Orioles don't have an obvious choice to lead off - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles don’t have an obvious choice to lead off

Cedric Mullins
Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

SARASOTA, Fla.—Opening Day is a little over three weeks away, and Orioles manager Brandon Hyde still has huge decisions to make on the composition of the roster. He also must decide on an Opening Day starter and a leadoff hitter.

“I’m not ready to announce that, yet,” Hyde said about his Opening Day starter.

That choice will likely be among Dylan Bundy, whose next start is Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays at Port Charlotte; Andrew Cashner, who faces the Boston Red Sox on Friday; and Alex Cobb, who won’t start until after Monday’s off day.

There also appears to be competition for the leadoff spot.

Last year, Trey Mancini led off 51 times, more than anyone else. It was something that Mancini liked, and he hit .258 with a .328 on-base percentage, higher than his .242 and .299 season average.

However, the leadoff spot wasn’t good for Mancini’s power numbers. He hit just six of his 24 home runs and produced just 15 of his 58 RBIs in 2018.

Mancini did not lead off after the statistical midpoint of the season, June 29, the Orioles’ 81st game.

After that, former manager Buck Showalter used Tim Beckham for 27 consecutive games until the arrival of Jonathan Villar on August 2nd.

Villar, who was the Orioles’ leadoff hitter in the 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, batted up top 13 times until center fielder Cedric Mullins was installed there.

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Mullins batted leadoff 37 times in the season’s final 41 games.

Even though Mullins has experience there, he didn’t have great success batting first. Mullins hit just .208 with a .280 OBP. In seven games batting seventh, eighth or ninth, Mullins batted .429 (9-for-21).

Villar has batted first more often than anywhere else in his career. He’s hit .266 with a .338 OBP, and he brings a potential for stolen bases.

“I think a week from now, I’ll start putting lineups together,” Hyde said. “As our numbers start to trickle down, and we start to try and figure out a little bit where pieces fit…I just know that I’m going to put our best four hitters in the top four spots in the lineup, and whoever that is against the matchup that night, that’s how it’s going to line up.”

Other than Villar, the Orioles don’t seem to have an obvious choice to bat leadoff, and perhaps not an easy choice to bat fourth—especially if Chris Davis is ineffective and Mark Trumbo doesn’t start the season on the 25-man roster.

Hyde has preached aggression this spring and is realistic about the team’s power.

“First to third is going to be a big part of our game,” Hyde said. “We’re just not going to have a lineup full of 30 home run bats up and down the order.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. George Shriver

    March 7, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Who cares? These types of articles, with the team and organization in such a state of shambles, is hard to grasp why anyone would even give a crap. It’s not dissimilar to pondering which sonata Nero would start off with on his violin, playing while Rome burned. It doesn’t really much matter in the end, does it?

    • jkneps63

      March 7, 2019 at 5:21 pm

      I for one care a little bit. It is interesting to see who is being considered for the lead off spot and what their history is batting first. Others may see this season as the beginning of an interesting and hopefully encouraging rebuild after the team was pretty much burnt to the ground last season; I believe Nero played Thank God I’m a Country Boy on his violin last season.

    • TheGreat8

      March 7, 2019 at 5:31 pm

      i mean, you read the article, so you must care somewhat

    • Camden Brooks

      March 7, 2019 at 6:16 pm

      ^^^^^ Exactly. My interest in my beloved Orioles doesn’t wane when they don’t win. If your kid gets a bad report card, do you distance yourself from ways to improve the grade? Maybe start rooting for the kid down the street?

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 7, 2019 at 6:43 pm

      George, what kind of articles would you prefer?

