Pick the Braves’ leadoff hitter (and why not Escobar?)

mclouth

Nate McLouth: The likely pick.

escobar

Yunel Escobar: The intriguing option.

Johnny Damon is a Detroit Tiger, which means his wife Michelle will have to settle for tanning on the banks of Lake Michigan and the Braves don’t have a lot of great options for a leadoff hitter.

Now, we all know how this probably will go. Nate McLouth, who was acquired last season from Pittsburgh and proceeded to have one of the worst seasons of his career, almost certainly will be handed the job. Platoon outfielder Matt Diaz probably also will take a turn there. And who knows: If and when Jordan Schafer is ready to play every day in the majors, he could be the leadoff hitter the Braves haven’t had since Rafael Furcal left (and then didn’t come back).

Who should bat leadoff for the Braves?

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But until that happens, the Braves need to generate some offense, some excitement and have some sense of a threat at the top of the lineup. If you’ll permit me to think outside the box here for a moment, here’s an idea: Why not Yunel Escobar?

I know the biggest argument against it. Escobar has power and he can drive in runs so you want him in the middle of the lineup. But to me, that argument minimizes the importance of his ability to get on base, and also how important the leadoff position is. You may recall Escobar hit at the top of the order frequently in 2007 and 2008. His numbers were impressive.

Below, I’ve listed some statistics for four Braves — Diaz, Escobar, McLouth and Martin Prado — and how they fared as leadoff hitters in 2007, 2008 and 2009. I figure those are the four best options for the job this year. If you were to rank those four by on-base percentage from last season, it would go: Diaz (.390), Escobar (.377), Prado (.358) and McLouth (.354). If you were to rank them by batting average, it would be Diaz (.313), Prado (.307), Escobar (.299) and McLouth (.257).

What are you thoughts on this subject? Who should hit leadoff for the Braves?

Meanwhile, here are statistics for Diaz, Escobar, McLouth and Prado in the last three seasons when they hit at the top of the Braves’ order.

2007     Avg    AB   R   H   HR   RBI  SB BB  SO  OBP   SLG
Escobar  .351   151  30  53  2    16   3  10  22  .400  .490
Diaz     .250   12   0   3   0    3    0  0   2   .214  .333
Prado    .083   12   1   1   0    0    0  1   2   .154  .083
2008      Avg    AB   R   H   HR  RBI  SB  BB  SO  OBP  SLG
Escobar  .285   158  21  45   4   18   0   18  21  .358 .392
Prado    .267   30   5   8    0   3    0   3   4   .333 .433
2009      Avg    AB   R   H   HR  RBI SB  BB  SO  OBP  SLG
Diaz     .439    41   7   18  1   5   1   5   11  .531 .585
McLouth  .257    331  58  85  10  35  11  44  70  .351 .414
Escobar  .091    11   1   1   0   0   0   0    1  .167 .091

179 comments Add your comment

DW

February 22nd, 2010
8:10 am

Bored of the Go-Dawg Nation

February 22nd, 2010
8:13 am

I like the thought of Diaz leading off, with prado in the 2 hole, then chipper, the mc-twins, and escobar at 6. Glaus has to prove something before I’d have him any higher.

phil

February 22nd, 2010
8:14 am

I like the Escobar idea. McLouth is a succer for the high fastball, doesn’t make enough contact and strikes out too much. I like him lower in the order. Prodo is adequate, not the solution.

This is a flawed team, so it makes sense that questions like this are raised.

DW

February 22nd, 2010
8:18 am

I like the way Bored of the Go-Dawg Nation thinks.

Bored of the Go-Dawg Nation

February 22nd, 2010
8:23 am

Let’s hope it doesn’t take til July for the brass to figure it out like last year when we were giving away outs running Kelly, French, and (though I think he will be ready soon) Jordan Schaefer out there day in and day out. I hope Infante finds his way into the lineup frequently too.

jsatt32

February 22nd, 2010
8:24 am

I like Diaz doing it ONLY against lefties. Lord knows his terrible success against righties. Maybe that is something he has worked on this offseason though and he can play everyday. OR, maybe Schafer will surprise us all at spring training. If that be the case, I like Jordan in the lead off spot, stealing bases. None are great options, but its something us hopeless Braves fans are just going to have to deal with until someone buys the team from the hated Liberty Media!

