It’s roughly a month and a half into the 2013 MLB season, and one of the biggest questions for the New York Mets heading into spring training is still left unanswered: the leadoff spot in their lineup. The Mets have tried half a dozen players in the top spot of their order, but none of them have been a permanent answer.
Shortstop Ruben Tejada has arguably been the best of a bad group, but he is better suited to hit elsewhere in the lineup. Tejada does well to get on base by hitting singles and drawing walks, but he brings no speed to the base paths once he gets on base, which is something every team would like to have from its leadoff hitter.
Tejada’s patience and contact approach make him the ideal batter to hit either second or eighth in the order. While Tejada has been the Mets’ primary leadoff hitter lately, he is far from the ideal leadoff man.
Jordany Valdespin has the best skill set to be a leadoff hitter, as he has great speed and the power to start off games with a home run. However, Valdespin is not a patient hitter, and his on-base percentage is too low to be a viable solution in the leadoff spot.
Another issue with Valdespin is that he’s not an everyday player, so he’s not going to be a permanent solution in the leadoff spot, even if he does bat there when he does play, which isn’t always the case anyway.
Mike Baxter is not the prototypical leadoff man, but he’s performed well in that role because he’s a patient hitter that gets on base. However, Baxter rarely starts and is best utilized as a pinch hitter, so he’s only able to occupy the leadoff spot once a week at most, meaning he’s unable to give the Mets the help they need at that spot.
The Mets tried Daniel Murphy in the leadoff spot in their win yesterday against the Chicago Cubs with great results. Murphy has broken out of a recent slump in a big way, and so he is hitting and getting on base at a high rate.
Murphy may continue to play in the leadoff spot, but he’s another player that’s better off batting elsewhere in the lineup, especially since he’s one of the few batters in the Mets lineup that’s capable of doing damage with runners on base.
Unfortunately for the Mets, with no true leadoff hitter, what they have right now may be what they’re going to have to live with at the spot. There doesn’t seem to be anybody on the roster or anybody in the minor leagues capable of being a permanent solution.
Unless they can acquire someone from outside the organization, the Mets will continue to struggle as they piece together the top spot in their batting order, which won’t make it any easier for them to get their season turned around.