    • Lookouts400

      March 8, 2019 at 1:27 pm

      Sure, it does. No matter what you Negative Nellies want to spew, this team has possibilities. They are not going to be as bad as everyone thinks, this is not the lineup full of DH/1B types thrust upon us in the Dark Ages of the first decade of the 2000s. This club has a ton of young, talented players and having articles like this shows the club has options. Not every team coming off a 115 loss season has these kind of options. You could go Martin in leadoff, Villar second. I think Mullins is better suited down in the order, if for no other reason, his struggles batting right handed. If Davis is IL’d, not that anyone is hoping for that, then guys like Mancini become more important. Trey has more of a future here than does Trumbo or Davis, and he would be a good option at 4th. This club is going to be different in that there are no clear cut options for every spot in the order, in other words, any number of people could lead off, bat fourth or bat ninth. How about this?
      Martin SS
      Villar 2B
      Hayes or Diaz RF
      Mancini 1B
      Nunez or Ruiz 3B
      Sisco C
      Just about anyone, DH
      Hayes or Diaz LF
      Mullins CF

      Since the Orioles don’t have the prototypical player for most spots, their lineups are likely going to change most of the season, with any numbers of guys batting 1st, 4th, 9th or any where else. That’s not really a bad thing and out of the mist, certain players are probably go to prove they belong in a certain spot. I doubt the order on 28 March is going to look the same as the one on 29 September.

    • SotaBill

      March 9, 2019 at 7:00 am

      I care. And so do lots of other O’s fans. Why would you be so rude to writers who are just doing their job? Feel better?

  2. Bhoffman1

    March 7, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    Richie Martin looks great. How about him for lead off. I like this Ruiz gut too. I would bat Davis ninth.

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 7, 2019 at 6:44 pm

      Bhoffman, it’s probably not great to bat a rookie leadoff, at least initially.

    • Bhoffman1

      March 7, 2019 at 9:04 pm

      Ok Rich but Vilar, Martin, Jackson , Ruiz and the guy from KC we are looking good considering who we lost last year

  3. Jbigle1

    March 7, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Orioles have no clear to choice to lead off has been an annual issue since when? Brian roberts? Villar is a much better candidate than we usually have.

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 7, 2019 at 8:48 pm

      Nick Markakis was an unusual and effective leadoff hitter, jbigle.

  4. BirdsCaps

    March 7, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    I liked the article, but I do understand the sentiment that a lot of this year’s st stories are in a way pointless. In a well run organization that’s having a down cycle, you could watch the prospects that are 1-2 year’s away from being major contributors or stars, but we are not (yet) a well run organization. Also, if we do well and get a solid leadoff hitter, all that does is make us a better team which (barring the enormous miracle of playoff contention) hurts our rebuild by having the birds drop a few spots in the draft. So, it’s a lose lose. Also, a lot of newbies are out of the org or are no names, which reduces interest in ST. So far the most captivating news out of the birds camp has been the ’19 promo schedule ( Brooks bobble, fedora, and a bird nutcracker to make my Christmases jolly and bright). With that said, assuming he’s still in ML camp, why not have escobar leadoff and put Villar in the 2 slot? I think escobar thrived at the top of the order in KC.

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 8, 2019 at 7:53 am

      BirdsCaps, Escobar had a .279 obp last season with the Royals. That’s not acceptable for a leadoff man. He didn’t lead off once last season.

      If you think some of the articles are pointless, please share some suggestions of what you would like to see. I’m always eager to read concrete suggestions from the readers.

      • BirdsCaps

        March 8, 2019 at 7:10 pm

        Hey Rich,
        I don’t think any of your articles are pointless per se, they are well written and engaging. The material is certainly less interesting than years previous for a few reasons. One is the fact that the orioles are in no man’s land where there is no hope for this year and there are no real top tier prospects to get excited about. So, any story about the short term is going to be a little depressing. Stories about the long term strategy are very interesting to me. (Let’s hope Economist John Maynard Keynes was wrong when he said “in the long run we’re all dead”, since the long term is what it will take for the birds to be competitive again.) This situation provides perverse incentives for the ball club and makes losing a logical incentivized strategy. This leads to an apathetic fan base (I’m still very interested, but am having a hard time getting excited about ST). Also, many stories are about relative newbies such as susac (who I know a little about) and Karns (who despite being a baseball junkie, I’ve never heard of). The amount of new major leaguers and minor leaguers (who didn’t come through the org and weren’t drafted by the black and orange) lead to less interest in the players. Once the season starts and fans get use to the new faces, the stories will become much more relatable. Keep up the good work, and don’t “suffer” too much in that awful Florida weather!

