Who is the Mets leadoff hitter?

With the signing of third baseman Todd Frazier the Mets have now seemingly plugged every offensive hole. It’s reasonable to think that if you look at the team position by position, where we now have a set player and even a solid backup for every spot in the infield and outfield. However, when you look at it from a lineup perspective, there’s really no one on this roster ideally suited to set the table.
An ideal leadoff hitter can get on base at a .350 OBP clip or better and possess enough speed to take an extra base on a single and aggressively advance on a groundout or sacrifice fly. Ideally, they don’t strike out constantly and know how to work a count and can steal some bases. There’s currently no Rickey Henderson in Major League Baseball, but there are a number of players who fill this role well – Charlie Blackmon, Ender Inciarte, A.J. Pollock, Adam Eaton, and the recently available Dee Gordon and Lorenzo Cain. Unfortunately, none of those players will be wearing blue and orange in 2018, so the Mets will have to do some juggling, experimenting and playing the hot hand to fill this void.

On opening day, depending on if we are facing a lefty or righty, our lineup might look like this:

Brandon Nimmo/Juan Lagares
Asdrubal Cabrera
Yoenis Cespedes
Jay Bruce
Todd Frazier
Adrian Gonzalez/Wilmer Flores
Travis d’Arnaud
Amed Rosario

While neither is going to win a stolen base title, Lagares and Nimmo both possess average or better speed and base running skills and Nimmo at least has demonstrated a good OBP in a small sample size. That and his five remaining years of control is precisely why management was so hesitant to part with a player who, on the surface, appears to be just a reserve outfielder. Lagares, better known for his gold glove than his bat, has been reportedly working on adjusting his swing in the off-season. He’s worth a look and a second chance at the leadoff spot, but realistically, he’s never demonstrated a consistent ability to get on base. This experiment won’t last more than a month or so as the return of Michael Conforto will relegate both of these players to part-time duty.Once that happens, do we really want Conforto in the leadoff spot? Yes, he can get on base and has at least average speed, but he’s also a reliable RBI man who is better suited to batting third in the lineup in front of Yoenis Cespedes. In a full season, a healthy Conforto could contribute 60 plus extra base hits, which would be a lot more impactful with ducks on the pond.

Do we have other options? Cespedes and Bruce are clearly earmarked for the middle of the order, as is the power hitting, but strikeout prone Frazier. Gonzalez, Cabrera, d’Arnaud, and Flores are all too slow footed to lead off and the latter is not adept at drawing walks.

Rosario may present himself as an option as the season develops as he certainly possesses the foot speed. However, he will need to learn to be more selective at the plate, swinging at better pitches and developing the patience to draw walks at a good clip. This will take some maturing if it ever happens. So far, Rosario looks like the second coming of Alcides Escobar. He might eventually learn to hit .290 or even .300, but his OBP will be just 10 points above that and this doesn’t really cut it atop the order.

When he’s in the lineup, either to spell an infielder or to fill in on injury, Jose Reyes is another option. He’s not the dynamo he once was but he has experience in the leadoff spot and still possesses speed. Despite a poor start at the plate last season, Reyes finished quite strong. After Nimmo, he might be our best option atop the lineup. Problem is, in as many games as not, neither will be in the lineup and that’s going to require some mixing and matching on the part of new manager Mickey Callaway.

Not every team has a traditional leadoff hitter and some, like last year’s Cubs, can rotate high OBP guys and make it work. As is often pointed out, a leadoff hitter may only bat first once in a game, however, it’s always good to set the tone of the game at the outset. Also, it’s a lot easier to score runs when you’re not going station to station waiting for a third single or a homerun that doesn’t always come.

If this lack of a true leadoff hitter and team speed proves to be the problem this writer predicts, there’s always the midseason trade deadline. Until then, it’s anybody’s guess who will be up first.

19 comments for “Who is the Mets leadoff hitter?

  1. Eraff
    February 9, 2018 at 9:06 am

    I’m always most concerned about hitting a young NL Batter 8th…especially a guy who struggles with selection, as does Rosario.

    I’d Bat “The CF’er” 1st for Now…. d’Arnaud 8th

  2. Hunter
    February 9, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Remember when a Punch and Judy guy batted second, now it’s your best hitter. Things change. Speed no longer a must at the top of,the order.

  3. Matt Netter
    February 9, 2018 at 9:46 am

    Alderson doesn’t value speed for whatever reason, but other teams still do. I think back to the way KC beat us in 2015. They didn’t have a lot of power but yet were able to score against our pitching staff at its best (the same one that shut down the Cubs) with timely hitting and aggressive base running. The old school Earl Weaver approach to waiting for the 3-run homer is very limited.

    Eraff – that’s a good point. I’m not sure yet where Rosario will ultimately fit in this lineup. We have to see how he develops. Hopefully he can learn to find his inner Nimmo.