Chief Nock A Homa

February 22nd, 2010
8:27 am

I like the idea of trading Melky and a prospect or two for a real leadoff hitter… It’s what we’re missing….

Good grief – can we spend a few extra bucks and get Damon??? Especially when he’s made it so clear he would prefer to be in ATL….

Chief Nock A Homa

February 22nd, 2010
8:28 am

Sorry – let me clarify before all jump on me…

Could we HAVE spent a few extra bucks and brought Damon in before he signed with the Tigers is what I should have written….

Balderdash

February 22nd, 2010
8:37 am

Milky Carerra? Just kidding. Escobar would be the best.

Jeff Schultz

February 22nd, 2010
8:41 am

DW — Don Waddell? Is that you?

Walker, Texas Ranger

February 22nd, 2010
8:42 am

There is not a leadoff hitter on the team. The three you list had a total of 12 stolen bases last year. Jeff, we haven’t had a true lead-off hitter since Otis. Furcal had the skills of a lead off hitter but the mind of a cleanup guy. He wasn’t patient, swung at bad pitches and didn’t like to bunt for a sacrifice. Plus with his speed, his steal percentage wasn’t that great. Bobby could have had a lot to do with that. This team has the speed of a beer softball league team.

Jeff Schultz

February 22nd, 2010
8:42 am

Chief Nock A Home — That would be a good idea, except then it goes back to the original question: Why trade for Melky Cabrera to begin with?

Jeff Schultz

February 22nd, 2010
8:43 am

Chief Nock A Home — Tigers offered $8 million, nothing deferred, if reports are believed. Braves offered about $4.5 mill, some of it deferred. That’s a pretty significant difference.

Walker, Texas Ranger

February 22nd, 2010
8:45 am

Can’t trade Melky until you know Heyward is on the team otherwise you don’t have anyone with the arm to play right.

Jeff Schultz

February 22nd, 2010
8:45 am

Walker, Texas Ranger — You’re point about lack of speed is a good one, although that has been the case for a while, as you know. Also, Cox has seldom been Whitey Herzog when it comes to “small ball.” (single, steal, FC, sac fly — 1-0).

JEZ

February 22nd, 2010
8:51 am

If those 4 are my only choices, I’d put Diaz or Prado up there. Escobar will hit anywhere you put him in the lineup..no doubt about that…but the guy just drives in too many runs to keep him at the top. Diaz I like at the helm because he’s not afraid to be aggressive at the top, though Cox does not appear confident enough to give his players the green light on their own for steals.

Jackets2010

February 22nd, 2010
8:52 am

I am just wondering if Boras uses the Braves again and again to drive up the price of his clients.
If we can’t win the biding war, why let him use us?

TheAntiMe

February 22nd, 2010
8:54 am

Martin Prado did not get a shot at leadoff last year and he has substantially improved each year he has played in Atlanta. I think it would be better to give him a shot at the top of the order. If that doesn’t work out, then maybe give Escobar a go at leading-off.

Just my opinion, I much prefer to see Esco bat somewhere in the middle of the order as he was very clutch at driving in runs last season seemingly when the Braves needed them the most.

Dr. Phil

February 22nd, 2010
9:00 am

Escobar is the fastest runner, but his head is frequently elsewhere–like at the beauty salon.

Walker, Texas Ranger

February 22nd, 2010
9:01 am

Play Infante at 2nd and leadoff. Faster, better glove. Prado is a butcher at 2nd.

