amed Rosario, SS


    For the first time in a long time, there’s as much reason to be intrigued and optimistic about the Mets’ offense as their starting staff. That’s a credit to Alonso coming off a rookie season for the ages (Major League-leading 53 homers), McNeil coming off All-Star output of his own (.318/.384/.531 slash), Conforto coming off his best full season (33 homers, 29 doubles), Davis proving a revelatory pickup (.895 OPS, 45 extra-base hits) and Rosario putting up a strong second half (.319 average, .351 OBP), among other factors.


    Imagine if Nimmo can get back to his 2018 level of production when he had a 148 wRC+ that ranked fifth among qualified outfielders in MLB and/or if Canó turns back the clock. Hey, maybe they’ll even get something out of
    Yoenis Céspedes, too.