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December 2016

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COMMENTS

Your 2017 Cubs Leadoff Hitter Is….

Written by , Posted in General

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:

  1. Zobrist
  2. Jay
  3. Almora
  4. Schwarber

Give me your thoughts!

  • k_lof

    I like the Schwarber idea. Having a true speed guy only pays off for the first inning when you know he will be first up. The rest of the game you’ll want your best hitters batting as much as possible. Schwarber has great OBP. He’s not a threat to steal but that also means pitchers won’t have the option of pitching around Bryant/Rizzo if there is an open base. The second consideration is Schwarber’s defense. The earlier you get him in the lineup, the earlier he gets 4 PAs and he can be pulled in the 9th for a defensive replacement. That’s better than batting him 5th and him routinely only getting 3 PAs.

    • k_lof

      Schwarber, Bryant, Rizzo, Zobrist, Contreras, Baez, Russell, pitcher, Almora/Jay

      • AC0000000

        I’d rather have Zobrist in the 2 spot. I want someone who is good at handling the bat and making a lot of contact there. If Javy can return to his NLCS MVP form, he would be perfect in the 2 hole.

      • Kyle

        It’s hard to convince people to bat in the number 2 hole, though.

      • AC0000000

        Tough. You’re going to hit in the 2 hole whether you like it or not.

      • get a room you two

      • Joe Aiello

        It’s hard to convince anyone to do anything in the number 2 hole. Sorry, I waiting two days and no one jumped on it. Seymore, I’m disappointed in you.

      • Dork

        I would Slide Russel into the 5 spot, he seems to be able to drive in some runs, but other than that I like your lineup. I like Schwarbs at the top.

    • Doug S.

      Those are good points but something about Schwarbs leading off doesn’t sit well with me.

      • AC0000000

        It’s more chances for him to hit 104 HRs

      • Eddie Von White

        You will not be doing much sitting when Schwarbs is at bat – you will mostly be jumping off the couch with joy.

    • Kyle

      Very good points. You may have just convinced me.

      Schwarber, Zo/Baez, Bryzzo. Russell, Contreras, Heyward, Almora/Jay, Pitcher

  • Buddy

    The lead off hitter will likely change pretty frequently. Last year Maddon used 130 different lineups, and that number may go up this year. My two cents (probably worth less)…lead off Zobrist when he’s in the lineup.

    • Douglas Saye

      I agree with Buddy, I think we’ll see at least a half dozen different leadoff hitters this year. I personally think that Russell will take a big OBP leap this year and would certainly consider him for the spot on occasion. Saw that he is already back at work for the upcoming season (as opposed to that slacker Ross).

  • Adam Peters

    The new school thinking is you put your best hitter leading off, second best batting second, etc. With each spot down in the batting order the person there gets 30-40 fewer ABs throughout the season than the guy immediately before him and, obviously, you want your best hitters to get the most ABs.

    With no prototypical leadoff guy on the roster I’d expect we’ll see Joe tinker with the batting order even more than usual. And after what we saw in the World Series, I’d expect Schwarbs to be in the top three when he’s in there.

    I think we’ll see Jay, Bryant, Schwarber, Zobrist and Rizzo all leading off at some point. I wouldn’t expect to see Russell, Baez, or Almora there. None of them walk enough. Heyward would be a possibility if he gets his batting average up to .270 or so thereby likely getting his OBP in the .360 range.

  • CubbieBlue023

    Great additions to this post! Even though I gave you my top four….I would not be surprised to see a variety of different names go through the lead off spot. Maddon has shown time and time again that he isn’t afraid to tinker with the line up to keep everyone on their toes!

  • If Jon Jay rolls out there for first pitch opening day, something really bad happened in Mesa.

    Lead-off is a tone setter.. speed aside, it is all about coming in cold or after shitty at-bats. Zorb fits the bill.. professional hitter.

  • Doc Raker

    I would not bat a 83 home run guy lead off. I say our lead off man will be a variety of sorts until someone shows they can do the job. Right now Zo sees the most pitches and has AB’s indicative of a lead off hitter, he won’t steal many bases but he will make the pitcher work. Schwarbs can bat 2 and further wear the pitcher down for the rest of the line up while hitting at least 83 jacks in 2017.

