The Incumbent: Max Kepler
Last season, Kepler batted leadoff in 34 of the team’s 60 games and he was used there for over 100 games back in 2019. There’s a good chance he is the leader in the clubhouse to be the team’s primary leadoff hitter unless his performance struggles significantly. He hit .281/.324/.625 last year in his at-bats as the first batter in the game. That’s quite the punch for opposing pitchers to have to endure out of the gate.
The Contenders: Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez, Mitch Garver
Buxton’s raw speed makes him a natural contender to be at the top of the line-up and there has been talk of him filling that role during different parts of his professional development. That being said, he’s only been used as a leadoff hitter in 15 games throughout his career. Obviously, that’s a small sample size, but he has gone 5-for-15 with two home runs and a double in the first at-bat of the game as a leadoff hitter. Overall, as the first batter, he has a .670 OPS and the Twins seem more comfortable having him serve as a second leadoff hitter at the bottom of the line-up.
If Polanco’s ankles are healthy, he might be able to get back to his strong hitting fans saw back in the first half of 2019. He’s seen time batting in every spot in the order, but the majority of his time has been spent as the number two hitter where he has an .823 OPS. He does have 160 plate appearances out of the leadoff spot where he has hit .284/.313/.351 with a 21 to 7 strikeout to walk ratio. Rocco Baldelli will likely slide Polanco back into the number two spot in the line-up.
Arraez is adjusting to a new role this spring without a specific spot in the starting line-up. That doesn’t mean that he won’t get regular at-bats and few players bring energy to the batter’s box like Arraez. So far in his young career, Arraez has been most frequently used as the number six hitter. In his 17 games batting in the leadoff spot, he has hit .354/.386/.415 with four doubles. As the first batter of the game, he has gone 5-for-13 with a .928 OPS.
Garver definitely doesn’t fit the traditional leadoff hitter mold, but Baldelli has loved to use Garver in this role versus left-handed starting pitchers. He’s started 30 games as the leadoff hitter, and he’s compiled some eye-popping numbers. In 141 plate appearances, he’s hit .277/.376/.630 with 12 home runs and four doubles. While those numbers are great, Garver is going to have to prove he is healthy and back to his powerful hitting ways in 2021.
Who would you bat leadoff? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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