The MLB is full of talented stars, both on the mound and on the field, and when you combine that with all-time great pitching and legends of the game on their exciting last legs, you can’t help but be excited about the state of the game in 2017. With the curse now broken, the Chicago Cubs look to repeat as World Series champions. The Cleveland Indians are looking for redemption, while teams like the New York Yankees are looking to make it back to baseball relevance.
With all that being said, not everything in the game is quality, as there will again be teams who struggle to compete with the elite, and today we will look at the best and worst of the MLB, specifically the 8 best and 7 worst lineups in the game as we launch into the 2017 season.
15 Best: Seattle Mariners
Ever since their signing of Robinson Cano a few years back, the Mariners have been quietly optimistic about their chances, and now that all their young players are developing in unison with the star duo of Cano and Nelson Cruz, the AL West should definitely be up for grabs, with Seattle right in the thick of it. With Jean Segura now occupying the shortstop position, the lineup finally looks to have the balance of a playoff lineup, and with the always impressive rotation, this might be the year that the Mariners finally take that long awaited next step. With that being said, Mariners fans should proceed with very cautious optimism, as there are still minor holes in the team, but with tradeable pieces in the organization, they could be filled to prime the team for a close battle come October.
14 Worst: Kansas City Royals
It seems like a long time ago now that the Royals reached back-to-back World Series, winning the second for their first title in over 30 years, as they have now been surpassed by much more superior teams in both the American and National League. Despite still having talents like Lorenzo Cain and Alcedis Escobar anchoring the team, the thing that made them special — their constant contact hitting — has now been mastered and improved upon by other teams' pitching units, and with the vast improvements in the Tigers' and Indians' rotations, it’s hard to see the Royals' offense thriving in 2017.
13 Best: New York Yankees
These Yankees may not be the teams of old which feature many household names, but if you ask any die hard baseball fans which team has the most potential for the coming years, you’d be hard pressed to find a team mentioned more often than the hated Yankees. With young studs like Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge ready to play at a major league level and many others waiting, fans may be expecting the Yankees to erupt in a year or two, but don’t be surprised if that stars in 2017. We have already seen what Sanchez is capable of, because if he can keep up his hitting from 2016, we may be looking at an MVP candidate. And with a mix of young and old players around these prospects, the Yankees will be a feared lineup again.
12 Worst: Chicago White Sox
Just one year ago, the White Sox may have found themselves on the other side of this list, with a lineup including Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton, Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu. One year on, the franchise has since dealt Eaton to the Nationals and their biggest bright spot, Chris Sale, to the Red Sox which only adds to the offensive downward spiral. Sure, Frazier and Abreu will no doubt put up great numbers, but with no one to set the table or provide protection behind them, they will be nothing more than a hit-and-miss offense, whose team will no doubt struggle to stay afloat with the likes of the Tigers and Indians reigning supreme in the AL Central.
11 Best: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals, no matter what happens in the offseason or during the season, always seem to rise above it and play to their full potential, but for the first time in a long time, their play in 2016 wasn’t enough to gain them access to the postseason. Don’t expect that to happen again in 2017 though, as the addition of Dexter Fowler at the top of the lineup should reinvigorate a team that has massive amounts of potential at each position. Not many of their players will jump out at the fans as MVP-caliber talents or even All-Stars, but that’s the beauty of the Cardinal organization; they get the best out of each and every player, no matter how good they are, and that will lead to a bounce back season from both their offense and the team as a whole.
10 Worst: Oakland Athletics
Several years ago when the Athletics snagged Jeff Smardzjia from the Cubs at the trade deadline, it looked like the team consisting of several All-Stars could be on the cusp of a long dynasty, but the team then traded them away and went into rebuilding mode. They may have visions of a dominant dynasty in the future, but for now, while they are waiting for draft picks to pan out and young players to develop, the A’s will have to endure a few more years of struggles. In a pitcher-friendly ballpark like the Oakland Coliseum, the offense will rarely be the bright spot on this team, but with so many glaring weaknesses, and no true star power on the offense, it’s no surprise that this team won’t be an offensive juggernaut in 2017.
9 Best: Colorado Rockies
When you play in a ballpark like Coors Field where the ball is constantly flying around, your team will always have the potential to be a top lineup, but with the additions the Rockies made in the offseason to their already potent attack, it’s easy to see why the NL West should be afraid, very afraid. With stars such as Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and the newly-signed Ian Desmond, the Rockies may have found the right balance so that their attack may remain solid not only at home, but on the road as well, where they typically struggle. If the role players around them such as DJ LeMaehiu and Charlie Blackmon can play anywhere near their potential, the Rockies may very well surprise everyone in the baseball world and contend for a playoff berth.
