PL Best in Baseball: Infields

Highlighting the most impressive infield groups for the 2024 season.

Welcome back to our Best in Baseball series!

Earlier this week, we covered some of the best lineups in baseball, focusing exclusively on the offensive side of the game as we worked through the most explosive teams in the league. This week, we’re shifting the focus a little bit as we start breaking things down by positional groups, starting with an in-depth look at the best infields around the league.

Offense is still going to be a crucial part of this ranking, but we’re also taking into account the defensive side of the ball and seeing which teams excel at flashing the leather and keeping the ball in front of the outfield grass. Of course, when you’re accounting for two different factors in these rankings, things get a little more subjective–but that’s part of the fun, after all.

Without further ado, here are our top five infield groups heading into 2024:


1. Texas Rangers


Starting Infield:

The defending champs have an infield filled with star power, headlined by the 2023 AL MVP runner-up in Corey Seager. It’s hard to finish that high in MVP voting when you miss 43 games, but Seager certainly made a case for the MVPNNS (Most Valuable Player Not Named Shohei) award as he walloped 33 home runs and posted an extremely impressive .327/.390/.623 slash line. Seager also displays plus defense at the position, finishing as a Gold Glove finalist in 2023 with five DRS and one OAA.

Marcus Semien was among the most reliable hitters serving as the Rangers’ leadoff man, leading the AL in hits and runs without missing a single game. Semien finished third in MVP voting behind Seager, vindicating the expensive contracts given to these players following the 2021 season (seems like good things happen when you sign good players, huh?). Semien was also an elite defender, finishing second in DRS (18) and fourth in OAA (15) amongst second basemen as a Gold Glove finalist.

Winning the Gold Glove for AL first basemen was Nathaniel Lowe, who posted three DRS and five OAA en route to his first such award. Lowe’s offensive numbers were down across the board in 2023 compared to the previous year, but he’s shown an ability to be a plus contributor on offense and defense. If he can put it all together in a single season, this Rangers offense can get even scarier. Manning third base across the diamond is Josh Jung, who missed the end of the season with a thumb fracture. Though he’s battling a calf strain, Jung figures to get most of the work at third this season after posting a .781 OPS in his first full season of work. As long as Jung can get healthy in time for Opening Day, the Rangers will boast the best overall infield heading into 2024.


2. Atlanta Braves


Starting Infield:

There’s no need to sit here and sing the praises of the offensive prowess of this group, as we did that plenty in our lineups article earlier this week. Having the two through four hitters in one of the best offenses of the past decade is more than enough evidence that the Braves infield has the best offensive power in the league. But how does their defense stack up?

The answer? It’s a mixed bag. Matt Olson was third amongst first basemen in DRS with 8, though OAA placed him near the bottom of the league with -4, good for 27th. Still, he’s a two-time Gold Glove winner and a cornerstone on both sides of the ball for this team. Ozzie Albies didn’t have anywhere near his best defensive year, posting zero DRS and -10 OAA. Manning the hot corner, Austin Riley was a Gold Glove finalist at the position, finishing fourth in DRS with nine. Finally, Orlando Arcia earned an All-Star appearance in his first full season at shortstop for the Braves, posting five OAA and -6 DRS. If the defensive ability of this group can reach a fraction of what they can do on offense, this can easily be the best infield in the league. Sometimes, though, the best defense is a good offense, and the Braves deliver that in spades.


3. Los Angeles Dodgers


Starting Infield:

With Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman headlining this group, you could very nearly fill in the gaps with a couple of little leaguers and still have an infield close to the top five in baseball. These two players need no introduction–as the second and third-place finishers in MVP voting in 2023, the right side of the Dodgers’ infield has some of the best all-around players in the league. They don’t just contribute offensively, either–both finished as Gold Glove finalists, and Betts famously moved from his normal outfield home to serve as the Dodgers’ everyday second baseman, where he will spend most of his time in 2024.

Part of the reason for Mookie’s move to the infield was a season-ending ACL injury for Gavin Lux in February of 2023, and a year later, he appears ready to take on the everyday shortstop role. In his age-24 season in 2022, Lux took a step forward offensively, slashing .276/.346/.399 across 129 games. Continuous improvement for Lux will help them find their highest ceiling, though we will probably see Kiké Hernández mixing in at short from time to time.

Finally, we have Max Muncy mixing in at third with unimpressive defensive metrics (-3 DRS and -8 OAA) but a decent enough bat to complement the upper half of the Dodgers’ lineup. You can count on Muncy to hit for power with a low batting average and plenty of RBI. Altogether, while this isn’t a perfect infield, the star power on the right side elevates Lux and Muncy to make this a top-five infield with plenty of upside all around.


