Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond will have some choices to make when filling out his lineup cards this season. The Marlins roster contains plenty of hitters who make contact and feature plus-speed, but don’t boast ideal on-base percentages for the top of a batting order.
The Marlins don’t have a true, prototypical leadoff hitter (if such a thing even exists anymore). Christian Yelich led off all of 2014 and excelled in the role. He hit .284/.362/.402 with 30 doubles thanks to his sweet, sweet swing. But the question will soon become whether Yelich’s skills are being best-utilized out of the leadoff spot as opposed to batting, say, third in the order. His OBP is outstanding, and he hits for enough power (despite just 9 home runs; he produced 36 extra base hits) that maybe he could slide down closer to the middle of the lineup.
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The x-factor in the Marlins 2015 lineup will be Dee Gordon. Miami’s new second baseman is a one-tool player, and that tool is speed. He is coming off a career year with the Dodgers where he hit .289/.326/.378 with 28 doubles and a league-best 12 triples. I’m a bit scared that the Marlins, who we’ve learned are among the least analytical teams in baseball, are too enamored with Gordon’s inflated batting average and see him as their new leadoff man. He walked just 4.8% last year, compared to Yelich’s 10.6%. For his career Gordon draws walks at a rate just a tick higher than that at 5.2%. His BABIP last year was actually a reasonable .346, so there’s no blatant evidence suggesting Gordon can’t put up the numbers he did for the Dodgers in 2014.
But where do you bat Giancarlo Stanton, then? Stanton has almost exclusively hit third each of the last three seasons, primarily because he was far and way the best hitter on the team. He probably still is, but in 2013 the Marlins had literally no one else that could produce consistently at the plate and in 2014, while improved, the roster had no other impact bats that would’ve been ideal for hitting in the first inning of every game.
With his power Stanton could hit cleanup, but then you run the risk of him seeing even fewer pitches to hit with a couple runners on base in front of him. Stanton notoriously cannot resist sliders away and out of the zone; hardly ideal for the tablesetter in a lineup. There’s also the fact that each game you might be theoretically taking a plate appearance away from the team’s best hitter by sliding him out of the top three.
Mike Redmond will probably bat Gordon first, Yelich second (or vice versa) and Stanton third, with Mike Morse likely hitting cleanup. Although there is some room for creativity, especially if Gordon scuffles in an Emilio Bonifacio-esque manner (think lots of speed, can’t get on base to use the speed, tries to bunt for hits too often, and fails.)
Martin Prado, he of the .324 wOBA in 2014, is a sleeper to perhaps see time hitting in the two-hole. Prado walks at a similar rate to Gordon, but also strikes out much less (10.9% for his career). And Prado hit .282 last year, another batting average that the simplistic Marlins might covet at the top of their lineup. With Prado hitting second, you could keep Yelich in the leadoff spot — for now — and Stanton hitting third, where he’s found the most success in his career. Gordon could slide down to the seven spot, which would make the bottom third of Miami’s lineup less of a black hole and add a speed-and-contact element in front of Adeiny Hechavarria.
Redmond has said he will tinker with multiple lineups throughout Spring Training. The Marlins play their first unofficial game on Tuesday, an exhibition against Florida International University. Miami opens Grapefruit League play against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday.
What do you think, Marlins fans? Do you want Christian Yelich or Dee Gordon leading off in 2015? Let us know in the comments.
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