    • Chris F
      February 9, 2018 at 10:07 am

      Alderson wants to kill you by blunt force. The Royals beat us using the “1000 cuts” method. Either can work. I dont like the Alderson model, because it leverages wins against minimal options to get there. The second some part of that system suffers the whole organism falls apart, as we have seen.

      It has that feel of leading the league in solo HR, a thing we know very well.

    • February 9, 2018 at 10:45 am

      Well, in a short sample you can have great good fortune and have the sequence gods smile on you. But over a full season a team with a .625 OPS doesn’t average 5 runs per game, regardless of what else it does well.

      • Chris F
        February 9, 2018 at 10:53 am

        winning 2-1 is no different than winning 6-5.

        I like fast, crisp, well played, team baseball.

        • February 9, 2018 at 11:47 am

          And I don’t mean to imply that it is different.

          But it’s not 1968 and you’re going to need more than 2 runs to win most games.

  4. Pete In Iowa
    February 9, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Somewhat off topic here, but I want to take this opportunity to extend best wishes and prayers to Buddy Harrelson and his family as he deals with Alzheimer’s. I was saddened to read about his situation in today’s NY Post.
    Equally troubling is the apparent way in which the Mets’ current brass has treated him lately, according to the story. Apparently, he has been treated in much the same manner as the powers that be have treated Eddie Kranepool.
    Such treatment of these iconic Mets players makes me sad indeed. Such a poor way to treat family members. A real shame.
    Here’s to Buddy. Not the greatest player, but being one of the few who was involved in both championship clubs makes him a true Met icon.

    • Chris F
      February 9, 2018 at 10:22 am

      Agreed on all fronts.

  5. Eraff
    February 9, 2018 at 11:19 am

    I don’t necessarily expect Ownership to treat ex-players in an exceptionally positive manner…. what I’ve seen from these guys is that they treat the rest of the world like Crap. When they get around to treating someone I like like Crap, or treating Me like Crap, I get angry.

    They have the Personality of Universal Animus.

  6. BK
    February 9, 2018 at 11:26 am

    This situation isn’t ideal. But they can get by with a good OBP in the leadoff spot even if it’s not a traditional speed-demon leadoff hitter.

  7. Mike Walczak
    February 9, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    KC hitters were also very tough outs. Rule number one, get on base.

  8. Pete In Iowa
    February 9, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Bottom line here is clear: in the overwhelming majority of games the centerfielder will be the leadoff hitter. Nimmo and Conforto. I hope they wouldn’t even consider Lagares in that spot. “New swing” or not, that won’t stop him from flailing at pitches 2 feet off the outside corner.
    On days when Lagares gets the start in center, it will likely come down to a mix and match of Cabrerra, Rosario, Reyes, et al.
    I’m fine with this arrangement. Nimmo seems to have a knack for getting on and Conforto was one of the best lead off hitters in the league last season. Maybe not the proto-typical profile as lead-off hitters go, but certainly more than adequate.

  9. Dalton Allison
    February 9, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    I’d love to see Nimmo, Lagares, or even Roasrio at that top spot.

    • Mike Walczak
      February 9, 2018 at 11:41 pm

      The Indians had Carlos Santana leading off, not your prototypical leadoff hitter. Boy, do I miss Dykstra, Backman and Mookie Wilson. In 1989, Howard Johnson stole 41 bases. The game has really changed.

      The Mets lineup could have a lot of low batting averages and a lot of strike outs. Yes, a lot of home runs, but I would rather have a number one and two hitters have the ability to get on base and run.

    • Chris F
      February 10, 2018 at 4:49 pm

      You must mean driving him to the stadium, right? Hard to drive in runs polishing the pine.

      If it is Flores, then the white flag has been raised on the season.

  10. Eraff
    February 10, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Some of the Data and Approach will differ on Leadoff hitters in a DH Lineup versus a Non-DH lineup.

    The value of OBP, and any stat that would reveal the likelihood of a Lead Off hitter delivering himself to a RISP is very important. As a hitter with the most batting chances, I’m ok to sacrifice some OBP for Total Bases.

    Jose Reyes was not a Classic Lead Off Hitter by virtue of OBP—but his added power and his ability to steal delivered a potent weapon with the greatest number of AB’s.

    It’s all about “Damage”.

    OBP..Total Bases…Steals… Damage

  11. Captain America
    February 17, 2018 at 11:44 pm

    Lagares is an atrocious choice to bat lead off. He is arguably the worst hitter in that lineup. Why would you want him to have the most plate appearances?

    For five years, save a few months that were outliers, Lagares has shown he doesn’t get on base, doesn’t steal bases and is not a good hitter.

    In fact when you break down Lagares’s numbers, he fares moderately well against soft tossers. The rest, not so well.

    Please Mickey recognize Juan as your 5th OF. He is a defensive replacement. A pinch runner. An occasional starter against soft tossing lefties.

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