Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rollins to hit leadoff, but is he the best choice?

Don Mattingly and his boys are getting ready for their first Spring Training game of the season, which is tomorrow (Wednesday) against the White Sox.  One move he made was putting Jimmy Rollins in the leadoff slot, where he will probably stay for the season.

The reasoning?  Well, it's pretty simple: he's spent the majority of his career in that slot, and the Dodgers don't really have anyone else to do it.  So that's that.

With all of that said, I still have to wonder if Rollins is best utilized in that role at this point in his career.  For his career in the #1 spot, he's hit .272 with a .331 OBP.  The last couple of seasons, however, he's started to switch away from being exclusively a leadoff hitter, and started many more games in the #2 hole last season.

Dee Gordon was an obvious choice last season to hit leadoff.  He has blazing speed and was an emerging threat at the plate, even though his .326 OBP wasn't exactly through the roof.  This season, there's just not that one guy who plainly sticks out to set the table.  So you can understand why Mattingly wants to plug Rollins there based on his experience there.

Still, I look at a couple of other guys who could possibly fill this spot at times this upcoming season.  The first one is Carl Crawford, who is the early leader to start in left field.  Like Rollins, he's on the downside of his career and is looking to give that one last push towards a ring.  Last season in 105 games, he had a resurgence at the plate with a .300/.339 line, so he found ways to get on base.  He also swiped 23 bases with only six times being caught.  That's pretty good.

The other guy in my mind, believe it or not, is Yasiel Puig.  The Dodgers definitely want him to be that thumper in the heart of the order, especially with Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez gone.  But, because this is Puig we're talking about, nothing is a guarantee.  Despite having all the tools in the world to be a terrific run producer, he does have a .301/.389 line hitting leadoff, and has a high slugging % at .527 over the last two years.  Maybe he's just more comfortable there than the other spots.

Let's not forget that Rollins had 17 homers and 55 RBIs last season, and three years ago it was 23 and 68.  While he'll never be confused with the biggest ballplayer in the park, he still can hit for power, which could cause him to be moved to the middle of the order if the Dodgers are struggling in this regard.

It's just over a month away until the games start for real, so let's see if Mattingly is happy with Rollins taking that first at-bat of the game, or if someone else like Crawford or Puig is called upon.

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