Originally written on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 2/15/13
Sports come down to one thing: winning. It’s easy really. Score more points than the other team. It’s easier to do that when you have these guys in the middle of the lineup. Here are the top “heart of the orders” in baseball. 9 – Baltimore Orioles: Nick Markakis – Adam Jones – Matt Wieters Nick Markakis is one of the most underrated players in the league, mostly because one part of his game doesn’t stand out. But he does everything well. He hovers around .300 with good gap power, and is a great player to be hitting in front of two of the league’s budding stars. Adam Jones could be the most athletic player in the game. Already a two time all-star and gold glove winner, Jones eclipsed the 30 homerun mark last year. Wieters, boasting the same accolades as Jones, has some of the best pop from any catcher in the league. This could be a real breakout season for him. These guys will help prove the O’s are for real. 8 – Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen – Garrett Jones – Pedro Alvarez The Pirates? Absolutely. If it weren’t for the ridiculousness of Mike Trout a year ago, McCutchen would have been talked about even more. He was an all-star, gold glover, and silver slugger winner a year ago, the MLB 13: The Show cover athlete, and was third in MVP voting. He’s fantastic to watch, and it will be fun to see if he can repeat his numbers this season. Garrett Jones is the weak link in the group and still hit 27 dingers last year. If Pedro Alvarez could cut down on his strikeouts, he would be one of the top third basemen in the league. His raw power is tremendous; the Pirates are hoping he can follow up with another 30 homer year. 7 – San Francisco Giants: Pablo Sandoval – Buster Posey – Hunter Pence Everyone remembers Sandoval’s huge postseason for the Giants, but he didn’t really have his best year during the regular season. He played well enough in the first half to be named an all-star, but struggled with injuries throughout. If he comes to play in postseason form, watch out. Buster Posey is quickly becoming one of the faces of the MLB. The reigning NL MVP has established himself as the best catcher at the plate, and he’s not too shabby behind the dish either. Posey is tons of fun to watch. Pence really struggled after coming over from the Phillies last year, but I think we see him creep back around .300 this year and help make the Giants a contender to repeat. 6 – Colorado Rockies: Carlos Gonzalez – Troy Tulowitzki – Michael Cuddyer Let me start by saying Michael Cuddyer is a fine player in his own right, but he is not the reason the Rockies make this list. Gonzalez and Tulo rival any other 3-4 combo in the league. Both have had their share of injuries, especially Tulowitzki with his groin last year, but both are 100% coming into camp. They’ll each hit around or above .300 with 25-30 homers and 100 RBI with a full season. Not many teams can boast that talent. As for Cuddyer, well let’s just say there should be some runners for him to drive in. Let’s see if he can get the job done. 5 – Atlanta Braves: Justin Upton – Freddie Freeman – BJ Upton You always have to have concerns when you see a team trade a star in his mid-20s, especially when the return wasn’t a big haul, but Justin Upton can play. With protection in front of him with Jason Heyward, and behind him, and playing alongside his brother, expect Upton to have a big year. Freddie Freeman is one of the best up-and-coming first basemen in the league, and I think we see a bunch of his doubles turn into homeruns this year. BJ Upton brings something Michael Bourn didn’t have: power. He can still wreck havoc on the base paths, but can crank some out of the park too. Can he hit the 30 mark in a stacked Braves lineup? 4 – Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista – Edwin Encarnación – Brett Lawrie No set of teammates has the amount of raw power as Bautista and Encarnación. It really wouldn’t surprise me if they combined to close in on 100 homers. With all the offseason additions from the Jays, these two will have to be pitched to. Bautista is said to be completely healthy, which is a scary thing for opposing pitchers. Can Encarnación match his 42 homer total from last year? Brett Lawrie is another up-and-coming player. He is a high motor player with the ability to make tons of great plays in the field and in the box. We better keep an eye out for the new look Jays. 3 – Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp – Adrian Gonzalez – Hanley Ramirez Matt Kemp is just a tremendous player, but is another one coming off of injuries last year. He was a homer away from the 40-40 club in 2011, I think that’s the Kemp we see this year. Gonzalez came over in the midseason trade with the Red Sox, and didn’t play like his normal self. With the offseason to gel, I think he becomes more comfortable in the lineup. Hanley Ramirez saw a substantial increase in his numbers after being acquired midseason from the Marlins. When he is focused and gives full effort, there aren’t many better than him. 2 – Los Angeles Angels – Albert Pujols – Josh Hamilton – Mark Trumbo 196: The number of home runs these three players have hit the past two seasons. And why not throw in 191 doubles in that time span as well? They are tremendous ballplayers who just know how to hit. There’s not much to say here. With Mike Trout at the top of the order, and these guys in the middle, I’d make sure to bring a couple extra pairs of underwear if I’m the opposing pitcher. 1 – Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera – Prince Fielder – Victor Martinez The Tigers get the slight nod at the number one spot because they have the best hitter in the game, Miguel Cabrera. Miggy is as consistent as any player in the league, as evidenced by the Triple Crown he won last year. And for being such a big hitter, he really doesn’t strike out all that much, never an easy out. It’s scary to think behind him there’s another guy who’s a lock for at least 30 HR and 100 RBI. And “At least” are the key words there. Martinez is back after a knee injury sidelined him last season. If he can continue to hit like he did pre-ACL tear, the Tigers could be going right back to the Series. -Edwards
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