Earlier this week, we discussed the worst starting lineup in baseball this year, led by players batting under the Mendoza line, poor defense and high ERAs. Today we bring you the opposite. These players are guys you can count on each night to deliver quality at bats, hustle on the field and dynamite pitching. Here is the best lineup in baseball this year in terms of WAR.
Starting Pitcher – Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals)
This has been a dog race all year between three studs in the NL East: Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Aaron Nola. Scherzer has the edge over the two currently thanks to a superior WHIP (0.89), higher strikeout totals (234) and a solid 2.11 ERA to make this list for the second straight season. Scherzer has been the one consistently brilliant piece of a disappointing Nationals team.
Relief Pitcher – Blake Treinen (Oakland Athletics)
Cast away last year during the midseason after struggling with the Nationals, Treinen has found his footing again and has been lights out with Oakland. He has blown four saves, but he has also converted 32 of them and carried a microscopic 0.87 ERA and strikes out 12.48 batters per nine innings. His 3.4 WAR is better than Clayton Kershaw.
Catcher – J.T. Realmuto (Miami Marlins)
The one good player who failed to escape the clutches of Miami, many thought Realmuto would struggle without other strong bats in the lineup like Giancarlo Stanton or Christian Yelich, but instead he has risen to the occasion with a .286/.347/.495 slash line – all career highs – and he is one home run away from tying his single-season best of 17. Defensively, he has the second-best caught stealing percentage in the league, throwing out 37.2 percent of potential base stealers.
First Base – Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)
The leader of an upstart Braves team, Freeman leads the NL in batting average (.319) and 20 home runs. He has also been dynamite with the glove as his 10.7 UZR/150 is the best in baseball among first basemen.
Second Base – Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs)
Known for his web gems, Baez has finally reached his power potential in 2018, setting career highs in doubles (33), triples (eight) and home runs (26). His biggest knock, however, is his plate discipline, evidenced by his 116 strikeouts compared to just 18 walks.
Third Base – Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Indians)
Ramirez finally found his power stroke in 2017 and is having a career year in 2018. His 37 home runs, 91 RBI, 28 stolen bases and 84 drawn walks are all career highs and he supports it with a healthy .292 batting average. He has been excellent on defense too, as his 10.4 UZR/150 is second best in baseball among third basemen.
Shortstop – Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles/Los Angeles Dodgers)
Playing his first full season at shortstop, Machado brought a scorching hot bat this year and spent the first half of the season as a star on a terrible Orioles team before being flipped to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. His .273/.363/.453 slash line since being traded isn’t as impressive as it was with Baltimore, but still a very good bat to have at a position that usually lacks offensive production, and he has 29 home runs, giving him the potential to break his career-best 37. What hurts him, surprisingly, is his glove as his -10.7 UZR/150 is the worst in baseball at his position and could factor into free agency as some teams may prefer he returns to third base.
Left Field – Andrew Benintendi (Boston Red Sox)
Benintendi’s emergence has been underplayed a bit due to the stellar play of Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, but he is another reason why Boston has the best outfield in baseball. He owns a slash line of .299/.378/.497, has hit 15 home runes and stolen 20 bases while also saving four runs on defense and owning a respectable 6.4 UZR/150.
Center Field – Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
Trout makes this list for the second straight year and there were talks earlier in the season that he could break Babe Ruth’s single-season WAR record of 14.1. A trip to the disabled list has silenced that chatter. Still, Mike Trout is having another Mike Trout year complete with a .309/.459/.624 slash line, 30 home runs and 21 stolen bases.
Right Field – Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox)
Betts has been one of the reasons why the Red Sox are winning games at a tremendous pace and as baseball’s WAR leader, is firmly in the AL MVP conversation, though he faces stiff competition from his own teammate. He leads the league in batting average, has slugged 27 homes runs, swiped 24 bags and has struck out just 69 times compared to 60 walks.
Designated Hitter – J.D. Martinez (Boston Red Sox)
Martinez wasn’t signed until Feb. 26 due to baseball’s freezing cold hot stove, but he has since then spent the entire season punishing those who didn’t sign him. He leads all of baseball in two of the three triple crown categories and his .333 batting average is second only to teammate Mookie Betts for the best mark in baseball. He does have a high strikeout total, but considering the total damage he has done with his bat, we’re willing to look past it.