Tom McGurk Cherry Hill Courier-Post
Published 5:58 PM EDT May 17, 2019
PHILADELPHIA – While he isn’t the prototypical leadoff hitter, Andrew McCutchen’s ability to get on base made him a serviceable option for the role to begin the season.
However, what happens when he’s not reaching base?
After a hot start, McCutchen’s numbers have tailed off considerably lately, including a .324 OBP over the last 23 games.
McCutchen was out on the field early for extra batting practice on Friday, hoping to regain the smooth stroke he displayed back in early April.
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Without the lack of a traditional leadoff hitter, the Phillies opted to go with McCutchen because he’s been an on-base and run-scoring machine over his 11-year career (.378 OBP). Last season, he logged a .414 OBP in 49 games.
The former Most Valuable Player has led off in each of his 43 starts with the Phillies, including Friday’s game against Colorado as well as Opening Day when he homered in his first at-bat.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler hasn’t tinkered much with his lineup this season, a drastic change from last season when he ran out 125 different batting orders.
One of the few changes he’s tried was moving slugger Bryce Harper to the No. 2 spot in an attempt to break the star out of his weeks-long slump.
That experiment lasted one day. Harper was back in the third slot for Friday’s game.
Kapler hasn’t given any indication he’s thinking about a new leadoff hitter, but if he was, who would be the options to be the first name on the lineup card?
Here are the potential candidates:
The shortstop has been the juggernaut that puts this offensive in motion.
Going into Friday’s game, Segura has delivered consistency and boasts a team-best .312 batting average, but his OBP (.349) ranks fifth among the starters.
Segura has hit leadoff more than any other spot in his eight-year career and has produced better numbers in that position (.309/.351/.451) than in the two-hole (.282/.321.400).
If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. It would be tough to move Segura up right now.
The Phillies know what Hernandez brings to the leadoff position since he’s been there for the bulk of his career with the club.
Hernandez hit leadoff 144 times last season, compiling a slash line of .252/.358.364. His current OBP of .360 this season and his career-high of .373 set in 2017 are serviceable, but there are plenty of better options on the squad.
The wild card of the ballclub, Kingery is expected back to the team very soon, possibly as early as Sunday.
Before he suffered a right hamstring strain on April 20, Kingery delivered eye-popping numbers .406/.457/.719.
There’s no set position in the field for Kingery, but his bat will certainly give him the opportunity to play somewhere.
Kingery, who is often compared to Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, struggled at the plate in his rookie season, especially when he was hitting at the top of the lineup. His .340 career OBP in four minor-league seasons isn’t overwhelming either.
Kingery could be an option in the future, but probably not this season.
Crazy idea, right?
The Phillies are paying their superstar $330 million to put baseballs into the seats for homers and to drive in 100-plus runs.
Harper hitting leadoff isn’t unprecedented. He led off 28 times during his time with the Nationals, posting a .362 OBP and a .573 slugging percentage, which is actually higher than his SLG as a No. 3 or cleanup hitter.
It’s not going to happen, but Harper might be better in the leadoff spot than he would in the second slot.
A catcher hitting leadoff isn’t as rare as one might think. Jason Kendall was the primary first batter for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2004-2006, including 119 starts atop the lineup in one season.
Even Tim McCarver logged time as a leadoff hitter (9 times) in 1972.
Realmuto has history atop the lineup, logging 40 career starts in the spot. His slash line of .339/.380/.471 is, by far, the best of any spot in the order for the veteran backstop.
Realmuto has excelled in a run-producing spot for the Phillies, it would be tough to move him from the heart of the order right now.
The Phillies are counting on McCutchen to polish up his on-base skills. But if he can’t, there are options to fill the role.
Tom McGurk; @McGurkSports; (856) 486-2420; [email protected]
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