The Kansas City Royals have not had a ‘traditional’ leadoff hitter in some time. The everyday leadoff man for a few years was David DeJesus, but he was never a real base-stealer and had more power than one would expect from a leadoff man. More recently Alex Gordon has been in the role, but he actually suffers from the same flaws and manager Ned Yost was left with little option but to move him to number three where his numerous doubles would be put to better use.
One of the big problems the Royals have had is that whilst they have had players who have fitted the preferred type, they generally have not quite been good enough to play every day at the major league level. The players who have been good enough, like DeJesus and Gordon, have been better suited to other roles. So what are the Royals to do for next year?
What seems to have bee ruled out is Gordon going back to the top of the order. For good reason, Yost wants the 3-4-5 of Gordon, Billy Butler and Salvador Perez to supply the power of the lineup. What is possible is that the Royals could move Alcides Escobar up the order. This would not be ideal, however, as Escobar has settled very nicely into the number two spot and hit better than .290 this year. There is also the possibility of Chris Getz, if he returns to play everyday next year, leading-off. He has the bat control to do so, but is perhaps not quite as fast as one would like.
The most likely candidate is probably whoever ends up playing centre field. The problem is that this is up in the air as well. Assuming, as is likely but not guaranteed, that the Royals do not try to acquire someone in the winter that will leave Jarrod Dyson or Lorenzo Cain. Cain is the ‘incumbent’ as it were. He missed a lot of 2012 due to injury, but he was given the every day spot out of Spring Training. Of the two, however, Dyson fits the profile of a leadoff man better. He is very fast (he once memorably tagged from third and scored the go-ahead run on a pop-fly caught by the shortstop) but he has still not figured out quite how to best use his talent. He is an excellent defender, but his bunting leaves a lot to be desired and he hits the ball in the air far too often. If he could perform more consistently he would be the perfect choice.
The position might very well be won in Spring Training, but I suspect it will go to Cain again. I would prefer, Dyson, however. He needs to improve, but he adds an extra dimension to the batting with his speed and is an excellent defensive centre fielder.