By Joe Sparacio
There are plenty of good lineups in baseball, but only a few elite ones. Here, we take a look at the best hitters usually batting back-to-back-to-back, a full inning of absolute terror for opposing pitchers. In the case of many of these teams, there is often a fourth or fifth player equally intimidating in the order (we're thinking of guys like Jake Lamb, Francisco Lindor and Anthony Rendon), but for the sake of symmetry, let's just stick to threes for this excericise.
10. D-backs: A.J. Pollock/David Peralta/Paul Goldschmidt
Goldschmidt is the team's franchise player, but don't forget about Peralta. His speed and contact ability make him a valuable bat at the top of the lineup. He's two seasons removed from a 17-homer season in which he batted .312, and despite playing in just 76 games this season, he's on pace to match that power output along with 10 steals, nearly 100 runs scored and a batting average above .300 again. Meanwhile, Pollock is the leadoff man that most teams dream of. While he hasn't been a beacon of health (he's only played in 52 games over the last two seasons), he has still swiped 11 bags this year and packs enough power to accompany his speed.
9. Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton/Christian Yelich/Marcell Ozuna
Take the most prolific slugger in the game, bat him second, then throw a contact hitter like Yelich behind him and another blossoming All-Star in Ozuna behind him. What do you get? Tons of production. Ozuna led the NL in RBIs heading into the weekend (67), and that's thanks to Yelich's ability to get on base (the 25-year-old has never had a career OBP below .360). Stanton is doing what he always does, and that's hit monster home runs. He already has 24 of them, while Ozuna is on pace to break 40 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored. Best part about this trio? None of them is older than 27.
8. Indians: Michael Brantley/Edwin Encarnacion/Jose Ramirez
Ramirez has made his first All-Star team thanks to an incredible first half. The infielder is on pace for 30 homers, nearly 20 steals and 120 runs scored, all with a batting average over .330 and an OBP over .380. This didn't come out of nowhere, though, as he set career-highs in every statistic last year and is on pace to do it again. Encarnacion was the Indians' big offseason acquisition this year, and he's finally starting to look like his old self, with 18 homers to go along with nearly 50 RBIs and over 50 runs scored heading into the weekend. Finally, Brantley rounds out the trio thanks to his ability to get on base. The man has a nice comeback story this year after dealing with so many nagging injuries in 2016, and he's made his way onto the All-Star team after batting over .300 with an OBP over .360.
7. Rockies: Charlie Blackmon/DJ LeMahieu/Nolan Arenado
The Rockies lineup is very deep, and that's even with Carlos Gonzalez struggling this season. Arenado will be starting the All-Star Game at third base after leading the National League in RBIs for two straight seasons. There's nothing that the third baseman can't do, as he entered the weekend leading the league in doubles and RBIs yet again while batting over .300. LeMahieu won the batting title last season and has kept a solid pace yet again, with an average over .300. He's also driven in 41 runs, on pace to shatter his career-high mark. And Blackmon is having an incredible year out of the leadoff spot, as he is leading the NL in hits and triples heading into this weekend while setting a pace to break his career-high in home runs. If this trio didn't get docked slightly for their splits away from Coors field, they'd likely be in the top three on this list.
6. Red Sox: Mookie Betts/Dustin Pedroia/Xander Bogaerts
All three guys rank in the top 25 in wOBA from 2016-17, with batting averages of .299 or higher and OBPs of .358 or better. Betts and Bogaerts also fall in the top 10 of runs scored over the past two years, with Pedroia not far behind. All this is to say that this trio gets on base like crazy, knocks a lot of hits and scores a lot of runs. It is quite annoying for pitchers to face three straight hitters that thrive on contact, speed and hustle and the Red Sox top of the order epitomizes this. Oh and let's not forget that Betts is on pace for a 30-30 season again in homers and steals.
5. Cubs: Ben Zobrist/Kris Bryant/Anthony Rizzo
Zobrist may not have the same power or speed as some of the other guys on this list, but his ability to get on base makes the two elite bats behind him all the more devastating. And while it's always tough to follow up an MVP-caliber season, Bryant is doing just fine. He had four hits and two homers on Friday night and now has 18 for the season to go with 56 runs scored and an OBP hovering around .400. Rizzo is right there ahead of him. The first baseman is the model of consistency, on pace to break 30 homers and 100 RBIs with an OBP over .380 once again (he's done this in two straight seasons already).
4. Nationals: Bryce Harper/Daniel Murphy/Ryan Zimmerman
Murphy, Harper and Zimmerman are in the top 10 in RBIs in the National League. Two are in the top 10 in runs scored and all three are in the top 20. From 2016-17, Murphy has driven in the fifth-most runs in the game, with Harper not too far behind. All three of them have made the All-Star Game this season. There's a reason why the Nationals are arguably the team to beat in the National League.
3. Yankees: Aaron Judge/Gary Sanchez/Didi Gregorius
While Gregorius may be better known for his defensive capabilities than his offensive prowess, you don't get to the All-Star Game Final Vote by just being good at defense (or by giving out free subway swipes). The shortstop is having the best offensive season of his career, one year after hitting 20 homers and driving in 70 runs. Meanwhile, Judge and Sanchez (both T-Mobile Home Run Derby participants) rank second and seventh in wOBA respectively.
2. Dodgers: Corey Seager/Justin Turner/Cody Bellinger
Last year's NL Rookie of the Year and all-but-decided this year's NL Rookie of the Year form a sandwhich around Turner, who is a first-time All-Star with the Dodgers. That doesn't make the third baseman a weak link, however. Turner is actually leading the league in both batting average and OBP, and he's been a revalation in Los Angeles ever since he he got there in 2014, averaging .309/.382.503. Seager, meanwhile, is 11th in runs scored since he's entered the league to go along with a batting average over .300 and a .375 OBP. That leaves Bellinger, the rookie phenom who has already hit 24 home runs in under 70 games.
1. Astros: George Springer/Jose Altuve/Carlos Correa
Springer is on pace to break the leadoff home run record. Altuve and Correa are both on pace to break the franchise WAR record. All three guys are starting on the All-Star team. Yep, these three guys are tough to match. Combined, this combo leads all others on the list in runs scored and RBIs over the past two seasons combined. Springer has elevated his game to new heights this season from the leadoff spot and is on pace to set career-highs in home runs, OBP and batting average. Altuve just notched a franchise-record four straight games with three hits. And Correa is firmly entrenched in the MVP conversation, trailing only Trout and Judge in the AL in WAR.
Just Missed the Cut:
Robinson Cano/Nelson Cruz/Kyle Seager
Corey Dickerson/Evan Longoria/Logan Morrison
Josh Donaldson/Justin Smoak/Jose Bautista
Agree with this ranking? Disagree? Did I leave any group out? Let me know in the comments or tweet at me why I'm wrong.
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Joe Sparacio is an associate producer for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @joetsparacio.