Chicago Cubs may be forced to turn to the world’s greatest leadoff hitter
Chicago Cubs: Answers seem likely to come internally
The ill-fated Kyle Schwarber leadoff experiment is still pretty fresh in the minds of fans. The same can be said of last year’s attempt to insert veteran Jason Heyward atop the order. I don’t think we’ll see Heyward lead off again in 2020 – he made it pretty clear he didn’t enjoy hitting first.
That, paired with his horrendous .147 average out of the leadoff spot – including a .188 OBP leading off the game last year, should be enough to keep Heyward lower in the lineup where he turned in some of the best offensive numbers of his Cubs career.
No matter what Maddon tried in 2019, the team lacked any real answer. Despite the painstaking evidence showing Chicago needs a legitimate leadoff hitter atop the lineup, though, Theo Epstein has not addressed it so far this winter.
"“I feel really, honestly embarrassed by the on-base numbers we’ve had in the leadoff spot,” Epstein told NBC Sports Chicago last September. “That’s not the way at all to build an offense. To the point where you roll it back again, you might just want to consider taking any one of your best hitters and just throwing them up in the leadoff spot. The No. 1 rule of lineup construction is get your best hitters up top, bunch them together, get them up top in the lineup and let them do some damage.”"
Schwarber, fresh off a 38-home run showing last year, could, at least in theory, get another look – despite his past shortcomings. When Chicago drafted him, his best tool, according to scouts, was his approach at the plate. That hasn’t changed – but it looked like when he was leading off, he was looking more to work counts than punish pitches.
The Cubs could lose some firepower in the middle of the order with Schwarber atop the lineup. It’s one of many questions facing Ross heading into his first season at the helm.