There are some roles within the 2014 Mets that are givens. David Wright will almost definitely hit 3rd, Curtis Granderson will almost certainly hit 4th and whoever is playing first base will likely be hitting 5th or 6th. What we don’t know is who will be leading off for the Mets. As I see it, the Mets have a number of options: Eric Young Jr., Chris Young, Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada or Daniel Murphy.
Eric Young Jr. – 46 Stolen Bases in 2013
- Reasons He Should Leadoff: He has the most natural speed of anyone on the Mets. If you look over the length of his career, he averages around 1 stolen base for every 10 of his at bats. Stolen bases are a part of what we’ve come to expect from a leadoff hitter. Stolen bases are what turn a leadoff hitter into a spark plug as he can create opportunities with his legs once he’s on base.
- Reasons He Should Not Leadoff: If you want to steal a base you need to be on base and he’s not that skilled in that regard. The Mets wish to use him as a 4th/5th outfielder and backup second baseman and that is probably a wise decision. If he starts a game he might leadoff but he’s most useful being inserted as a runner later in the game.
Chris Young – A Dynamic Mix of Speed and Power
- Reasons He Should Leadoff: You don’t think of Young as being an on-base machine. He’s only a career .235 hitter, but his career OBP is 80 points higher because he does seem to know how to take the occasional walk. He’s also probably the second fastest player on the roster and his speed would have far less impact if stuck behind Ike Davis or Josh Satin.
- Reasons He Should Not Leadoff: Young’s hitting approach is not what you really want in a leadoff hitter. He thinks of himself as a power hitter. This leads us to the issue of Young’s excessive strikeouts. He certainly isn’t the ideal fit for the role of leading off with his free swinging approach.
Juan Lagares – Won Over Met Fans with Amazing Defense
- Reasons He Should Leadoff: Lagares isn’t slow, you’ve seen him run in the outfield to track down balls, but he’s equally not a great base runner. He could get better. Back in 2010 he stole 25 bases between Savannah and Port St. Lucie.
- Reasons He Should Not Leadoff: Lagares is not good at taking a walk, at all. His OBP is only 40 points higher than his batting average. Now some people see Lagares growing into a .270 hitter with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases but I do not. I see Lagares as being the Endy Chavez of the 2014 Mets. His defense is his only plus tool.
Ruben Tejada – Had a .360 OBP in 2011
- Reasons He Should Leadoff: At points in his Met career Tejada has shown the most important element of being a leadoff hitter, getting on base. He’s not going to steal many bases but if he’s on base he can score runs and that is what leading off is all about.
- Reasons He Should Not Leadoff: If Tejada is as bad as he was in 2013, he doesn’t belong in the majors at all. Now… I am not in favor of Wilmer Flores blundering around at shortstop, but I am in favor of having his bat in the lineup and that becomes an even greater boost if we’re losing the .519 OPS of Tejada in the process.
Daniel Murphy – Stole a Surprising 23 Bases in 2013
- Reasons He Should Leadoff: How can a player with only a 40 point difference between his BA and OBP be considered for this role? Murphy’s batting average is a career .290 which beats out all of the other names on this list. That, and his canny base stealing ability make him a viable choice for the role.
- Reasons He Should Not Leadoff: The downside is that Murphy is a viable candidate to hit 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th in the lineup. While he’d probably be okay in the leadoff role, is it really the best place for him?
All of these things combine to give me the impression that Chris Young is likely the best candidate for the job. Then again, Stephen Drew could come to town and throw his name into the hat. We’ll see what the Mets decide soon enough.