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  • Who Leads Off for the 2023 Minnesota Twins?


    Ted Schwerzler

    The Minnesota Twins dealt Luis Arraez last week and, in doing so, created a hole at both first base and atop the lineup. While Pablo Lopez is a nice get in return, he’s not going to bat leadoff, and a new alternative must be found.

    Image courtesy of © Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

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    As manager for the Minnesota Twins, Rocco Baldelli has tried to remain relatively consistent with his lineups. Although shuffling has been necessary due to injury or ineffectiveness, nothing was more certain than Luis Arraez's batting leadoff last year. In 92 of the 144 games he appeared, it was Arraez stepping into the box first.

    We know that Alex Kirilloff is all but ticketed to start at first base now, but we have yet to see who will replace Arraez in the lineup. A potential candidate could be slugger Byron Buxton, which may be where Baldelli starts. Although Buxton doesn’t have the on-base prowess of a prototypical leadoff man, checking in at just .316 over the past four seasons, an additional 30 at-bats should be valuable for one of the team's best hitters.

    There is something left to be desired from Buxton atop the lineup if he’s going to hit for power, however. In a breakout of long balls, Buxton blasted 28 a year ago. Leading off, plenty of those will wind up being solo shots and limit run production potential. He also has significantly dialed back stolen base attempts in recent seasons, creating less noise on the base paths. While not attempting to take Buxton out of the equation entirely, a recent acquisition could be the best bet.

    Enter Joey Gallo.

    The former Texas Rangers star would love to throw away his 2022. From flopping in New York to only a mild production boost with the Dodgers, there is nothing pretty about his career low 79 OPS+. It shouldn’t be controversial to suggest that Gallo may find it again with Minnesota, and despite being known for his power production, he will rely upon plenty in the field. Baldelli could also peg him as his leadoff hitter, and a greater swing in styles seems unfathomable.

    In 2021 with the Rangers, Gallo led the league in strikeouts. His 111 walks also led the league, and to quantify how little batting average matters, his .199 was coupled with a .351 on-base percentage. As a first-time All-Star in 2019, Gallo posted a .389 OBP, which Arraez only surpassed during his rookie season that same year.

    Along the same lines as Buxton, it may seem counterproductive to put Gallo’s home run prowess in the leadoff spot. Ideally, you’d like him to hit with runners on base and drive them in, but he could provide those opportunities for the likes of Buxton, Carlos Correa, and Alex Kirilloff. By leading off Gallo, Minnesota would have one of its best on-base threats stepping in early, and combining that with the threat of a home run immediately puts pressure on an opposing pitcher.

    Last season Gallo never hit at the top of the lineup for the Yankees or Los Angeles. In fact, across his 752 career games, he has never made a start while batting leadoff. Conventional wisdom says to hit someone like Gallo in the heart of the order or down near the seven-spot. Minnesota has been progressively managed and worked with new initiatives under this regime, however, and a change like this could make some sense.

    If I were betting on it right now, I’d still lean towards Buxton being the first batter for the Twins on Opening Day. I don’t think it should be a shock to see Gallo get his first start there this season. However, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it became something of a trend.

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    33 minutes ago, vulturepaj said:

    1) Polanco (S)  -- 2B
    2) Correa (R) -- SS
    3) Buxton (R) -- CF/DH
    4) AK47 (L) -- 1B/DH
    5) Miranda (R) -- 3B/1B/DH
    6) Gallo (L) -- LF/RF
    7) Larnach/Walner/Taylor/Gordon - (L/R) -- DH/OF
    8) Kepler (L) - RF
    9) Vazquez/Jeffers (R) -- C 

    D@mn near identical to what I was thinking.  I initially slid Gallo in at the 4-spot pushing AK47 and Miranda down one spot each.

    But I am good with this as well. 

