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  • Ranking The Twins Leadoff Hitter Candidates


    Over the last two seasons, the two men who accounted for most of the at-bats in the Minnesota Twins' leadoff spot were Denard Span and Ben Revere. Both were traded away this offseason, leaving a gaping hole at the top of the order (and in center field but that's a post for a different day). There will be a few different candidates to be the lead-off hitter, depending on who wins the vacancies in center field and in the middle infield.

    For now, the Twins will turn over the starting to duties in center field to one of three candidates. Joe Benson, Aaron Hicks, and Darin Mastroianni will all get a chance to earn the starting role in spring training. The middle infield situation is even more fluid and also will be determined this spring.

    Of the center field candidates, Mastroainni has the most big league experience and offers some skills suited for a leadoff role. In only 77 games last season, he managed 21 steals, which ranked third on the team behind Revere and Alexi Casilla. He hit .252/.328/.345 last season with a limited amount of power. The Twins even penciled him into the first spot of the line-up for three different games last season, though he only hit .133/.188/.333 in his 16 plate appearances.

    Hicks has been used as a lead-off hitter for most of his career in the minor leagues and also has the skill set to be a very good top of the order hitter. He is one of the most patient hitters in the minor leagues, drawing over 75 walks in each of his three full seasons at multiple levels. His on-base percentage is .379 for his professional career, despite posting some lower batting averages in his first few seasons. His speed is also very good as he stole 32 bases last year and he combined for 32 doubles and triples.

    The Twins are going to need to see quite the performance from Benson to give him a starting job out of spring training. He was injured for most of last season and this caused his on-field performance to take a dive. Benson is still very athletic and he has shown a good ability to get on base when he is healthy. If Benson wins the starting job in center field, it might mean the Twins look to their infield for their leadoff hitter.

    When looking at the infield candidates, Jamey Carroll played the most for the club in 2012. The 38-year old infielder had a rough start but found his swing through the course of the year. The Twins only used him as a leadoff hitter in one game last year so he might not be the likeliest candidate. He does know how to draw a walk and the Twins could use him at the top of the order until Hicks is ready to debut.

    The other candidates for the starting jobs in the middle infield are Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, and Eduardo Escobar. These men aren't really leadoff hitter material since well... they don't really hit the ball. All three of these players struggled to hit for a decent average last season and they would most likely be suited for spots lower in the batting order. Dozier showed some ability to steal bases with nine steals in 11 attempts but his other numbers were too low to consider him a threat as a lead-off man.

    If some of these other candidates don't look appealing, the dark horse for the leadoff spot could be the Twins highest paid player. Joe Mauer is the best hitter for average on the Twins and he has led the AL in on-base percentage in multiple seasons. He doesn't have a ton of speed but he is athletic enough that can steal a base on occasion. There really seems like no way manager Ron Gardenhire would put him in the lead-off spot but maybe there is a chance that he moves up to the number two spot.

    Clearly, Hicks is the Twins leadoff hitter of the future but the future might begin after Opening Day. At this point, it seems most likely for Hicks to start at Triple-A with Mastroianni getting the job on Opening Day. Here is where I would rank the leadoff hitters at this point, and the only reason Mauer is at the bottom is because there seems to be a very little chance that he will be moved from the middle of the order.

    Leadoff Hitter Rankings:
    1. Aaron Hicks
    2. Darin Mastroianni
    3. Jamey Carroll
    4. Joe Mauer

