Leadoff Candidate Conundrum
Byron Buxton, CF
Minnesota's speedy outfielder has many of the tools to be a weapon out of the leadoff spot. Buxton is one of the fastest players in baseball. As recently as the 2013 season, Buxton stole 55 bases while primarily being used as a leadoff hitter. It's an interesting situation because Buxton could end up being used in multiple line-up spots throughout his career.
Joe Mauer told the Pioneer Press, "Buck’s so talented he could hit anywhere in the order and probably do pretty good. It’s fun to have that type of speed at the top of the lineup." Molitor will likely start the season with Buxton as the number nine hitter so he can be a "second leadoff hitter." This will also put less pressure on the budding star in his sophomore season.
Brian Dozier, 2B
Dozier seems the candidate most likely to start the year in the leadoff spot. Last year, he hit 27 of his 42 home runs as the first batter in the order. He did this in 73 starts. For his career, he has hit .250/.317/.496 with home runs in 23% of his games. Dozier's career batting average of .246 doesn't exactly scream leadoff hitter but he has gotten on base over 32% of the time.
Dozier also adds the ability to steal bases. Over the last two seasons, he has averaged 17 steals per season. "I just love the leadoff spot," Dozier said. "Just like Mollie, I like to ignite, get things going." Throughout his career, Dozier has been a very streaky hitter. If Dozier is in the midst of a cold spell, other hitters might be given the opportunity to take over the leadoff spot.
Joe Mauer, 1B
With a new analytic baseball operations department, Mauer could take over the leadoff spot. He is the most experienced hitter in the Twins line-up and he posted a .363 OBP last year. Derek Falvey's former team, the Indians, used Carlos Santana in the leadoff spot for over half of their games last season. Mauer batted leadoff on eight occasions last year while going 5-for-32 (.156 BA) with 10 to 4 strikeout to walk ratio.
It might make the most sense to have Mauer be the leadoff hitter against right-handed pitching. I made the argument that it might be time to use a platoon system with Mauer so he would be getting the majority of his at-bats against righties. This would allow right-handed hitters like Kennys Vargas and/or Byungho Park to see more at-bats against lefties.
Robbie Grossman, OF
Grossman might be a sleeper pick to be the lead-off hitter. With a Rosario-Buxton-Kepler projected outfield, Grossman will likely make the team as a fourth outfielder. One injury to a starting player and his role would quickly become more important. If Dozier goes cold or Buxton slumps, Grossman might find himself at the top of the pile.
Last year, he posted a .386 OBP which was almost 40 points higher than his career number. Grossman's defense was so poor in the outfield that the new front office might search for different candidates. It also seems likely for him to regress closer towards his career totals for getting on base.
Who do you want to see get the majority of the leadoff at-bats? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.