Philadelphia Phillies: Leadoff spot up for grabs

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

As presumptive leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen continues his rehab for a knee injury, who should begin the year hitting leadoff for the Philadelphia Phillies?

There are several angles from which you can approach the Philadelphia Phillies‘ decision on who to install at the leadoff spot this year, at least initially as Andrew McCutchen remains out.

Manager Joe Girardi has no shortage of options to bridge the gap until McCutchen’s return, although all of the contenders seem to have some drawbacks in addition to any elements that might be working in their favor. Let’s see who might make sense.

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The first and most obvious candidate is Roman Quinn. On the surface, the speedster has exactly the kind of profile that you want in a traditional leadoff hitter. He’s the Phils’ fastest player and best basestealing threat, and he’s even a switch hitter. Quinn has only led off in seven games so far in his brief MLB career (far fewer times than he’s hit ninth in the order), so maybe it’s high time for him to sink or swim in the spot.

The main knock on Roman is, of course, his health and the seemingly endless parade of injuries that comes along with him. It’s a genuine concern that the Phils name him the leadoff hitter for the time being only to see him get hurt after four games this year, throwing that whole plan out the window. In addition, Quinn’s likely platoon status in the outfield with Adam Haseley doesn’t really jive with him holding the top spot in the order. Would Girardi dare to simply swap Haseley for Quinn in the leadoff spot so as not to disturb the rest of the lineup? It seems unlikely. Haseley hasn’t done it yet in the majors, and he’s better suited to the seventh or eighth spots at this time.

One unorthodox selection would be J.T. Realmuto. It’s not totally crazy, as he’s not your typical catcher and his solid bat would play anywhere in the lineup. But you’d be sacrificing a ton of his opportunities to hit with men on base by elevating him to leadoff. Realmuto isn’t here to set the table; we can safely pass on this idea.

Jean Segura also can’t be totally discounted to hit leadoff. He actually has more experience hitting out of that spot in the order than anywhere else, even though the Phillies only used him there 12 times last season. Still, he sports a .304 batting average and .346 on-base percentage there for his career. Maybe he could actually be the kickstart that the Phillies need. We’ll have to put a pin in him for the moment.

The only other logical candidate here is Scott Kingery. He’s done it 27 times so far in his short career, and the results have not been good (a measly .190 average in those situations). Plus, you’d be taking potential RBI opportunities away. Ultimately, though, this comes down to what kind of player the Phillies envision Kingery being, at least at the plate. And maybe it might be a good idea to try him out atop the order for the time being just so they can figure out what they have. If Kingery proves to be unable to get the job done, then maybe his future is somewhere around the sixth spot in the lineup. If that’s the case, so be it. But why not find out right now when you have the chance?

So I endorse Scott Kingery for leadoff until Andrew McCutchen returns. And even then, if Kingery succeeds, why mess with a good thing? Kingery possesses innate baseball skills and is a good baserunner. If he can start showing an ability to draw more walks, it would go a long way toward making his case as a leadoff-type player. He made some modest gains there in 2019 and figures to take another step forward as he works on his patience at the dish.

Segura wouldn’t be a bad choice here either, but Kingery will be in a Phils uniform much longer, so it behooves the team to see if he can be the long-term solution at a certain spot in the batting order.

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The Phillies have asked Kingery to do a lot so far by moving him all over the diamond. Maybe now it’s time to see what he can do with this added responsibility.