4. Chicago Cubs


Starting Infield:

The story of the Cubs infield is one that’s built on exquisite defense up the middle and extreme power at the corners. It’s hard to imagine a better middle infield than Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson, the two Gold Glove winners in the NL at their respective positions. Swanson led all shortstops in the league in both DRS (18) and OAA (20), displaying elite range while making eye-popping plays all season. Offensively, he came back to earth a little bit after a career year in 2022 but still managed 22 home runs and a just-above-average 104 wRC+. Hoerner was essentially Dansby Lite in all aspects for the Cubs, finishing third in DRS (12) and fifth in OAA (14) at his position while posting a 102 wRC+.

While he’s primarily been an outfielder the past few seasons, Cody Bellinger projects to be the Cubs’ primary first baseman in 2024 after inking a three-year deal at the end of February. It’s tough to grade Bellinger’s defense against the rest of the league’s first basemen, as he only logged 59 games at the position in 2023, but it’s where he spent most of his time during his first two seasons in the bigs, so he’s no stranger to the position. Even in just 59 games at first, Bellinger still recorded five DRS, good for seventh among first basemen. If he can replicate the comeback season he had last year, Bellinger will be among the league’s elite first basemen.

The biggest question mark for the Cubs comes at the hot corner, with Christopher Morel slated to start at third. Morel’s offensive skill is undeniable, as he hit 26 home runs in just 107 games last year, acting as a spark plug for the offense as soon as he was called up. Morel bounced around several positions in 2023 and only played five games at third, and his defense is… questionable, to say the least. While Morel still has plenty of room for improvement on defense, the combined upside of all four members of this infield makes them a top-five unit for this positional group.


5. St. Louis Cardinals


Starting Infield:

Before 2023, Nolan Arenado had won a Gold Glove in ten consecutive years and was the NL Platinum Glove winner for the last six. Despite not even being a finalist for the award, Arenado is still… well, Arenado, and will be a premium defensive option at third as long as he’s still taking the field. Couple that with the fact that 26 home runs and a .774 OPS was a “down” year for Nolan and he’s still among the best overall third basemen in baseball. Similarly, you don’t need me to tell you that Paul Goldschmidt is still a great first baseman at the age of 36. Just two seasons removed from his first MVP award, Goldy is still an elite option at first.

A big question for this group is whether or not Nolan Gorman can take a step to the next level. Gorman was fairly inconsistent as a hitter in 2023, but still managed to hit 27 home runs en route to a 118 wRC+. The tools are there for Gorman to excel as a hitter, but he’ll need to make more consistent contact to reach his full potential. Gorman also has room to grow as a defender after posting a -2 in both DRS and OAA in 2023, but he’s surrounded by plenty of talented fielders to learn from.

The most important piece of the puzzle is who the team’s Opening Day shortstop will be. There’s a good chance top prospect Masyn Winn wins a roster spot and takes the role to start the season, but he did struggle mightily in a small stint in the bigs last season after skipping AAA entirely. Some more time in the minors to work on his approach at the plate could benefit him, in which case Tommy Edman will move in from the outfield to play short. Either way, this is an infield with two future Hall of Famers at the corners and plenty of room to grow up the middle, meaning it’s a strong enough group to round out our top five.


Just Missed the Cut


There are plenty of other great infields around the league that just missed our top five because of a few weaknesses compared to the other teams. The Diamondbacks are firmly in sixth place, highlighted by Christian Walker, who has won back-to-back gloves and continues to mash the ball. The addition of Eugenio Suárez at third makes this a formidable duo of two-way players, as Suárez also provides solid defensive numbers and adds plenty of power. Ketel Marte and Geraldo Perdomo round out a solid all-around group that doesn’t have quite the upside of some of the squads above.

The Blue Jays are another solid infield led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, but the loss of Matt Chapman hurts the defensive ability of this group. You’ll also probably see plenty of comparisons between the Reds and Orioles infields throughout the year due to the abundance of young studs in this group. The upside is certainly there for both teams, but the lack of experience almost guarantees that there will be some bumps along the way. Finally, we need to give credit to Ke’Bryan Hayes as one of the best defensive infielders of 2023, though the rest of the Pirates infield is a whole lot of question marks. At least we know that Oneil Cruz can essentially teleport the ball from shortstop to first base.


Photos by Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire, Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire, Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Design by Jackson Wallace

Christian Otteman

Christian Otteman is a hopelessly optimistic Cubs fan living in Milwaukee just looking to share his love of this beautiful game with others. He is especially a fan of the wild and weird things that only a game like baseball can produce. While he's not watching baseball, Christian is playing golf, hosting trivia, and working on his Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Marquette University.

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