Your 2017 Cubs Leadoff Hitter Is….
On December 1st, Nate had a very interesting post here on the site. What he thought to be a “slow day” ending to his post led to the spinning of my wheels on a follow up topic. In that post, Nate unveiled his personal opening day lineup for the Cubs. While I did like Nate’s lineup, my immediately thoughts went to “Who will be our leadoff batter this season”?
With no 11th hour miracle on tap, as was the case last spring, we know we will not have Mr. “You Go, We Go” Dexter Fowler in the leadoff spot for us this year. I’ll be honest with you, two years ago when we signed Fowler I did not have high expectations for him. I knew that he was a good player in Colorado but didn’t think that he would be a difference maker at the top of the lineup. What he did in the leadoff spot to get on base for our heavy hitters really helped raise the fear level of our hitting order 1-8 (could make a case 1-9 with Arrieta hitting).
So, who do the Cubs insert into this spot to give Bryant/Rizzo the chances to get them on the board early? Here are four names that I would consider for this important role. (Disclaimer: I am not going to fill this post up with a bunch of analytical numbers. I will leave that up to others. I will give you my opinion; just like I would if we were sitting down watching a game together):
Jon Jay – The newly acquired centerfielder does have leadoff experience. When he has been healthy in the past for the Cardinals and Padres, leadoff has been his spot in the order. What scares me about Jon is his ability to make contact. He has way too many strikeouts at the plate. While he does have equal ability to Fowler in respects to speed and base running (with a little less power), we will need Jon to understand his role which is to put the ball in play and get on base for our big guys behind him. (How much playing time will he lose to AAJ?)
Albert Almora Jr – Here is what we know…. this kid can play defense…really well. I believe in the next couple of years we may be at him as the anchor to our outfield and who will start winning multiple gold gloves. What is still the question mark is how can he handle to bat? We saw flashes of what he could potentially do on a limited basis last year. He could have more power than Fowler and equal amount of speed/base running awareness. I think until we know for sure what he can do at the top of the order, Maddon will need to ease him in like he did with Russell and bat him in the 8-9 spot. This will allow him to gain the confidence he will need at the MLB level. (How much playing time will he lose to JJ?)
Kyle Schwarber – Can we pause for a moment and reflect on the energy that Kyle brought to our lineup during the postseason run. What he was able to do with MLB pitching after tearing up his knee in April was nothing but astonishing. But is he your typical leadoff hitter? If you were to blind fold me, turn off all the scoreboards, stick me on the bump, and then take the blind fold off, I would probably feel as if I were facing the cleanup batter in this lineup. This is a burly dude! But he does have the contact you want out of the leadoff hitter. His speed is average but with the instincts on the base paths and awareness of the game these make up for the velocity he lacks from other great one hole hitters. If you paid me to write out the lineup, I am sticking Kyle in the 2-5 spots.
Ben Zobrist – In my fandom opinion, Ben is the leadoff hitter for this baseball team. The World Series MVP showed that he can basically handle any spot in the lineup as well as any situation that he is put into during a baseball game. Ben has the ability to spray the ball to all areas of the field and can show some power from time to time. As with Kyle, he is not graced with the speed that others have. Being a veteran player gives him the knowledge to know every situation and base running opportunity that is given to him. This team needs the leadoff hitter to be very baseball smart and to get on base constantly. Ben fits into both of these categories very well!
My rank of the four:
Give me your thoughts!