Jump to content
  • Create Account
  • Who Should Be the Twins Leadoff Hitter in 2021?


    Cody Christie

    Leadoff hitters have evolved in recent years with team’s not being anchored to one specific player. Minnesota’s lineup will change a lot over the course of one season and these are the contenders for the leadoff spot.

    Image courtesy of © Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    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.

     

    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY

    — Latest Twins coverage from our writers

    — Recent Twins discussion in our forums

    — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    Featured Comments

    Depends on who's playing that day, who the opposing pitcher is, which Twin is hot, or cold, with the bat, what Rocco had for breakfast, the price of stadium hot dogs, etc.

     

    If there's one thing we've learned about Rocco it's that he's flexible with his line-ups. Count on seeing all these guys getting a few swings at lead-off. Including La Tortuga.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    It’s an interesting question who provides the most value at leadoff. Normally you would put a high-on base hitter in that spot. Thus, Arraez or Kirilloff (not Simmons, he hits 9th). However, as you mentioned, Kepler has had a lot of success at leadoff. Although I don’t think Kepler is a leadoff hitter. Mainly because, outside of 2019, he’s been an average hitter throughout the course of his career. I’d go Arraez or Kirilloff.

     

     

    On a side note, please no more La Tortuga. As I and many fans have said, he has no business being on the roster of a contending team. He’s a subpar defender wherever you put him and he can’t hit. I know PECOTA and ZiPS think he can - he can’t. Projections like that mean absolutely nothing. He should be no more than a third-string catcher or third-string infielder or third-string outfielder.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    It's an interesting question. I lean towards Polanco, which then lets you drop kepler in 4th behind Donaldson & Cruz and in front of Sano to break up the righties a bit. You could then stick Garver in 6th, with Kirilloff 7th ahead of Buxton & Simmons on days when Arraez doesn't play.

     

    If you bat Kepler leadoff (and he does well at it, despite the low BA) then you're looking at a regular order of Donaldson, Cruz, Sano, Garver/Jeffers...which would scare the bejeezus out of a lefty but might be a set up for failure against the righties.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    For me it comes down to who do you want to have the most ABs during the game. There is 2 outs in 9th and 9th place batter gets on, who do you want to hit. The first batter in lineup may only lead off an inning once a game. With that said, I still take Arraez, going to see plenty of pitches leading off game and most likely to get on in other situations.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Personally I like Arraez at leadoff, but understand why Twins have gone the non-traditional approach.  What I like about Arraez at leadoff is he normally gives you good long at-bats without giving away anything.  He gets on base at high clip.  He does lack speed, but we never steal anyways.  

     

    The Kepler option gives you good chance for extra base hit, but he also loves to attack first pitches, which is not traditionally what one wants for leadoff guys.  However, times are a changing and the Twins love to buck the traditional roles with this FO and manager. 

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

     

    Personally I like Arraez at leadoff, but understand why Twins have gone the non-traditional approach.  What I like about Arraez at leadoff is he normally gives you good long at-bats without giving away anything.  He gets on base at high clip.  He does lack speed, but we never steal anyways.  

     

    The Kepler option gives you good chance for extra base hit, but he also loves to attack first pitches, which is not traditionally what one wants for leadoff guys.  However, times are a changing and the Twins love to buck the traditional roles with this FO and manager. 

    I kind of chuckled a bit at the thought of Arraez being the "traditional" pick.

     

    He is in a sort of manner (the recent wave of thought), but to me Buxton screams more as the "traditional" pick due to his speed.

     

    But yeah, I like slotting Arraez at the top of the order.  He takes pitches, works the count, and has a high OBP.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    IMO, should be Arrez when he plays. Especially if Donaldson is going to remain in the 2 spot. I like Polanco as an alternate if he's back to his old self.

     

    I appreciate the BOOM Kepler can bring to the spot, but I think his LH power needs to hit lower.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I’m firmly in the camp that says you fill the lead off spot with your best hitter, because whoever leads off gets the most plate appearances.

     

    It would be unconventional for sure, but I’d like to see Cruz or Donaldson there.

    What's the closest example you can think of to a team having done this?

     

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Guest
    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

    Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...