Ahead of their Cactus League opener, the Chicago Cubs have made a massive decision regarding their leadoff role. How will it work out in the long-run?
In 2015, veteran outfielder and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler was acquired by the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Dan Straily and the late Luis Valbuena. A move that cemented the top of Joe Maddon’s order, setting the tone for their Cinderella and World Series campaigns.
When Fowler made a move to St. Louis, Joe handed the leadoff spot to Ben Zobrist until a mix of lineup changes were experimented with. This resulted in first baseman Anthony Rizzo embracing the role on several occasions.
No one expected Rizzo to handle the role the way he did, launching a couple of home runs from his temporary position. This marvelous move by Joe dubbed Rizzo as the greatest leadoff hitter in franchise history, given his success.
Unfortunately, Anthony was not chosen to reprise the role, opening the door for a fresh face to fill in like it were a Batman reboot. Hopefully, for our sake, David Ross casting his new leadoff star won’t be nearly as disappointing as recent DC Films.
Granted, this young core has resembled Marvels’ The Avengers over the years. Now, according to Bruce Levine on Twitter, Ross has allowed third baseman Kris Bryant to bat leadoff, in which he expressed his excitement after hearing the news following a meeting with the first-year manager.
The move has raised questions from the fan-base, considering how often he has struck out. Last season, Bryant struck out 145 times in 543 at-bats, with a career-high of 199 in 2015 and a total of 733 as a big-league player.
Moving Bryant to the leadoff spot will likely see Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, and or Jason Kipnis hitting after Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Jason Heyward. Heyward had a much better season at the plate in 2019. Other than the leadoff spot, the rest of the order is still up in the air, so don’t take this to heart.
There is plenty of talent with a ton of pop at Ross’ disposal, so it’ll be interesting to see how he manages the rest of the order. Will he pull a page from Maddon’s book by batting the pitcher in the eight-hole?
Surely, as noted in his comments to the media also via Bruce Levine on Twitter, Bryant will receive some valuable feedback from Fowler and or others who have had leadoff success. Maybe Kenny Lofton, Brian McRae, or Juan Pierre would also like to share some tips with the 2016 National League MVP.
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Following an offseason full of trade rumors, Bryant is determined to remain a member of the Chicago Cubs for life while producing more offensively. If this does end up working out for the best, it could either increase his value as a trade chip or motivate this front-office to sign him long-term.