Solving the Minnesota Twins Leadoff Hitter Dilemma
I’m not a traditionalist by any stretch of the imagination. I love My Little Pony Tales, and I don’t really dig The Beatles. However, I do agree with the long-held belief that a lead-off man’s main responsibility is to get on base. Aaron Hicks and his .108 OBP aren’t doing that.
I’m not going to go so far as to say that Hicks needs to be sent down for his performance. He’s only 23, and before this year, he had never played above AA. Obviously, there is going to be a learning curve. It just seems hard to accept that this learning curve needs to occur at the expense of the top of the order.
The biggest problem with this is that there are no other batters in the Twins line-up that would be a logical (temporary) replacement for Hicks (where art thou, Shannon Stewart?). Let’s take a look at the possible candidates and see if we can slap some lipstick on this pig.
Pedro Florimon has played extremely well at the beginning of the year (.333/.500/.400). However, that’s through only 15 at-bats. As much as I am probably over-reacting with this whole “bat-Aaron-Hicks-lower” movement, an even greater over-reaction would be to suggest Florimon as a viable option at lead-off.
It seems unfair to judge Florimon on last year (.219/.272/.307) as it was his first year in the big leagues. However, even his .321 OBP in the minors isn’t near enough to make this a semi-intelligent suggestion.
Before the start of last season, Brian Dozier had a career .385 OBP in the minors, which seems to indicate that he would fit well in the one or the two-hole. However, through his first 91 games in the majors, Dozier’s .267 OBP leaves plenty to be desired.
Because this seems like a problem exclusively for the present as Hicks will eventually figure it out and be a fine lead-off hitter, it doesn’t make sense to plug in Dozier who has also struggled. I do think that Dozier will eventually fit well hitting behind Hicks, but it might be best to allow him to continue to develop lower in the order.
Yo, I think Gardy just went into cardiac arrest. Somebody might want to check on him. The Twins’ skipper has always wanted his lead-off guy to be a player that can get on base and be a threat to swipe second. That’s not in Chris Parmelee’s repertoire. What Parmelee will bring you is a decent OBP and the threat of extra bases.
I see him as a slower version of Jacque Jones that will get on base more. Jones himself wasn’t a traditional lead-off hitter as his OBP would hover in the .338-range, and he had good pop (27 home runs in 2002). Jones did, however, average 11.4 steals per season from 2001-2005.
Because of Parmelee’s ability to get to second with his stick, I contend he would not be a terrible candidate to hit lead-off. That would make the order go Parmelee-Mauer-Willingham-Morneau. That’s solid, and it allows Hicks to relax a bit and get used to major league pitching. But, Gardenhire probably wouldn’t want this (which I understand), so let’s move on.
Cue Will Ferrell’s, “I like you… but you’re crazy,” from Old School. Joe Mauer’s RBI opportunities already seem a bit limited in the two-hole, and batting him lead-off would only further accentuate that. I’m all about having great on-base guys as high as possible (and Mauer led the league in that category last year), but I don’t want to go this far. Since Minnesota is still dealing with snow storms in mid-April, here’s Mauer’s career triple slash: .322/.404/.467. Looking at that once a day can cure all ills.
So, what’s the conclusion here? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ CONCLUSION! That’s why I’m sitting here learning high school girls’ water polo rules (true story) and Gardy is the one filling out the line-up card. It’s possible he’ll decide to ride it out with Hicks until he eventually begins to hit, which should happen eventually. But it might take a while. Considering the other options (outside of Parmelee), that should be the best course of action.