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    I bet it will be Buck most of the time.  Rocco does not care about typical lead off guys.  He wants his best hitters to be at top of line up to get the most at bats.  It could be Gallo because he tends to take more pitches and work counts, where Buck will attack the first pitch, but overall it really does not matter because we do not build a line up any more with old school thoughts in mind. 

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    I would have Buxton batting 2nd or leading off.  Bryon has not been productive with RISP, batting average of .145 and .239 for 2022 and 2021 respectively.  The last 2 years Bryon has hit his best with just a runner on first (BA .273 and .512), an argument for having him bat 2nd.  Bryon's average with no one on is .229 and .270.  However, having him lead off allows him to turn walks and singles into doubles (if his knee is healed).  IMHO Byron belongs at the top of the order (1st or 2nd) until his RISP average improves.

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    I never liked Buck as the leadoff hitter. He's just not the right guy for that, even though the Twins seem to think he is. I'd bet anything he starts the year at the #1 spot. I'd go Polanco rather than Buxton. The truth is, they don't really have a good leadoff hitter. Please don't use C4 or any of the other guys at the #1 spot. 

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    Really isn't a great option to start the year, but I'm hoping a light went on in the Fall League and by midseason it can be Martin. His base stealing would be a great asset at leadoff. 

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    Gallo is an interesting idea. He's a better baserunner than you think, he will see a bunch of pitches, he'll take walks...and after the first inning it's all a scramble anyways.

    I'd probably lean towards Polanco, who has good on base skills and as a switch hitter balances the lineup on the run. Buxton makes sense if the team intends to use his speed on the bases...which I dearly love to see and recognize it may not be worth the punishment.

    I'd say no on Kepler unless he shows he can get on base more; .317 is not good enough IMHO. he does see plenty of pitches, but he's also the winner of the annual "Most Likely to Bounce Out Weakly to Second" Award 3 years running...

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    I like this one. It breaks up your lefties and righties, and kind of extends the order

    1) Buxton (R) -- CF/DH

    2) Polanco (S)  -- 2B
    3) Correa (R) -- SS
    4) AK47 (L) -- 1B
    5) Miranda (R) -- 3B
    6) Gallo (L) -- LF
    7) Vazquez/Jeffers - (R) -- C
    8) Larnach (L) - DH
    9) Kepler (L) -- RF 

     

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    6 hours ago, vulturepaj said:

    1) Polanco (S)  -- 2B
    2) Correa (R) -- SS
    3) Buxton (R) -- CF/DH
    4) AK47 (L) -- 1B/DH
    5) Miranda (R) -- 3B/1B/DH
    6) Gallo (L) -- LF/RF
    7) Larnach/Walner/Taylor/Gordon - (L/R) -- DH/OF
    8) Kepler (L) - RF
    9) Vazquez/Jeffers (R) -- C 

    Polanco would be my pick as well, with Correa then Buxton.

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    4 hours ago, CRF said:

    I never liked Buck as the leadoff hitter. He's just not the right guy for that, even though the Twins seem to think he is. I'd bet anything he starts the year at the #1 spot. I'd go Polanco rather than Buxton. The truth is, they don't really have a good leadoff hitter. Please don't use C4 or any of the other guys at the #1 spot. 

    Giving Buxton the extra at bats makes sense since the leadoff hitter gets something like 20+ extra at bats over the season, but I would rather see him hit with runners on since he has power and doesn't hit into double plays.

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    Looks like everybody totally forgot they picked up utility man Willie Castro as well. I didnt mean as a leadoff hitter...but he should be used as much or more than the other minor league fill ins.  Lol

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    12 hours ago, rwilfong86 said:

    Giving Buxton the extra at bats makes sense since the leadoff hitter gets something like 20+ extra at bats over the season, but I would rather see him hit with runners on since he has power and doesn't hit into double plays.

    There is another thread that is talking about having to move Kepler because of a log jam and here we have a concern about runners not being on base at the bottom of the order. 

    There is no reason to roster a Freddie Patek type anymore. We better hit 1 through 9. 

