Considering the Best Lineups in the National League – Cubs on Top?

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Considering the Best Lineups in the National League – Cubs on Top?

Analysis and Commentary

Without giving it too much thought, where would you rank the Cubs’ offense in baseball right now, on paper? My quick gut check says it’s gotta be in the top three in the National League, given that I feel at least as good about the offense this year as last year, and that Cubs team scored the second most runs in the NL.

The lineup, which will obviously move around in personnel, figures to look something like this:

1. Albert Almora, Jr./Ian Happ, CF
2. Kris Bryant, 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Willson Contreras, C
5. Kyle Schwarber, LF
6. Addison Russell, SS
7. Jason Heyward, RF
8. Javy Baez/Ben Zobrist, 2B

Not all that dissimilar from last year’s configuration.

By wRC+ last year, which adjusts for league, ballpark, and sets a scale where 100 is average, and any point above or below is a percent better or worse than average, the Cubs were at 101 last year, 8th in baseball. The only NL team ahead of them, though, was the Dodgers. (The Rockies, who scored the most runs in the NL, are all the way down at 27th, thanks to the park adjustment.) By wOBA, which does not adjust, the Cubs were 5th overall, and second in the NL behind the Rockies.

So, then, if you figure the Cubs aren’t worse on offense, and you figure the Dodgers and Rockies did not get appreciably better this offseason, those should be your top three in the NL.

But a new MLB.com ranking doesn’t have any of those three teams on top, instead going with the Nationals (3rd in baseball, behind only the Astros and Yankees). Which, actually, isn’t entirely unfair, given that the on-paper Nationals now project to have Adam Eaton and a full, healthy season of Trea Turner.

The Cubs still rank second in the NL, though (the Red Sox and Indians slide in after the Nationals, so the Cubs are 6th overall). The Dodgers are one spot behind, but only because of Justin Turner’s broken wrist. I do think it’s fair to have the lineups pretty close together on a list like this.

Consider what the Dodgers are working with, even after the loss of Turner:

1. Chris Taylor, CF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Cody Bellinger, 1B
4. Matt Kemp, LF
5. Yasiel Puig, RF
6. Enrique Hernandez, 2B
7. Logan Forsythe, 3B
8. Austin Barnes/Yasmani Grandal, C

Kemp batting cleanup is probably expecting too much, but if Taylor’s breakout was legit, and if Seager/Bellinger continue to be the young studs they appear to be, that’s a killer top three.

The Cardinals are the next NL team on the list, 9th overall, and I can see it:

1. Dexter Fowler, RF
2. Tommy Pham, CF
3. Matt Carpenter, 1B
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Paul DeJong, SS
8. Kolten Wong, 2B

There are some “ifs” in there, but plenty of upside. The Cubs’ lineup is a clear step ahead, but that’s not a bad group in St. Louis.

I think you could make an argument for the Brewers – who did not rank in the MLB.com top ten – right there with the Cardinals:

1. Lorenzo Cain, CF
2. Christian Yelich, LF
3. Ryan Braun/Eric Thames, 1B
4. Domingo Santana, RF
5. Travis Shaw, 3B
6. Eric Sogard, 2B
7. Orlando Arcia, SS
8. Manny Pina, C

Push comes to shove, I’d probably go Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Brewers … which, hey, I guess that’s exactly how MLB.com had it, too.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.