Chicago Cubs: A leadoff hitter is hardly a ‘must-have’ for team this winter

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 18: Anthony Rizzo
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 18: Anthony Rizzo /

Since Dexter Fowler left for St. Louis, much has been made about the Chicago Cubs’ leadoff hitter – or lack thereof. But is it really that big of an issue?

Last season, the Chicago Cubs tried Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot. The experiment failed in a big way and cost Joe Maddon some trust with a good many fans. Jon Jay led off for a good chunk of the second half, as well.

Against left-hander, Albert Almora and even Javier Baez led off a few times. But, all in all, the leadoff spot was a bit of a revolving door in 2017. But with the tremendous depth the Cubs boast in the lineup, is it a big enough concern the team should dedicate financial resources to it this winter?

In 2016, when the Cubs won the World Series, they scored 808 runs in the regular season. In 2017, with no true “leadoff” hitter, the Cubs scored 822 runs. So without the presence of a leadoff man, the Cubs actually scored more runs than with that presence at the top of the order. Plus, the table setter matters for one hitter of the game – in the first inning. The leadoff hitter of the inning bounces around throughout the course of the game.

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It’s not that the Cubs missed the presence of a leadoff hitter in Dexter Fowler. Rather, it’s that they missed the presence of a very good hitter who is able to balance out the lineup. There is a big difference.

During his first year in St. Louis, Fowler had one of the best years of his career, while hitting anywhere from the two-spot to the five-spot. In 2017, Fowler set a new career high in home runs and had the second-highest OPS of his career. He’s a really solid hitter. A guy like Billy Hamilton, who is more of a bottom-of-the-order, leads off nearly every game for the Reds, when Joey Votto is a better option.

2018 scenarios

As the roster is currently assembled, there is no reason to expect anything different from the Cubs in 2018, regarding the leadoff hitter.  A little of Schwarber, Zobrist, Baez, Almora and even maybe Anthony Rizzo. This is, of course, assuming the roster stays the same now going into the 2018 season.

Next: What to expect from Cubs' Contreras in 2018

With the Marlins’ fire sale, the Cubs may have interest in a guy like Christian Yelich. More recently, the Cubs reportedly had discussions with the Indians, and maybe a guy like Jason Kipnis could be a leadoff option, perhaps? If there is anybody to trust in a situation like this, it’s clearly Joe Maddon.