TheAntiMe

February 22nd, 2010
9:05 am

Thanks, Dr. Phil. You speak the truth and more importantly, you made me laugh. :D

Paul

February 22nd, 2010
9:06 am

1-Diaz
2-Escobar
3-Mclouth
4-Jones
5-McCann
6-Glaus
7-Heyward
8-Prado

mythbuster

February 22nd, 2010
9:09 am

Enough with the ” Lord knows [Diaz'] terrible success against righties” myth, ’cause it just ain’t true. Last year Diaz had 235 abs against righties (more than against lefties) and hit .255 with a .349 obp. He killed lefties, but his numbers against righties were respectable. Oh, and that .349 obp vs righties is higher than Prado’s .340 obp against righties. Diaz has earned some more pt and would be good in the leadoff role.

ChippersLoveChild

February 22nd, 2010
9:09 am

Having Escobar leadoff reminds of the Brewers with Ricke Weeks. They aren’t your typical leadoff guys, but provide good pop at the top of the order and should do the job because nobody else on the team can. I think it would work.

ChippersLoveChild

February 22nd, 2010
9:10 am

Also…. how about a blog on Team USA hockey… Come on Jeff… Pleaseeeeeeeee! :)

Chief Nock A Homa

February 22nd, 2010
9:13 am

Jeff:

Per the 8:42 reply about then why trade for Melky to begin with….

That’s what I am wondering!

No, actually, it really wasn’t a trade for Melky was it??? Weren’t we really trading for the young phenom pitcher?? And, Melky was kind of the throw in???

The 8:43 post…

Yes – quite a significant difference, but don’t you believe that if the Braves had come up to the middle of the road somewhere that it would have been enough to get Damon here??? Maybe around 6.5 to 7 mil??? And, trade Melky for another prospect at that point for financial relief as well as another arm or bat in the stockpile…..

Mike S

February 22nd, 2010
9:15 am

1. McClouth – OBP and speed says he goes at the top
2. Escobar – he is a natural #2 hitter and has excelled in this spot
3. Chipper – he has #3 spot until he is carried from the field.
4. Glaus – Hopefully he returns to his hard hitting self
5. McCann – He likes the5 hole, but moves to 4 if Glaus struggles or gets hurt
6. Heyward – He wins the job out of camp
7. Melky/Diaz
8. Prado

Mike S

February 22nd, 2010
9:17 am

Nock A homa – Melky was the consolation prize in that trade for sure. The main reason for the trade at all was to shed salary, but the player we wanted was definately the young stud pitcher (Cabrera? – name escapes me ATM) – melky was just the throw in to have a “NAME” in the trade.

BravesAreDone

February 22nd, 2010
9:18 am

As long as Bobby is the manager it’s not going to matter. He has the idea in his head McLouth is the leadoff hitter, so he will never change that until it’s too late.

Hudson

February 22nd, 2010
9:18 am

I love having McLouth and Prado at the top. There’s NO WAY I’d put Escobar there. He showed his ability to a good clutch, run-producer last year. So I think he fits too perfectly in a power spot such as right behind Mac.

JEZ

February 22nd, 2010
9:19 am

May if we keep melky which I don’t see anything else happening, then we try him at the leadoff. He knows how to get on base, and he’s fast, plus the switch hitter effect is nice up there right out of the gate, look at Rollins…though I know..he’s way better of a hitter, but melkman might do well there.

Bobby Cox

February 22nd, 2010
9:19 am

All I know for sure is Chipper will be batting 3rd even if he hits .195. Can’t “disrespect” Chipper. Oh no. That’s not the way we do thigs around here ….

Clay

February 22nd, 2010
9:25 am

You can’t put your best “clutch” hitter, Escobar, at leadoff. He has developed into a really good run producer. If McLouth is over his hamstring injury, he will be fine, plus he is one of the best base stealers in the NL.

Asheville Dawg

February 22nd, 2010
9:26 am

McClouth isn’t the answer, so give Diaz a shot. He’s earned it, Then Prado and if that doesn’t work Cabrera

stew

February 22nd, 2010
9:26 am

I like Schafer leading off. I think he is our best centerfielder currently (Andruw was the best centerfielder ever including Willie Mays. Diaz is only at best a fourth outfielder. So here is my opening day lineup
1. Schafer CF
2. Prado 2B
3. Heyward RF (the kid has to bat third or he won’t put up any numbers)
4. Jones 3B
5. Escobar SS (he really hits best in the 5 hole)
6. McCann C
7. Glaus 1B (just until we get a ready Freddie)
8. McLouth LF

Schafer is capable of scoring runs. OBP and SBs don’t mean anything, scoring runs is where it’s at for a leadoff man.

