Fowler and Heyward to bat one-two, Rizzo cleanup in Maddon’s batting order
Joe Maddon has not finalized the Opening Day lineup. This season, Maddon plans on using a more traditional National League batting order and hit the pitcher ninth more often than not. Maddon talked about lineup construction prior to Wednesday’s Cactus League finale. And the Cubs’ skipper said Dexter Fowler and Jason Heyward will bat at the top of the lineup.
Maddon indicated Fowler and Heyward would hit one-two in the order. Maddon plans on Anthony Rizzo starting the season as his cleanup man. Rizzo would be sandwiched between Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant. Maddon sees Zobrist and Bryant hitting third on some days and fifth on others depending on the day’s starting pitcher with Rizzo in between.
Maddon told the beat writers Wednesday that he would prefer to keep Heyward in his “comfort zone,” which is the two-hole in the lineup.
According to the Sun-Times, Maddon plans on starting the season with Fowler, Heyward and Rizzo locked in the one, two and four spots in his batting order. And two hitters, Zobrist and Bryant “floating between the other two top five spots.”
If Maddon sticks with what he said Wednesday, the Cubs lineup could be Fowler, Heyward, Zobrist/Bryant, Rizzo, Bryant/Zobrist, Schwarber, Russell, Montero and the pitcher’s spot on most days against right-handed starting pitchers. Maddon likes the idea of hitting Russell in between two left handers according to the Tribune.
Against left-handed starting pitchers, Jorge Soler could bat sixth with Russell seventh and David Ross eighth.
Joe Maddon figures to tell Dexter Fowler a lot this season ‘You go. We go.’ Fowler hit leadoff for Maddon in 146 games last season and batted .255/.350/.420 with 29 doubles, eight triples and 17 home runs for a .770 OPS. Maddon knows what Fowler brings to the table hitting at the top of the lineup. Plus, he thinks Fowler is going to have a big year.
Jason Heyward hit only .208/.230/.361 in 17 games in the two-hole for the Cardinals last season. For his career, Heyward has hit .251/.347/.410 with a .757 OPS batting second in the order in 220 games.
Anthony Rizzo hit .256/.357/.496 with 13 doubles, a triple and 15 home runs for a .853 OPS in the cleanup spot last season. Hitting third, Rizzo batted .293/.416/.523 with 15 doubles, two triples and seven home runs for a .939 OPS. In 81 career games in the four-hole, Rizzo has a .269/.358/.502 slash line with a .860 OPS.
Last season, Ben Zobrist hit .268/.333/.445 with a .778 when he batted third and he did not have a single at bat in the five-hole for either Oakland or Kansas City. In 251 career games, Zobrist has a .267/.347/.412 line with a .759 OPS when he’s batted third. Hitting fifth in 142 career games, Zobrist has a .281/.377/.481 line with a .858 OPS.
Kris Bryant hit fifth in 35 games for Maddon last season. Bryant batted .323/.413/.581 with a .993 OPS compared to a .254/.343/.462 slash line with a .805 OPS in 68 games out of the three-hole.
According to the Tribune, Maddon admitted Wednesday that he is “obsessed with lineup protection and has sought data from the analytics department despite suggestions he shouldn’t fret over it so much.”
Joe Maddon used 119 different lineups last season. With the depth and options he has this year, Maddon could easily surpass last year’s total.