    If you were putting together the roster for 2013, who would be your leadoff man for Opening Day? How about at the halfway point of the season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
    This article was originally published in blog: Ranking the Twins leadoff hitter candidates started by Cody Christie
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. RodneyKline's Avatar
      RodneyKline -
      Mauer is the ideal leadoff hitter but without leadoff speed. His natural spot is in the #2 spot like Carew because they are both singles hitters but as a leadoff hitter he has one at bat where he can't hit into a double play. This is not a knock on him, it is because he gets solid wood on the ball more than anyone that he leads all of MLB in double plays but he would get a chance to bat at least once every game with no one on base, probably more than once with the number 9 hitter making the last out quite often. Because of his huge size, it is hard to think of him as a Carew type hitter but that is what he is. He is definitely not an ideal #3 hitter that Gardy keeps putting him in as. The leadoff hitter gets more at bats over the season than any other batter also. Probably 20% more at bats would be a good thing for the best on base guy in baseball also.
    1. RodneyKline's Avatar
      RodneyKline -
      Mastroianni gets my vote for CF and leadoff if Mauer is not considered. He is a very exciting player if he can get on base like he has in his minor league career. He is a natural base stealer. Not a guy that is just fast but a guy that has the intangibles to steal 100 bases if he can get on base enough. Hicks is not ready yet in my opinion. He did have a break through season last year in AA but I would like to see that again before he is rushed to the show. AAA is not important in my opinion but he had bad numbers before last season at AA, especially from the left-handed side of the plate for sure. That makes me worried. If he had over .300 years in the lower levels and had a year like last year at AA, I would say give him a shot to be the CF/leadoff hitter out of spring training until Buxton is ready but he has really only had one above average year.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I think that Hicks will eventually be a good leadoff hitter. Mauer belongs in the #2 slot in the lineup, Carroll would be a solid #2 but the team would be better served with him as the 9th hitter. Mastroianni should bat leadoff until Hicks gets the callup towards the end of May then go back to being the 4th OF.
    1. SpantheMan's Avatar
      SpantheMan -
      I would have Benson leading off for the first half of the season. He is at the point where the minors won't really help him anymore (he has spent 3 seasons in AA). It is time for him to prove himself and batting him leadoff would allow us to really see what we have in him.
      After the super 2 cutoff, I would bring up hicks as long as he is doing decently in AAA. He would hit leadoff. Benson would slide to 2 if he had been playing well. If Benson hadn't looked good hitting leadoff he would be moved to the bottom of the order.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by RodneyKline View Post
      Mauer ... leads all of MLB in double plays ....
      I don't understand why people just invent things in their imagination and then pass them off as facts.

      That's before thinking about whether or not the issue mentioned is even a bad thing. Or even a thing.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      I don't understand why people just invent things in their imagination and then pass them off as facts.

      That's before thinking about whether or not the issue mentioned is even a bad thing. Or even a thing.

      It's on the internet, so it must be true.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Mauer was 5th in GIBP last year. The leader was Miguel Cabrera.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      It's on the internet, so it must be true.
      Bonjour!
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by gunnarthor View Post
      Mauer was 5th in GIBP last year. The leader was Miguel Cabrera.
      Just shocking. This Cabrera fellow must be a terrible hitter.
    1. perkins7's Avatar
      perkins7 -
      Quote Originally Posted by RodneyKline View Post
      Mastroianni gets my vote for CF and leadoff if Mauer is not considered. He is a very exciting player if he can get on base like he has in his minor league career. He is a natural base stealer. Not a guy that is just fast but a guy that has the intangibles to steal 100 bases if he can get on base enough. Hicks is not ready yet in my opinion. He did have a break through season last year in AA but I would like to see that again before he is rushed to the show. AAA is not important in my opinion but he had bad numbers before last season at AA, especially from the left-handed side of the plate for sure. That makes me worried. If he had over .300 years in the lower levels and had a year like last year at AA, I would say give him a shot to be the CF/leadoff hitter out of spring training until Buxton is ready but he has really only had one above average year.
      I'm not sure what the huge perceived drop off is in CF if we were to head into this season assuming Span would be traded (and it's safe to say almost all of us assumed he'd be traded). Mastroianni is really not much different from Ben Revere in terms of overall production and value. Their OBP and OPS are essentially identical, and although Revere has an elite average, it's much harder to sustain OBP if you're solely a singles hitter, whereas Mastroianni has shown some ability to draw walks and with time could prove to hit for higher average (he was a higher average player throughout the minors). Mastroianni steals bases at a more successful rate (21 SB/3 CS, 87.5%) than Revere (40/9, 81.6%), albeit with less sample size but still fairly significant. I think the doom and gloom of predicting an awful season now that Revere's gone isn't rooted in the reality that he was overrated. Awesome, fun to watch, great for the fans, and a human highlight reel, but overrated and the Twins got a great deal from the Phillies for him, considering he's really not too different from Mastroianni at all.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      Just shocking. This Cabrera fellow must be a terrible hitter.
      Better put him at leadoff.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      No clue what the Blue Jays OF plans are yet (they may not either) but they have 6 players on their 40-man that can play CF. If Rajai Davis is the odd man out, I wonder if the Twins would be able to get him on the cheap. He'd be just fine as a stop gap solution for CF/leadoff and a great bench option once Hicks is ready full-time.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Ricky Henderson says "sure Ricky would listen if the Twins called."
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I think we'll see a lot of Mastro-Carroll at the top of our lineup. And we pray like all hell that Hicks is ready June 1.
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