    • k_lof

      I would agree, but I would rather not push Rizzo further down in the lineup. I think you want Schwarber/Bryant/Rizzo batting as much as possible. I’d rather have 40 more Rizzo PAs in a season than Zobrist PAs. That’s the difference over the course of a season.

      • Doc Raker

        If Schwarbs, KB and Riz have to be in the top 3 to increase PA then I would leadoff KB, at least he can steal a base.
        KB, Schwarbs and then Riz.

  • Karen Hirsh

    Zobrist is the best one for lead off. Schwarber will be platooning with Almora. Schwarber is only good offensively.

    • Unless we sign Trout, Schwarber will not be part of a platoon.

  • cap’n realist

    it has to be Zobrist. There’s no other logical choice. Even someone as illogical as Maddon doesn’t have another viable option with what they currently have.

  • Brad Lyerla

    Cap’n makes so much sense that it is hard to disagree with him. But I want to see Heyward leading off a lot in the preseason. Maybe get him jump started.

    My other concern is that Schwarber gets hurt again. He is, after all, a klutz out there.

    So, my guess is that if Heyward returns to form: Heyward, Zobrist, Bryant, Schwarber, Rizzo, Russell, Baez, Almora.

    If Heyward does not return to form: Zobrist, Schwarbs, Bryant, Rizzo, Russell, Baez, Heyward, Almora.

    The former is much more formidable.

    • Eddie Von White

      Right about the klutz out there.

  • Sherm

    I’m taking the devil’s advocate approach. How about a reinvented Javy Baez leading off? Has speed and power and will bunt for a hit. Made great strides in 2016 offensively over 2015. Regressed in the WS, but starred in the playoffs. If he can make similar strides in 2017 over 2016? Could he be the guy?

    • AC0000000

      He totally could if he improves his pitch selection and discipline. More at bats like the one in the Giants series where he got down 0-2, but battled back to run it full before getting on base,

    • Doc Raker

      He isn’t a lead off hitter now but he could be. That is the beauty of having such a young team, I can envision several lead off possibilities with this young roster. Anyone of them could do it if they put there mind to it.

    • Brad Lyerla

      A few seasons ago, I envisioned Baez as a top of the order guy. It still could happen. As Doc says, he is young and has the talent. But he has a long way to go.

      This might be the most interesting thing to follow this spring. It will be fun to see how it shakes out.

  • Doc Raker

    We should have an over under bet. How many lead off hitters will the Cubs have in 2017? I put the over under at 7.

    • AC0000000

      You should put it at 6.5 or 7.5 so there’s no push, and what are you taking? Once you amend your line, I’ll tell you what I want to take.

      • AMEND YOUR LINE RAKER

      • AC0000000

        Unless he wants 7 which means the chance of a push exists. The half point eliminates the chance of a push.

      • RAKER WILL YOU PLEASE AMEND YOUR LINE

      • Seymour Butts

        Moot.
        Take the under.
        There can only be one lead-off hitter. The prop bet as stated asks how many lead-off hitters will there be. What he meant to ask, I believe, is how many different Cubs will fill the role of lead-off hitter this season.
        Be precise.

      • AC0000000

        He says How many lead off hitters will the Cubs have in 2017? Taken to meaning how many players will hit in the leadoff spot in 2017. Until Raker amends it for the half point or if he wants 7 and the possibility of a push, I can’t make my pick. My decision will be influenced if it’s 6.5 or 7.5.

      • Doc Raker

        Only one per game but with 162 games the Cubs could have many players hit leadoff in 2017. I think my statement is correct and anyone who understands how stats are compiled understands my meaning. Dumba$$

      • Seymour Butts

        The fact that CAPS agrees with you should cause you pause.
        While I agree that most people would understand your meaning, it is still phrased ambiguously. I will stack my ass’ IQ against yours any day.
        The answer is still one.

      • AC0000000

        Sucks to grammar

      • Doc Raker

        I am sure you have the highest IQ of anyone who visits this site. The Rain Man had an extremely high IQ also I believe.

  • Doc Raker

    My over under for how many different Cub players will hit leadoff in 2017 is 7.5.

    • AC0000000

      I’ll take the over

    • Seymour Butts

      I noticed you changed your phrasing.
      Looks like even you realize I was right.

      • AC0000000

        Just give us your bloody pick, and then go back to seeing more butts.