The Kansas City Royals‘ brilliant DH Billy Butler is perhaps not quite a prototypical cleanup hitter, but he is not far from it. Also it was primarily at cleanup last year that he had the best year of his career.
But it looks like he will bat at three in the batting order in 2013 as manager Ned Yost tweaks it considerably from the 2012 lineup. In 2012, it was generally Alex Gordon at three, Butler at four and for the second half Salvador Perez slotted in at five with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas filling out the lower-middle order. Yost is trying to give Butler more protection in 2013, however, and is worried about having left-hand batsmen on either side of Butler. His proposed solution is to have Gordon return to the leadoff spot with Butler at three, Hosmer at four, Perez at five and Moustakas at six. The other opener’s spot looks set to be Alcides Escobar as it was last year.
Whilst the logic is clear and the desire for Butler to get some more protection is understandable, it is hard to look at that lineup and not see a lot of players batting out of position. Gordon has had success as a leadoff hitter, but he has also shown quite clearly that he is better suited to the middle order. At the same time, neither Hosmer nor Moustakas are proper cleanup hitters and as discussed earlier, Butler himself is better suited to bat at four than three.
This plan might work quite well, of course. Yost is an experienced and intelligent manager. But it is a lot of effort to avoid one fairly specific problem which would not possibly come up as much as the problem of players batting out of position would. It is an awful risk to take and at a time swhen the Royals have only just got the batting well set it seems unwise.