By Olivia Witherite (@oliviawitherite)
With Opening Day less than two weeks away, many fans find themselves asking who will be the first Oriole to the plate this 2012 season. While J.J. Hardy took the position for much of last season, he was an atypical leadoff guy who didn’t take many pitches or steal much. Instead, he was kept in the leadoff role because it seemed as if he would always knock one out of the park in the No. 1 slot.
This year, however, there will most likely be a different man in the leadoff spot, but the question is who? Let’s take a look at a few players who could possibly fill the role, and see how their statistics from last year would match up.
In a recent interview with Roch Kubatko of MASN, Markakis said, “After the first time through the lineup, it doesn’t matter where you hit. Anybody can be leadoff or a three hitter or a four hitter. It doesn’t particularly matter to me.”
While more of a two or three hitter, Markakis is a doubles-machine who can also steal bases. (He had 12 on the season in 2011.) While I find it unlikely that he will be hitting first, he is most definitely capable and has developed a much better eye and more patient approach at the plate. Although he didn’t hit first last season, when he led off an inning, he had a very impressive average. In his 99 times leading off an inning, he hit .345/.405/.473 with three home runs and 11 walks drawn.
Batting 1st in 2011: N/A
While the veteran has experience hitting in the leadoff role, he most likely will not play every day. Because of this, he most likely will not be in the No. 1 slot much, but when/if he is, he has the ability to get on base. Also, in 2011, he stole 10 bases in 83 games.
Batting 1st in 2011: 7 games, 27 at-bats, .259/.355/.333 with 4 BBs and 4 Ks
Reimold is definitely not your normal, leadoff guy. However he has the ability to hit doubles and, in 2009, he was a candidate for Rookie of the Year before having to go on the disabled list. While he is likely going to play almost every day in left field, he will also have the chance to prove himself with more at-bats. Even though he is not a huge threat to steal, he did have seven stolen bases in 2011.
Batting 1st in 2011: 6 games, 18 at-bats, .167/.286/.278 with 2 BBs and 6 Ks
While he had the most plate appearances in 2011 at the nine-slot, Andino is one of the more typical hitters in the lineup that would match a leadoff guy. Usually a singles-hitter, Andino also stole 13 bases last season, making him a threat on the base paths, which the Orioles could use to advance the runner and to eliminate the double plays, as the team hit into 154 last season. While it may be strange to see the player who often hit No. 9 lead off, he may be the O’s best choice for the start of 2012.
Batting 1st in 2011: 28 games, 117 at-bats, .239/.299/.308 with 9 BBs and 23 Ks
With Brian Roberts’ health still tentative, there must be someone to step up and hit in the leadoff slot. The Birds likely will not find someone with his stats (.281/.353/.416 with 11 HR and 36 SB as a career average.) But, on April 6, someone will be stepping to the plate in the bottom of the first. And we can only wonder who?
Who do you think will hit leadoff for the Orioles this season? Let me know @oliviawitherite, or leave a comment via your Facebook below!