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Leadoff Batter


Doctor Wu

In most games this spring I've noticed Kepler being used as the leadoff batter. And based on results thus far (yeah, yeah, small sample size and all that, but still ...) it looks like a good strategy. Kepler is hitting well and even has a .500 OBP. Obviously, that's not sustainable, but it looks like he might be comfortable, and productive in the role as leadoff batter. What does everyone else think?

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I think he's the best choice of the current bunch. He needs to find a few more hits than in the past. Otherwise, he's patient and takes plenty of walks. He has enough speed as well. Polanco will probably bat second because he puts the ball in play more than most. 

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Kepler had a .319 OB% last year, and is a career 313 ob% guy.  I am not sure he is the right fit up there.  Rocco seems to like him up there, but I think he's going to have to hit .260 or so with his added walks from last season to be affective.

 

Not sure who else we have that is an on base guy with a little giddy up.

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I like Kepler up there.  Hopefully a better BABIP can get his OBP up above .350 this season. It would also be good for him to get his PPA over 4, since the leadoff guy should be giving the rest of the lineup a chance to look at more pitches.

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My guess is there won't be a set lead off guy. Looking at TB's lineups last year, they had six guys who lead off at least 13 games. The #2 spot was rotated almost the same way, and it should be noted that CJ Cron batted in that spot quite a bit last year as well.

 

So my guess would be that Kepler, Polanco and Buxton will have a healthy rotational share at that spot. I also wouldn't be surprised if Astudillo got some looks there if the team was facing a high strikeout/low walk kind of starter. 

 

Perhaps Rosario or whomever is the Twins hottest hitter will get some time there as well. Tommy Pham was easily TB's best hitter after he was acquired but that didn't stop them from batting him lead off in 22 games last year.

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I think Kepler is the guy, at least against RHP. I would think his leash would be moderately long, since there really aren’t many logical choices.

 

Semi-serious prediction—Kepler starts as leadoff guy, is fairly successful and has a power surge. Leads the club in homers and insists on hitting lead off. Twins tradition right?

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My guess is there won't be a set lead off guy. Looking at TB's lineups last year, they had six guys who lead off at least 13 games. The #2 spot was rotated almost the same way, and it should be noted that CJ Cron batted in that spot quite a bit last year as well.

 

So my guess would be that Kepler, Polanco and Buxton will have a healthy rotational share at that spot. I also wouldn't be surprised if Astudillo got some looks there if the team was facing a high strikeout/low walk kind of starter. 

 

Perhaps Rosario or whomever is the Twins hottest hitter will get some time there as well. Tommy Pham was easily TB's best hitter after he was acquired but that didn't stop them from batting him lead off in 22 games last year.

 

Good analysis. I hope Buxton spends a lot of time at lead-off because that will mean he's hitting well.

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I would say Kepler is the best all around candidate. He has the plate discipline and the speed. Yes, his raw obp numbers have not been very good to date. All of his raw numbers are tied to his insanely low BABIP. Both for his career and even moreso in 2018. If something can be done to normalize that number, the rest of his numbers will take care of themselves IMO. What it is that can be done to improve his BABIP I have no idea.

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In most games this spring I've noticed Kepler being used as the leadoff batter. And based on results thus far (yeah, yeah, small sample size and all that, but still ...) it looks like a good strategy. Kepler is hitting well and even has a .500 OBP. Obviously, that's not sustainable, but it looks like he might be comfortable, and productive in the role as leadoff batter. What does everyone else think?

Joey Votto had a .474 OBP in 2012. That is absolutely crazy.

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I also like Polanco leading off. Kepler seems like a quirky, interesting selection to lead off....but aside from that, I'm not seeing the reason. Polanco seems to have all the tools of a typical lead off hitter.

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I also like Polanco leading off. Kepler seems like a quirky, interesting selection to lead off....but aside from that, I'm not seeing the reason. Polanco seems to have all the tools of a typical lead off hitter.

Polanco would be a good choice. However, his contact ability makes him an even more ideal # 2. The Twins have (in the past) hit and run a lot. Kepler on first and Polanco at bat would be an ideal pair.