     

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    Buxton isn't a 3, 4, 5 hole hitter as he is pretty dreadful with RISP.  I would put him in the 1 hole to start and see how it works.  Gallo in the 1 hole is very tempting for two reasons: 1 he is no longer a Yankee/Dodger where the pressure to perform for WS contender was damning to his success. I think a change of scenery will be very beneficial for him to relax, enjoy the game, no pressure to be the guy so to speak.  2nd is that he does have a knack to get on base and I'd be surprised if his K rate is as higher or higher because of reason #1.  Rooting for the guy to succeed and I think he will.  Go Twins!

     

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    I wouldn't mind seeing Gordon as the lead off hitter even if it was from the DH position. He's a fast enough base runner. Buck hitting behind him should protect against double plays.

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    One view of potential line-ups:

    Against Lefties:                  Against Righties:

    Taylor - R - CF                   Gordon - L - CF

    CC - R - SS                         Kirilof - L - 1B

    Buxton - R - DH                 CC - R - SS

    Polanco - L/R - 2B             Larnach - L - LF

    Miranda - R - 1B                 Buxton - R - DH

    Jeffers - R - C                     Polanco - L/R - 2B

    Gordon - L - LF                   Gallo - L - RF

    Farmer - R - 3B                  Vazquez - R - C

    Gallo - L - RF                       Miranda - R - 3B

    Am assuming Kepler is traded prior to start of season.

    Jeffers - Farmer - Taylor are all optimized vs. left handed pitching

    Gordon - Gallo - Larnach - Kirilof are all optimized vs. right handed pitching

    Miranda - Buxton - CC - Vazquez - Polanco are always going to be in line-up unless resting, regardless of pitching opponent.

    Buxton in CF against a lefty just moves Taylor to right to spell Gallo.

    Hopefully, Lewis will be around to provide Dog Days rest by end of July for Corner Outfielders as well as Polanco & CC perhaps. 

     

     

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    Polanco seems like an easy choice against RHP.  His average was a little down, but he drew a lot more walks than previously in his career.  .374 OBP against righties last season.  I imagine something like Polo-Buck-Correa.

    Against lefties, it's a little more muddled.  I imagine Rocco goes with Buck in the leadoff spot, but where to go from there is probably anyone's guess.

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    I think it should be Buxton but I respect the arguments others have posted for Polanco.  In all honesty, the perfect guy is Julien.  But he will need a little time at St. Paul to show he's ready so someone other than Julien will have to open the season there.  Once Julien is up, he's at the top and Buxton slides to #2.  So if it IS Buxton, Rocco and the Twins need to stop treating him like a "very fragile...handle with care" kind of player.  Bigger bases.  A pitch clock.  Limited pickoffs to first base.  Just let Buxton play and let him RUN.  He should have 40 SB's this year with these new rules.  Rocco has to stop waiting for the 3-run HR.  It's not 2019 anymore.  I want to see more aggressive baserunning and a hit and run from time to time.  

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    No to just about any rookie with fewer than 500 AB in the minors. The jump to the majors is harder than most people imagine and it's a lot of pressure on a 20 year old to have Buxton and Correa waiting for you to set the table. Also no to anyone who has never put together a .350 OBP season. Mr Taylor looks like a fine fielder, a good man in the clubhouse and a conscientious son, but he's a career .296 OBP and belongs in the 9 hole.

    I like just giving Buxton and Polanco the extra ABs even if they aren't typical leadoff guys. Also, Odd Year Gallo might be a guy you want in the 4 or 5 hole.  You kind of have to wait and see who everyone is in spring training, after the carnage of 2022. Lots of new faces and guys that have to get the rust off.  Looking forward to seeing how things come out.

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    The Twins would be off their trolley to bat Gallo in the leadoff spot. We've seen Buxton in the leadoff spot in the past, but he has shown strikeout issues. Correa or Polanco would make the most sense, given that they respectively ranked 2nd and 3rd of all Twins players in OBP. 

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