Kris Bryant Should Be Batting Leadoff
The Cubs offense approaches the quarter mark of the season ranking at or near the top of most relevant leaderboards. Even during that rough opening week, the offense was doing its part, scoring 10 runs in two separate losing efforts.
My sole complaint, although that might be too strong a word, is this: Why is Kris Bryant not leading off?
I have been coming around to the KB leadoff concept for nearly a full year now, since Bryant’s shoulder injury sapped his power while still leaving him an OBP machine. Bryant has the team’s second highest OBP (behind Willson Contreras’s unsustainable .423). He is among the league leaders in pitches per-at bat and is an exceptionally good baserunner.
And even though his power has come back of late, Bryant is far from the Cubs’ only threat to go deep. With Anthony Rizzo heating up, Javy Báez back to his MVP ways, and Willson Contreras hitting better than ever, there are legitimate middle-of-the-order bats all over. Th Cubs can afford to move Bryant’s power to the leadoff spot.
Yes, in a perfect world I would prefer the Cubs to conjure up a more classic leadoff hitter, à la 2016 Dexter Fowler. Jason Heyward’s .267/.371/.467 slash line and baserunning skills certainly play in the top spot for now, but I think we can all agree that we need to see another two months of those numbers before we fully trust Heyward there permanently.
But perhaps the strongest argument in favor of Bryant batting leadoff is that his special combination of power and patience make him the hitter you’d most want to have getting one extra AB in a game.