The Search For A Leadoff Hitter

By Rich Sparago

Among the issues the 2013 New York Mets face is the search for a leadoff hitter. The team hasn’t had a steady number one in the order since the departure of Jose Reyes after the 2011 season. Here’s a look at the batting averages and OBP of the players Terry Collins has penciled into the leadoff spot so far this year.

Player                                       BA                   OBP

Ruben Tejada                        .247                   .333

Mike Baxter                           .200                   .315

Jordany Valdespin               .263                   .300

Collin Cowgill                       .157                   .173

Kirk Nieuwenhuis                 .125                   .176

If the leadoff hitter’s job is to get on base, statistically Ruben Tejada is the Mets’

Apr 24, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets outfielder Jordany Valdespin (1) reacts after hitting a walk-off grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the bottom of the tenth inning of a MLB game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

best option to bat first. However, Tejada is getting on base in 1/3 of his official at-bats, and the Mets need to do better than that. In addition, Tejada does not run well, thereby removing the stolen base as a potential weapon at the top of the order. For a singles-hitting team, it’s imperative that runners get into scoring position in any way possible.

Although his OBP is slightly lower than Tejada’s, I’d like to see Valdespin play every day, and bat first. Valdespin is a dynamic player, bringing a combination of power and speed to the lineup. With that dynamic presence comes a frustrating inconsistency, both defensively and offensively. However, on a team starved for offense, giving Valdespin a more regular role makes sense. He can create runs in a few different ways, and that is sorely needed on the 2013 Mets. Valdepsin’s versatility will allow him to play different positions, while giving consistency in the one-hole in the order. Terry Collins has indicated that he prefers to have Valdy on the bench for “big situations”. I’d rather see Jordany create and contribute to those situations throughout the game, not only at the end.

For comparison purposes, the Mets had the chance to sign Michael Bourn this off season. They chose to pass, pointing the forfeiture of their draft pick (11th overall) as the reason. With Cleveland so far this season, Bourn is hitting .333 with a .375 OBP. He had an injured hand, which has limited him to 10 games played.

This coming off season, finding a leadoff hitter should be at the top of Sandy Alderson’s shopping list.