With spring training just over a month away, among the many unsettled issues for the Washington Nationals is who will occupy the leadoff spot in the batting order. There seem to be three leading candidates and all of them have their drawbacks.
Last year, the spot was occupied for most of the season by Brad Wilkerson. While he had an on-base average that was more than adequate for the spot (.374), there are a couple of major drawbacks to having him in the one spot. Although Wilkerson is not the prototypical lumbering type, he’s not exactly a speed demon. While he has 35 career steals, he’s been caught 25 times. On top of that, his power is wasted in the leadoff spot. Last year Wilkerson had 32 home runs and drove in 67 runs. Doing the math, that means that he drove in just 35 teammates all year. He’s a potential 100-RBI man if he’s lower in the order.
Wilkerson will do what he’s asked, but he’d rather bat lower in the order. From a recent article on the team’s Website: :
The batting order is also an issue for Wilkerson. The last two years, Wilkerson has been up and down in the lineup. Last year, his biggest success came from the leadoff spot. Wilkerson had a .382 on-base percentage when batting first, and his nine first-inning home runs led the Major Leagues.
But Robinson would like to move Wilkerson down in the lineup and give him a chance to drive in 100 runs. Wilkerson said that for the Nationals to be successful in '05, they must acquire a leadoff hitter to allow Wilkerson to move down in the order.
When asked if he thought Endy Chavez or Cristian Guzman could do the job at the top of the order, Wilkerson said, 'I hope so.
You can hope so, Brad, but we think not. Chavez did inch his OBP up over .300 for the first time in his career last year, but he still walked just 30 times in 132 games and struck out 40 times. Guzman, playing in the hitter-friendly Metrodome in the hitter-friendly AL, had a line that was remarkably similar with a .309 OBP, 30 BB, and 64 K's. That's what's known as a black hole at the top of the order.
Hey, wonder if Ricky Henderson would be interested?