Monday, February 25, 2019

Leading off

Max Kepler was the leadoff man in Sunday's lineup. That may be an indication of things to come, or it may be meaningless. It was, after, the first weekend of exhibition play.

But new manager Rocco Baldelli reportedly approached Kepler about Kep's experience as a leadoff hitter. Which is, apparently, minimal; Kepler said he thinks he hit leadoff some in rookie ball. But Baldelli has it in mind to try Kepler at the top slot.

Identifying a leadoff hitter on this team is a bit of a project. The hitters Paul Molitor preferred atop the lineup the past four seasons -- Brian Dozier primarily, with doses of  Robbie Grossman and Joe Mauer -- are gone. None of those were the slap-and-dash leadoff men of my youth, but they were all selective hitters who would take a walk.

The 10-regulars-for-nine-lineup-slots on the 2019 Twins -- I count here Marwin Gonzalez, who has yet to be officially added to the roster -- includes one guy who would have been reckoned a prototype leadoff man in days gone by. That is Byron Buxton, who certainly has hit leadoff a lot more as a pro than Kepler has. But I doubt anybody in the organization is advocating for installing Buck in the leadoff slot immediately. He'll have to earn it, or any other high-leverage lineup slot.

Kepler has a career OBP of .313 and a career high of .319 and a career total of 16 steals. The leadoff prototype has shifted over time, but Kepler has never fit any of them. That Baldelli (and presumably the analytical folk in the front office feeding him information) is considering him for that slot surprises me. But it is, again, the first days of exhibition play, and there is no obviously right answer to the question.

No comments:

Post a Comment