Dap01

February 22nd, 2010
9:36 am

The Braves have a very flawed lineup.

Mclouth has speed but Cox will never allow him to use it. His OB% and his average is the lowest of your other candidates.

Go Braves.

collegeballfan

February 22nd, 2010
9:37 am

Only Escobar & McLouth have enough at bats to make a comparison valid.
McLouth has the speed but does not know how to steal. And yeah, why take the RBI’s from Escobar off the scorecard?

Is a “leadoff” hitter necessary? Why not have a good average hitter, with low strikeouts just bat first. Just someone to get on base. He does not have to steal, but just run the bases. For this role I nominate Prado.

Remember, if you cannot trade, you must play with what you have.

I dont really know

February 22nd, 2010
9:39 am

but could Heyward possibly do it? I know Bobby doesnt like to put that much pressure on the rookies, but it could possibly work. Of course I have no idea how he is at stealing, so I could just be sounding stupid right now. I just think until his power is completely ready it could work. I like the Schafer idea if he is ready. McClouth is probably still the best option due to his stealing ability and his speed. Escobar can knock in way too may to be lead-off. Prado might not be a bad option either. He doesnt have a lot of power, but is on base all the time. He is a great number 2 though. Lets face it though, we do not have a true lead-off hitter, which is sad. I think we should all be happy that we will no longer be seeing Kelly at the top, or Norton at the bottom!!

I dont really know

February 22nd, 2010
9:40 am

Really collegefootballfan? Really? Did you really just say McClouth doesn’t know how to steal?

tomahawkin down 75

February 22nd, 2010
9:41 am

Don’t ever consider this. You can’t waste the threat Escobar brings w/ RISP. That’s the numero uno reason this kid has no business at the top of the lineup. He was cash money with runners on, and i mean #1 or #2 in the LEAGUE w/ RISP (can’t remember for sure, but i know it was up there), and that’s not something you dismiss for any reason. Bad idea.

NOTE” Ya’ll be careful… sports writers love to throw these train wreck-notions out there to see how many of us are foolish enough to bite, and this particular blog is no exception. Next…

I dont really know

February 22nd, 2010
9:41 am

Excuse me collegeball fan. Sorry I got your name wrong.

Andrew

February 22nd, 2010
9:42 am

Yunel hit much too well with runners in scoring position to lead off.

Bob

February 22nd, 2010
9:43 am

tomahawkin down 75

February 22nd, 2010
9:43 am

McClouth has one of the Highest success rates stealing bases in the game. Check your numbers CBF. The guy can swipe.

I dont really know

February 22nd, 2010
9:44 am

Thank you tomahawkin

Poorbrave

February 22nd, 2010
9:44 am

Agree with 9:18 on Bobby. Why talk about lead-off hitters because as long as BC is here it don’t matter. He will stick with the Devil, good or bad…like Norton? So its a dead subject.

Everyone cutting down Melkey and claim to know more than Wren? Give MC a chance to see what he can do without the New York pressure etc. The man can play and is better than many we had in Brave uniforms. I bet he has his best year and I look forward to watching him play.

JEZ

February 22nd, 2010
9:45 am

yeah that’s a major dumb comment to say McClouth can’t steal.

I dont really know

February 22nd, 2010
9:46 am

Ya I think out outfield is pretty good poorbrave. I wish we had more power, but everyone can hit for a good average and McClouth can definitely bring power, and Heyward possibly will very soon.

Space Monkey

February 22nd, 2010
9:48 am

Escobar may be the worst leadoff hitter I have ever seen. Absolutely no plate discipline. Do not repeat this mistake.

I dont really know

February 22nd, 2010
9:51 am

And I just realize that I have been spelling McLouth incorrectly. Sorry.