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I would do this:

 

Palanco

Kepler 

Cruz

Rosario

Cron

Sano/Gonzalez

Schoop

Castro 

Buxton

 

If Buxton continues to show power, I would slide him in front of Schoop and Castro. I don't think Buxton should be a leadoff hitter at this point. Not enogh OBP skills and the power plays for later in the lineup.

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Polanco would be a good choice. However, his contact ability makes him an even more ideal # 2. The Twins have (in the past) hit and run a lot. Kepler on first and Polanco at bat would be an ideal pair.

"Ideal" would be Buxton leading off. I was at a game where he scored from first on a single. And he wasn't even running with the pitch!

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Polanco had a .345 OBP last year. He has to be in the running.

I mean, if Kepler has his breakout season then we should be seeing some real power from him, no? Put him where he can drive in some runs.

And this is where my conundrum starts.

 

We don't have a true leadoff candidate on the roster. Kepler looks good there and could really embrace the role. His emergence...which I truly believe is about to happen, just a season later than I predicted/expected...could make him an ideal candidate. But Polanco seems to be the best fit initially. Except, I really liked the way Molitor used him as a #2 or #3 hitter and he responded in that role. And if Kepler really does have his breakout season, would he and his LH bat and skills be better served sitting in the 5 or 6 hole?

 

But then I reflect to guys like Downing, Boggs, or even former Twin Dozier making havoc at the top spot and realize what you want is production, however you get it.

 

It would seem a healthy, productive Buxton would indeed be ideal with his power and speed if the AVG and OB would allow him to do so. I mean, weren't we all conditioned to think that was going to be his role? But couldn't Buxton also be equally dangerous hitting 6 or 7 with power and speed to drive in runs and set the table for the bottom half of the lineup, as well as the top, potentially?

 

I applaud Rocco for his thinking and experimenting. (Also worth noting Adrianza has been batting leadoff in most games he's played. What's up with that?).

 

Based on what we've seen thus far, and skipping ahead to Sano in May or first of June, I'm seeing this:

 

1] Kepler

2] Polanco

3] Cruz

4] Rosario

5] Sano

6] Schoop/Cron

7] Cron/Schoop

8] Buxton

9] Castro/Garver

 

Note: There is fluidity in the 6-8 slots. Also, Buxton at 8 doesn't mean he's not performing. It means a trio of power hitters and then Buxton providing power and speed to make things happen and flip the lineup.

 

Note 2: Castro is a solid player. I think he's important in many facets and at least a decent producer. But I'm not so sure Garver won't emerge as the #1 catcher at some point, if healthy.

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And this is where my conundrum starts.

 

We don't have a true leadoff candidate on the roster. Kepler looks good there and could really embrace the role. His emergence...which I truly believe is about to happen, just a season later than I predicted/expected...could make him an ideal candidate. But Polanco seems to be the best fit initially. Except, I really liked the way Molitor used him as a #2 or #3 hitter and he responded in that role. And if Kepler really does have his breakout season, would he and his LH bat and skills be better served sitting in the 5 or 6 hole?

 

But then I reflect to guys like Downing, Boggs, or even former Twin Dozier making havoc at the top spot and realize what you want is production, however you get it.

 

It would seem a healthy, productive Buxton would indeed be ideal with his power and speed if the AVG and OB would allow him to do so. I mean, weren't we all conditioned to think that was going to be his role? But couldn't Buxton also be equally dangerous hitting 6 or 7 with power and speed to drive in runs and set the table for the bottom half of the lineup, as well as the top, potentially?

 

I applaud Rocco for his thinking and experimenting. (Also worth noting Adrianza has been batting leadoff in most games he's played. What's up with that?).

 

Based on what we've seen thus far, and skipping ahead to Sano in May or first of June, I'm seeing this:

 

1] Kepler

2] Polanco

3] Cruz

4] Rosario

5] Sano

6] Schoop/Cron

7] Cron/Schoop

8] Buxton

9] Castro/Garver

 

Note: There is fluidity in the 6-8 slots. Also, Buxton at 8 doesn't mean he's not performing. It means a trio of power hitters and then Buxton providing power and speed to make things happen and flip the lineup.

 

Note 2: Castro is a solid player. I think he's important in many facets and at least a decent producer. But I'm not so sure Garver won't emerge as the #1 catcher at some point, if healthy.

