The trade of Ryan Theriot last season not only saw Cubs Nation lose a fan favorite, but a viable option at the leadoff spot as well. Although Theriot was not what many would consider a prototypical leadoff guy, he was one who knew how to consistently get on base and get the job done. However, with the 2011 season fast approaching, manager Mike Quade and the Cubs are once again on the lookout for a spark at the top of the lineup.
According to Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat, Quade will experiment with different players in the leadoff spot this coming spring, and may go with a leadoff man by committee. Although that has been the go to route for the team the past few seasons, it should be avoided in 2011. There needs to be some sort of consistency among the lineup for everything to click, and shuffling people in and out of the top spot is simply not the answer.
Given the Cubs do not make some sort of trade for a perennial leadoff hitter, the issue remains, who should be deemed the right man for the job?
Assuming Blake Dewitt and Jeff Baker will platoon a bit at second this year, it would be unwise to have either of them near the top of the lineup, simply because it would be constantly switching about. A second candidate rumored by Carrie Muskat is Kosuke Fukudome, but he also is not going to be an every day player this year with Soriano and Colvin accompanying him in the corner spots—plus I am not a fan of his “Black Swan-esque” spinning strikeouts.
Centerfielder Marlon Byrd could probably have some success at the top, but definitely helps the team more from the middle of the lineup. Many would then claim Tyler Colvin should be there because, out of all the options, he spent the most time at leadoff last season. Yet, with 100 strikeouts in only 358 at bats, and an OBP of only .316, he is still not the best option.
Unless somebody feels like making a case for Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto, or God forbid Alfonso Soriano, there is only one possible option left on the table. That option is of shortstop Starlin Castro. Castro arguably has the best flat speed on the team, and had the third best OBP (.347) in 2010 behind Soto and Fukudome. He also only had 71 strikeouts in 463 at bats, which for a first full season is quite impressive. Parts of his game he would need to work on would be utilizing his speed more efficiently on the base paths, and his patience. He only had 29 walks on the year, but patience is something that goes hand in hand with maturity in the league, which he is sure to gain.
By designating Castro as the spark plug for the rest of the lineup, the Cubs and Quade will be able to establish consistency and chemistry throughout the order.