With the Chicago Cubs adding Carlos Pena this week to fill in as the left handed power threat that had been lacking from the Cubs lineup over the past few seasons, the Cubs figure to have all their position players set as they head into the 2011 season. However, one question still remains that has existed ever since Juan Pierre departed from the Cubs after the 2006 season, and that is who will be the Cubs leadoff hitter to start the season?
The Chicago Cubs faced the same problem last year, and as that was the first year in which Lou Piniella realized that Alfonso Soriano could no longer be the leadoff hitter for the Chicago Cubs. Instead of Soriano, the Cubs used a combination of Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome as leadoff hitters to start the season last year. That did not last all that long, as Lou Piniella essentially mixed and matched the leadoff hitters throughout the entire season last year. But with Ryan Theriot no longer with the Cubs, and Kosuke Fukudome looking like he will eventually be traded, who will new manager Mike Quade use as the leadoff hitter next season?
The answer is that the Chicago Cubs really do not have a true leadoff hitter on their roster. The likely candidates for the #1 slot in the lineup will likely be Starlin Castro, Jeff Baker/Blake DeWitt, or Marlon Byrd. No, Alfonso Soriano fortunately will never be the Chicago Cubs leadoff hitter again. In my opinion the option that makes the most sense would be Starlin Castro, even though in my eyes he is a prototypical #2 hitter.
In his rookie season, Castro batted .300/.347/.408 with 39 extra base hits, 29 walks, 71 strikeouts, and 10 stolen bases. The thing that frightens me the most about Castro as a leadoff hitter is the low on base percentage. Which is why I feel he would be better served as the #2 hitter in the lineup, instead of as the leadoff hitter. Because, as a leadoff hitter, you are the catalyst of your team. The primary goal for a leadoff hitter is to get on base, and then advance into scoring position. Also you have to look at the fact that since Castro made his debut on May 7th, he only had 18 steal attempts on the entire season. Which means he still is in the process of learning exactly how to steal in the major leagues. However, Castro would be a perfect #2 hitter, as he does make contact rather than strikeout, and usually puts himself into scoring position with a lot of extra base hits.
But, considering that Castro is the best of all the options the Cubs have for the leadoff spot, the Cubs essentially are forced to put him there. As for the rest of the lineup, here is how I see it playing out…
- Starlin Castro, SS
- Jeff Baker/Blake DeWitt, 2B
- Marlon Byrd, CF
- Aramis Ramirez, 3B
- Carlos Pena, 1B
- Alfonso Soriano, LF
- Tyler Colvin, RF
- Geovany Soto, C
- Pitcher’s Spot