Who is the Best Option to Bat Leadoff for Atlanta Braves?
The Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves have struggled to find a consistent leadoff hitter in the early portion of the 2013 Major League Baseball season. The Braves have tried four different players in the no. 1 spot in the batting order, with each one providing them with mixed results.
Generally speaking, a leadoff hitter is a guy who has a high on-base percentage. He is able to reach base via hits or walks and he usually has above-average speed, which allows him to steal bases and help set the table for the rest of the lineup.
Some of the league's premier leadoff men are Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo, Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson and Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, all of whom are off to excellent starts as part of three of the most dangerous lineups in baseball.
Over the second half of 2011 and the entire 2012 season, current Cleveland Indians center fielder Michael Bourn was the Braves' leading man. While his strikeout numbers were high, he also walked at a high rate and stole a ton of bases.
Coming into this season, the Braves knew they were going to have a tough time replacing Bourn, given that nobody on their roster is what you would call a prototypical leadoff man. Hence, it is no surprise that they have yet to settle on an everyday leadoff hitter.
Here is my look at each player the Braves have used in the leadoff position, as well as my choice as to which one they should stick with.
Andrelton Simmons began the year as the team's leadoff hitter and to this point, he has filled that position more than anyone else. While batting in the no. 1 spot, the shortstop has put up a .250 batting average to go with a .273 on-base percentage. He has struck out seven times and walked twice while scoring 11 runs.
Center fielder B.J. Upton has posted a .212 average and a .292 on-base percentage out of the leadoff slot, which is actually better than his overall average of .153 and on-base percentage of .240. He has struck out 16 times, worked six walks and scored four runs.
Prior to batting leadoff in Wednesday's game against the Reds, outfielder Jordan Schafer had 15 at-bats in the role, amassing a .067 average to go with a .364 on-base percentage. He had struck out three times and walked on seven occasions while crossing the plate once.
Infielder Ramiro Pena has only spent three games at the top of the order, batting .222 with a .364 on-base percentage. The 27-year-old has struck out once and walked twice while scoring one run.
So Who Should it Be?
In my opinion, Simmons is the guy who should be the Braves' full-time leadoff hitter. He is just starting to come out of his early-season funk and I think he's more than capable of handling the duties, even though he doesn't have the speed of some of the other players who have batted first.