Now that its Spring Training season, I am totally amped for any and all thoughts, news, and views regarding the Padres. Moreover, my interest is peaking with regards to how San Diego’s starting roster and batting order will end up shaking out in 2012 as well. That being said, there is one spot in particular that I thought would be be an interesting topic for my post today: The Leadoff Spot. Thus, I will be going over the logical candidates that could considered for the #1 spot in San Diego’s batting order in 2012, and discuss how the situation could end up shaking out this season.
Before I go into the list, let me first start off by saying that this list includes possible “every-day” players only. So players like 4th/5th Outfielder Chris Denorfia and Second Baseman/Shortstop Everth Cabrera, who might see some spot duty at leadoff when guys get the day off will not be included, but still need to be mentioned. So don’t worry, I did remember those two. Anyways, here is the list:
Will Venable is the Padres’ leading candidate to assume the leadoff spot this season. Venable has all the makings of a terrific leadoff hitter. He’s speedy, he can steal bases (55 last two seasons), and he even has some pop in his bat (34 HR’s last three seasons). Unfortunately, Venable’s issues with Strikeouts, Lack of Walks, Batting Average, and On Base Percentage, are not qualities which “elite” leadoff hitters possess.
In the last two seasons, Venable has 220 K’s compared with 76 Walks, his OBP dipped to .310 in 2011, and he hit only .245 in 2010 and .246 in 2011. Combine that with his .174 Batting Average against Left-Handed pitching, and the Padres could be looking for another guy to fill their leadoff spot.
2012 is a very important year for Venable to prove that he can stick with the team and also become San Diego’s long-term solution in Right Field. His skill set is perfect for manning San Diego’s leadoff spot for years to come, and now is as good of as any time for him to make the stats match his terrific potential.
Veteran Shortstop Jason Bartlett could be asked to lead off for the Padres if Venable is not up to the task. Although he will likely bat in the #2 spot, Bartlett does have quite a bit of experience batting leadoff and could fill in for a spell if need be. Last season, Bartlett tied for the team lead in hits last season with 136, and stole 23 bases to boot. Bartlett is a smart player, has some speed, and is a good baserunner which should help the Padres if he is indeed their leadoff hitter. However, there were a number of things which Bartlett needs to improve upon from 2011.
Bartlett’s Batting Average (.245), Slugging Percentage (.307), and On Base Percentage (.308) numbers sank to career lows for a full season last year. Furthermore, Bartlett’s 2011 ratio of 98 Strike Outs to 48 Walks only made his statistical line worse. Much like Venable, and much like the last guy on this list, the OBP must go up, and the K’s to Walk ratio needs to go down.
In the event that Bartlett can regain his ’07-’09 form, he could very well be the guy that can man the leadoff spot if a platoon (Blanks, Denorfia, or even Guzman) is needed for Venable in Right Field or he is given an off day. It can’t get any worse for the Padres’ Shortstop in terms of his statistical output and he should be looking to step up his game in 2012.
Because of his skill set, Cameron Maybin is arguably the most intriguing option to lead off for the Padres in 2012. The 2011 Padres’ M.V.P. could see work all over the batting order in 2012. However, San Diego should take a long look at Maybin, because his skill set could help the Padres at the top of their order this season.
Last season, Maybin did a terrific job in terms of stealing bases (40), scoring runs (82), and also tied for the team in Hits (136) and led the team Total Bases (203). Maybin is a threat to go anytime he gets on base, can leg out an infield hit, and can cause Defenses to stay alert when he is in the batters box or on the basepaths.
Yet some of the same things which plagued Venable in 2011, also hurt Maybin last season. Maybin’s .323 OBP from 2011 was mediocre at best, he struck out 125 times, and his batting average was a decent, but not nearly high enough .264, and Maybin only drew 44 Walks to boot.
As I mentioned before, Maybin could be moved all over the batting order like he was last season. He’s a great guy to have in the #5-#7 slots as he can lead off 2nd or 3rd Innings, and also has some decent pop in his bat (24 2B’s, 8 3B’s, 9 HR’s in 2011). However, a guy with Maybin’s speed and skill set should at least be considered a candidate to leadoff for the Padres in 2012 should Venable falter or Maybin prove he is the better player for the job.
I cannot wait to see who emerges from this group of players to be the table-setter for the Padres in 2012. Don’t get me wrong, these players have their deficiencies and it is difficult to consider them to be “great” leadoff guys right now. Each of these guys’ OBP’s must go up, and it is imperative that Venable and Maybin cut their Strike Out totals down. Nevertheless, they still possess skill sets which could come in handy over the 162 game grind, are speedy threats on the basepaths, and Venable and Maybin have a bit of power to add as well.
I think with all of the new blood on the team, Black could be tinkering with his lineup even into mid-May until he finds a combination which he likes, and a leadoff guy that suits the team best. It will be interesting to watch which guy bats where and how effective he is at whichever spot he is placed in the batting order.
San Diego is in dire need of improving their Offense this season, and finding a solid leadoff guy that can get on base and wreak havoc on the basepaths is the first in a number of steps which must be taken to take the team to the “next level.” So let’s cross our fingers Padres fans and keep our eyes open this Spring. It should be fun to watch this all unfold before our very eyes.