There’s so much that goes into being the leadoff hitter.
You want to see as many pitches as possible, so your teammates have an opportunity to see what the pitcher is throwing and how good his stuff is that day.
You are responsible for getting things going for the rest of the order, needing to get on base however possible to set up your bigger run producing hitters.
Oneil Cruz is an interesting study when it comes to his position in the lineup, as I’ve talked about before. He has the speed to be a threat on the bases like you’d imagine from a traditional leadoff hitter, but also has the power to be in a more run-producing role.
The difference has been his obvious success batting leadoff, both this season in the majors and throughout his career in the minors.
Outside of Cruz, there were a few players that played especially better when leading off a lineup, whether it be just a comfort thing, or they had the traditional skills you look for.
The 21-year-old shortstop might be the guy in the entire system whose skillset best fits the leadoff position. Cheng drew 63 walks, one behind the organization’s leader Andres Alvarez’s 64 free passes. He also led all Pirate minor leaguers in stolen bases, swiping 33 bags.
In 72 games as the team’s leadoff hitter, Cheng batted .276/.387/.414, with 47 of his walks (0.65 per game) and a total of 25 extra-base hits.
After returning from a midseason injury, you can see the extra-push he gave the lineup that sparked their late season run for a playoff spot, although it ultimately came up short.
Only one player in the entire system has finished with more hits the last two seasons than Triolo, and that’s Endy Rodriguez. Triolo did the majority of his damage this season while batting leadoff, something that spanned 65 games and 254 at-bats. The 72nd overall pick back in 2019 batted .311/.404/.480, with six of his season home runs for Altoona this year coming from the top of the order.
His average when he doesn’t hit leadoff shows the comfort level he plays with in that spot, as he went just 41-of-171 (.239) batting anywhere else in the lineup.
Triolo has also flashed some decent speed on the base paths, with 49 steals over the past two seasons combined. He also finished in a tie with Cheng when it came to walks at 63.
Alvarez is an interesting inclusion here, as he didn’t hit great batting first in the lineup (.189/.343/.377), but led the system in walks and posted the first 20-20 season in Altoona Curve history.
The interesting note with Alvarez is that while he didn’t have much success batting at the top of the lineup, he hit very well when leading off an inning.
Alvarez hit a total of eight extra base hits, five home runs, and slashed .313/.439/.550 when leading an inning off. So while he wasn’t the best at the top of the order, he was able to set up the offense the rest of the inning with his ability to get on.
Highlight of the Day
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Song of the Day
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Pirates Prospects Spotlight
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.