Spring Training comes to a close on Friday, and while the Minnesota Twins’ opening day 25-man roster is officially set, management still has specific lineup questions to answer. The team hasn’t come to a complete decision regarding its DH spot, and continues to weigh a number of different options at the leadoff position.
Aaron Hicks reclaimed Minnesota’s starting center field job in 2014, winning a spring position battle with Alex Presley, who was released earlier this week. While Hicks has great speed, and possesses all the tools necessary to be a solid leadoff hitter, Twins management seems rightfully hesitant to rush him back into the position. In 10 games as a leadoff hitter in 2013, Hicks was 2-for-43 at the plate, producing a .047/.109/.047 line. Overall last season, Hicks sported a .192/.259/.338 line with eight home runs, nine stolen bases and 27 RBIs through 81 games.
Newly-signed catcher Kurt Suzuki has experience starting things off, and has registered 124 career plate appearances at the leadoff spot, but the better part of his career seems to be over. Suzuki produced a .235/.290/.353 line over the last three seasons, and is not being seriously considered for the position.
Throughout the last week of Spring Training, Brian Dozier was turned to for leadoff productivity, and seems the most likely option, at least to start the year. Dozier came out of his shell in 2013, producing a .244/.312/.414 line with 18 homers, 66 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. Capable of producing serious power numbers and driving in base-runners, Dozier is a near prototypical two-spot hitter, but does have extensive experience hitting leadoff. Throughout his young career, Dozier has seen more plate appearances batting first than any other spot in the lineup. In 344 PAs, he’s put up a .253/.310/.462 line with 12 long-balls and 44 RBIs.
While it would be ideal to have Dozier driving in runs form the two-spot, expect him to set the table for Minnesota on opening day. Hicks will look to bounce back in 2014, and eventually reclaim the leadoff spot; but for the time being, Dozier will suffice. If Hicks is able to perform this season, look for the Twins’ lineup to truly hit its stride by May when he’s moved back to the order’s first position.