ESPN broached the subject of Cubs leadoff candidates for the upcoming season. The Cubs have not had a true leadoff hitter since the days of Kenny Lofton, despite the likes of Juan Pierre, Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot spending a lot of time at the top of the Cubs’ lineup.
ESPN mentioned the possibility of Starlin Castro, and if not Castro, maybe Marlon Byrd or Alfonso Soriano. But Mike Quade recently told Dave Kaplan there is “no chance” Soriano will hit leadoff for the Cubs and “will try at all cost” to avoid using Soriano at the top of the lineup.
As the roster is currently constructed, who should leadoff for the Cubs in Two Thousand Eleven? Taking a quick glance at the Cubs’ 40-man roster, there are a couple of players that could do the job but the best candidate will probably start the year in the minors.
Quade said he would probably play match-ups when the season begins … and see how things sort themselves out. Starlin Castro is an option but he is probably better suited hitting in the two-hole, especially going into his first full season at the Major League level.
Of the possible candidates, here is how they fared in 2010 out of the leadoff spot …
- Starlin Castro – 0-for-4 with a strikeout, one game
- Kosuke Fukudome – .193/.313/.298/.611 (35-for-181 in 48 games), eight doubles, a triple, three home runs and 17 runs scored
- Blake DeWitt – .238/.275/.397/.672 (15-for-63 in 16 games), five doubles, a triple, a home run and three runs scored
- Tyler Colvin – .250/.310/.538/.848 (26-for-104 in 24 games), two doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 20 runs scored
- Marlon Byrd – .500/.522/.727/1.249 (11-for-22 in five games), five doubles and two runs scored
- Jeff Baker – .464/.516/.571/1.088 (13-for-28 in eight games), three doubles and six runs scored
Sam Fuld remains on the big league roster but it would be a stretch to think he will be with the Cubs on Opening Day, much less in a starting lineup. Fuld is out of Minor League options and will likely find himself out of the organization by the time the intrasquad game is over on March 30.
The Cubs obviously lack team speed and if the season started tomorrow, Quade would have to play match-ups.
Jeff Baker pounded lefties last season (.350/.395/.550/.945, 49-for-140, with 12 doubles, two triples and four home runs in 62 games) and spent a lot of time in the leadoff spot when Mike Quade took over.
Against right-handed pitchers, if Kosuke Fukudome is still on the team (which in all likelihood he will be) he is probably the best option … especially in April and May.
Kosuke hit .263 with a .377 OBP versus right-handed pitching (.427 SLG and a .804 OPS) with 18 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs in 118 games (83-for-118). Once the calendar turns to June, if Brett Jackson is not with the team, then Blake DeWitt could be a fit against right-handers.
Blake DeWitt managed a .263/.342/.377/.719 line against righties with 21 doubles, four triples and four home runs in 134 games (95-for-361).
The interesting part of ESPN’s report is mentioning Marlon Byrd as an option.
Yes, Byrd struggled in the second half (.261/.321/.361/.682 with 12 doubles, two triples and three home runs in 65 games) but he hit lefties to the tune of a .357/.390/.526/.916 line in 67 games (61-for-171) last season. Plus, Byrd is a good baserunner and is smart on the bases as well. As for his career as a leadoff hitter, Byrd’s line of .289/.353/.418/.770 (172-for-596 in 145 games) is not too shabby.
As for Brett Jackson, from all indications this off-season he will likely start the year in Double-A with a quick promotion to Iowa if he picks up where he left off in 2010 (.276/.366/.465/.831 with 13 doubles, six triples and six home runs in 61 games with the Smokies, including 18 out of 22 in the stolen base department). Jackson figures to be in the mix down the road to hit leadoff for the Cubs … but he has to get to the Show first.
Will it be Fukudome, Baker, DeWitt, Castro, Byrd, Colvin, or none of the above?
Who will hit in the top spot of the lineup next season should be one of the many questions Mike Quade will field next week at the convention.