I believe he can only hit lefty right now. So, they likely bat him leadoff to make it more likely that he gets his at bats in facing a rhp.

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So my guess would be that Kepler, Polanco and Buxton will have a healthy rotational share at that spot. I also wouldn't be surprised if Astudillo got some looks there if the team was facing a high strikeout/low walk kind of starter. 

I see where you are going with this. But I would say Astudillo would be better placed in the #2 spot rather than leadoff. Between pop/power and extreme contact, that would make more sense to me.

 

Or, off topic a bit, batting 5th the way Harper was often used back in the day, sandwiched between the biggest bats and those that followed.

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Castro is a solid player. I think he's important in many facets and at least a decent producer. But I'm not so sure Garver won't emerge as the #1 catcher at some point, if healthy.

 

Garver is by far better than Castro. Castro is a total guess hitter. 

 

Typical Castro at bat: 

Pitch 1: Curve - swings over it with no clue - like he was guessing fastball but already committed early.

Pitch 2: Fastball taken right down the middle. Could have completely crushed it but he has no clue. 

Pitch 3: Curve in the dirt - swing and miss and then he whips his freaking bat and starts barking at the umpire, which makes no sense because he swung and missed. 

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At some point, I hope Buxton can be a Ricky Henderson type guy who gets on base, messes with opposing pitchers’ minds, and blasts a healthy number of HRs. Springtime is a time of hope.

Henderson had a career .400 obp. In your wildest dreams do you see that as realistic for Buxton?

 

I seriously doubt he can post .340 in a full season.

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Joey Votto had a .474 OBP in 2012. That is absolutely crazy.

You know what I think is crazy? In 2012 he did that in 111 games. He was on pace for 83 runs scored over 162 games and 80 RBIs. He has extra base power. Votto has never scored more than 106 and has trouble driving in more than 100 runs. Now last year with 12 HRs. He has those OBP but his team can’t win. He should be driving in more. Since 2011 1 season of 100 RBIs. He should be scoring more. Especially in that bandbox.
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I would try Buck at leadoff every year until his OBP simply doesn't warrant it.  He has the combination of speed and power to the gaps that leadoff hitters need. plus he has about a 95 % success rate in stolen bases. 

 

But he has got to get on base. He needs to learn to bunt and learn to hit to the opposite field. He could hit 20 triples a year if he did that. 

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You know what I think is crazy? In 2012 he did that in 111 games. He was on pace for 83 runs scored over 162 games and 80 RBIs. He has extra base power. Votto has never scored more than 106 and has trouble driving in more than 100 runs. Now last year with 12 HRs. He has those OBP but his team can’t win. He should be driving in more. Since 2011 1 season of 100 RBIs. He should be scoring more. Especially in that bandbox.

Well for someone on base almost 50% of the time to only score 80 runs is probably more of a product of his team. Name the last Twin that has hit 372 doubles, 269 Home runs and a career batting average of .311 in like 5500 at bats. if there ever was one I don't think anyone would be bashing them. Joey Votto is one of the best ever and yeah someone will always find something wrong. But he is one of the best out there, he has only popped out to an infielder 16 times in his career and I think he has never popped out to the pitcher, catcher or first baseman. That is an amazing stat of a great great hitter. I'm sure ichiro Suzuki and Tony Gwynn and rod Carew all could have hit a lot home runs but chose to be professional hitters and two of those guys have the AL and NL batting titles named after them. The Reds arent that great and it's not Joey Vottos fault. Just like it's not Kirk Cousins fault that the Vikings weren't that good, it's not Lebrons fault that the Lakers are bad, it's never one guys fault. I'm sure Votto could have hit 35 bombs instead of 25 and that wouldn't have made the Reds any better when you have a crappy pitching staff, etc...

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I would try Buck at leadoff every year until his OBP simply doesn't warrant it. He has the combination of speed and power to the gaps that leadoff hitters need. plus he has about a 95 % success rate in stolen bases.

 

But he has got to get on base. He needs to learn to bunt and learn to hit to the opposite field. He could hit 20 triples a year if he did that.

I would make him prove he can get on base BEFORE batting him leadoff.

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