8 Worst: Los Angeles Angels
It’s amazing that a team can make this part of the list with easily the best position player in baseball in Mike Trout and one of the greatest hitters of all time (albeit past his prime) Albert Pujols, but the Angels organization has again struggled to lure big time names or develop stars around these two. If this doesn’t change anytime soon, the team may lose Trout to a big-time spender like the Yankees, and with Pujols’ retirement on the horizon, the franchise will need to move quickly to avoid being on this list for the next four to five years. With Kole Calhoun surrounding this pair, the offense definitely has the potential to go through great stretches, but their lack of depth severely hinders their ability to be a consistent threat.
7 Best: Cleveland Indians
Miraculously, the Cleveland Indians made the World Series in 2016, as they were missing several notable names such as Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Michael Brantley. With the three of them returning in 2017, plus the addition of power hitting Edwin Encarnacion, this team could potentially take it one step further this year. Assuming their health holds up, Brantley and Encarnacion could take this lineup to another level entirely, as they could provide one of the best 3-4 combinations in the majors, which, alongside young star Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis could be very frightening for opposing pitchers. The strength of this team is definitely their rotation and their bullpen (their manager isn’t half- bad either), but in an AL Central where no one stands out as the clear favorite, this stronger lineup could give Cleveland their second straight division title.
6 Worst: Milwaukee Brewers
Even with Ryan Braun, it looks like the Milwaukee Brewers may struggle in 2017, but come the trading deadline, or even before, the team will most likely look to deal it’s biggest star, dealing the franchise a major blow in the short term. With no major firepower in either the rotation or the lineup, it looks like the Brewers may struggle all around for the next few years, especially when you consider the tough competition they have to endue inside their division. Like all teams, they do have their lone bright spots, but until the organization can find a way to develop some stars or become attractive enough to lure in big time free agents, they will be nothing more than canon fodder for the Cubs, Pirates and Cardinals.
5 Best: Boston Red Sox
Despite losing one of their most beloved players of all time in David Ortiz, the Red Sox remain the biggest threat in the American League. But unlike in years past, their offense may not be the focal point on the team. Their rotation, now consisting of Rick Porcello, David Price and Chris Sale looks to be almost unbeatable in the American League, but their offense remains very impressive with some understated players in the organization to go with their stars. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. all made the jump to superstardom in 2016, and if they can continue their impressive improvements, the team should be just fine without Big Papi. They have also added the highly underrated Mitch Moreland through free agency, and if Pablo Sandoval can regain any of his prime form, this team could improve on their fantastic 2016 campaign.
4 Worst: Cincinnati Reds
In 2012, the Cincinnati Reds looked like they were going to go onto the World Series until they were stopped by the eventual Champion Giants in an amazing comeback, and since then, the wheels have really fallen off the franchise. From that team, only one superstar remains in Joey Votto, with the team having moved on from guys like Johnny Cueto and recently Brandon Phillips, and in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in baseball, they will unfortunately struggle in 2017. There was one bright spot for the franchise in 2016, with former Giant Adam Duvall hitting for great power, but outside of him and Votto, the team just isn’t deep or balanced enough to pose any kind of threat to the Cubs, the Cardinals or even the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017.
3 Best: Washington Nationals
It feels like forever that the baseball world has been waiting for the Nationals to finally break out and go on a World Series run, and after another first round exit from the playoffs in 2016, things were looking a bit bleak for the team's future. But this team should again have the same high hopes and expectations they have had for the last several years. Bryce Harper is just about to enter his prime years, and with the emergence of young stars like Trea Turner and the addition of Adam Eaton, the year 2017 should finally be year that Dusty Baker and the Nats live up to all the years of promise. With what feels like the league’s best and deepest rotation, the offense should still be able to succeed even through minor struggles, and that will give them the confidence they need to be a force to be reckoned with.
2 Worst: San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres were once a great and feared franchise in the NL West, but ever since their famous collapse in the 2010 season that allowed the Giants to win their first World Title in over 50 years, they have struggled to find an identity and a team that is even close to capable of contending for a playoff position. Despite promising young stars like Wil Myers in the organization, they won’t be in a position to contend in 2017, as neither their rotation or their offense is up to scratch, especially when compared with powerhouses in the NL West such as the Dodgers and the Giants. Their offensive struggles, much like in 2016, will be at the forefront of the teams lack of success, and it may be a while until the Padres can be considered a contender again.
1 Best: Chicago Cubs
Last year, no one could stop the Cubs, because outside of a few slight slumps, they were the best and most consistent team in the majors, and one of the most dominant teams we have seen in recent memory. What makes this even more impressive is that they did it without one of their most promising young stars, Kyle Schwarber, who made his way back to the lineup for the World Series after missing the entire season. He then picked up right where he left off from the 2015 post-season. The Cubs may have lost Dexter Fowler to the rival Cardinals, but with their young catcher Wilson Contreras and their star players Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and so on improving as the years go by, it’s easy to imagine that the Cubs will again be dominant on the back of their potent attack as well as an impressive rotation.