While cleaning out a bunch of old interviews on my recorder, I came across this jewel of a quote from Royals manager Ned Yost.
It was before a game against the White Sox in August, and Yost was asked about Lorenzo Cain being used as a leadoff hitter:
“If I had a leadoff hitter, he wouldn’t be hitting leadoff. It’s just a spot where he kind of fits right now.”
Yost later added: “He fits there as well as anyone we have.”
What a ringing endorsement, eh?
But Yost is right. There isn’t a player who jumps out at you as a natural leadoff man for the Royals.
So who will bat there this season? I’m not sold on this, but at this point I’m leaning toward Alex Gordon returning to the leadoff spot.
In 2012, Gordon’s numbers as a leadoff hitter were .307/.379/.466 with 39 walks in 83 games (377 plate appearances). Gordon’s lifetime numbers as a leadoff hitter: 174 games, 802 plate appearances, .306/.381/.501 with 84 walks.
The numbers for Royals leadoff hitters in 2012: .273/.340/.390 with 68 walks. Jarrod Dyson was the leadoff hitter in 41 games and had 19 walks to go along with a .231 average and a .319 on-base percentage.
Cain? He walked twice in 15 games as the leadoff hitter and had a .303 average with just a .333 OBP.
I understand the desire to see Gordon bat third or maybe even fifth (can’t ignore those 51 doubles last year), so I’m not saying he must be the Royals’ leadoff hitter in 2013. It just appears that no one has grabbed hold of that spot, and Gordon's on-base percentage can't be ignored.
In a wonderful coincidence, while putting this together I listened to the Royals Hot Stove show on KCSP (610 AM) on Thursday night, and this was a topic of conversation.
An aside: It was a blast to hear Royals announcers Denny Matthews and Ryan Lefebvre again on that show. We’re another step closer to the baseball season, friends.
Denny’s take on Gordon batting leadoff: “I don’t see any problem with keeping him in the No. 1 spot. I think he is comfortable there. I think there is a comfort level for him, he’s obviously very productive in that spot. What the heck, I’d leave him there until you have to do something otherwise.”
Lefebvre said on the Hot Stove show that he was in favor of moving Gordon from the top of the order to No. 3 last season, but he’s also OK with Gordon leading off in 2013.
“I think he’s fine leading off,” Lefebvre said. “He’s got the on-base percentage, he hits the doubles, he can steal a base for you every now and then.”
Lefebvre also threw his support behind Jarrod Dyson.
“I know I’m in the minority when I say this, but when I see Jarrod Dyson, I see Kenny Lofton,” Lefebvre said. “And if you can put a Kenny Lofton type at the top of that order with all that thunder behind, I think that would just dramatically change the dynamic.
“I think Jarrod Dyson could do the same thing.”
If Dyson turns into Kenny Lofton in his prime, then the question of who bats leadoff is moot.
Again, this is an open discussion. Leave your thoughts on who should bat leadoff for the Royals.