        • Rich Dubroff

          March 8, 2019 at 9:11 pm

          Thank you for a most thoughtful comment, BirdsCaps.

  5. GSISDANNO

    March 8, 2019 at 1:09 am

    This was a very appropriate article for this point in the season. I don’t think the Orioles have had a typical leadoff hitter since Brian Robert’s. As long as Chris Davis isn’t hitting first, I will be happy. Everyone seems to focus on Davis as a bad contract, but I think Trumbo was a worse contract. The guy is always hurt and he is a defensive liability. At least Davis is an above average first baseman.
    Keep up the good work, Rich.

    • Bhoffman1

      March 8, 2019 at 7:28 am

      Crazy comment. Davis had the worst year in MLB last year and looks the same so far in spring training and is getting 22 mil a year and we got four more years of his contract. Trumbo is gone after this year.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      March 8, 2019 at 7:28 am

      Trumbo’s contract is worse than “Crush” Davis’? What am I missing? Are we back at Connolly’s bar drinking the real stuff?

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 8, 2019 at 9:19 am

      Thank you, Danno.

  6. Borg

    March 8, 2019 at 5:46 am

    At this point it wouldbe fair to run an article every day that has the same start to the headline: Orioles don’t have an obvious choice to__________(fill in the blank). But that is kind of the point to the whole season, isn’t it? They are going to try to find out just what they have. I think a more important question is whether or not Bundy, Cobb, and Cashner can have solid starts on a regular basis. If so, then the O’s could nudge their way past 60 wins, and that would be a huge step forward and probably means a summer of at least entertaining baseball. If they fall as flat as they did last year the only difference from 2018 will be the O’s losing 105 games with people you never heard of. Solid starting pitching will at least give them a chance to be respectable, if not playoff level just yet. Hyde is an analytics guy so I trust he’ll have enough data to make a good decision on leadoff.

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 8, 2019 at 9:22 am

      Borg, you make some good points. This year is a laboratory. You’ll see lots of players used this year, and I’m intrigued because I don’t know what’s going to happen.

      • Borg

        March 8, 2019 at 3:21 pm

        I think in a strange way this is a more exciting spring than last year. This time last year there was lots of talk about the playoffs and the team never showed any energy at all. From all reports, the energy levels are much higher and the players are buying into Hyde and the coaches. If the pitching holds up, who knows? Young players are sometimes too young to know they aren’t supposed to be good yet, but honestly I’d settle for a year with enthusiasm and a look at the next crop of good players.

  7. SailinO

    March 8, 2019 at 6:47 am

    Nice article. Spring training is interesting because there are so many baseball decisions facing this O’s team. Then we will see the accuracy of those decisions unfold as the season progresses. It’s all worth watching if you like baseball. Btw – I like the idea of putting best hitters in slots 1-4. If I see strikeout king CD in the 4 slot again I might take a leap off the upper deck

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 8, 2019 at 9:23 am

      Thank you, SailinO. Please don’t jump.

  8. Tony Paparella

    March 8, 2019 at 10:30 am

    This year is a laboratory is a great line Rich.As I said before I and many others look forward to your articles and your insight and don’t understand the dissing on here by some people.Everything is a question mark for this team this year and the Oriole fans and supporters know this and enjoy giving their input.Mullins seems to be the choice for leadoff at this point because he seems to have the logical tools except I don’t see his on base percentage improving yet.Some other guys like Martin look like possibilities but he may not even be a starter with Escobar having the experience.I believe it will continue to be a process (lead off ) until someone proves they can get on base frequently as the Orioles don’t really know what they have yet. Thus it is all speculation.

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 8, 2019 at 9:11 pm

      Thank you, Tony.

      • Jacobs1928

        March 11, 2019 at 4:45 pm

        I would put Richard as leadoff

  9. CalsPals

    March 8, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    Interesting article for true O’s fans, put the negativity on another site, some of you guys saying you don’t care, yet read need to get life, of you don’t want to support us, go elsewhere, please….

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