I’m the kind of guy who likes to take things in chronological order, and I figure that the A’s first batter in 2021 will be their lead off hitter so why not start by talking about that spot in the order?
With the departure of Marcus Semien, there is no obvious leadoff hitter to set the table. Then again, Semien was hardly a natural solution but took to the spot better than his career numbers to date would have predicted.
Today, I am here to make the case for a Ramon Laureano, who may have fallen out of favor with some fans following a subpar 2020 campaignlet (54 games, or exactly 1/3 of a regular season).
Laureano’s .213/.338/.366 slash line in 2020 might scare off some fans, but really it obscures the reality that over the body of his career to date he is Oakland’s best lead-off candidate.
Note that even in 2020, Laureano put together a reasonably strong on base thanks to an impressive 10.8% BB rate. And there is ample evidence to suggest that the .213 batting average was flukey.
Consider that in 2018 and 2019 combined, in 171 games Laureano had a career batting average of .288. He then got off strong start in 2020, going 8 for 23 (.348) in July, and then … Mid August comes the suspension for the brawl with Alex Cintron and the Astros and that really did seem to derail Ramon’s year. Upon his return, Laureano batted just .186 the rest of the regular season.
But let’s remember the A’s center fielder’s larger body of work. Laureano gets on base, to the tune of a. 350 OBP in 2018-19 and even a .338 clip last year. He certainly has the speed you want to see out of the leadoff spot, and another appealing quality: Ramon does not come with platoon splits that force you to mix and match.
In fact for his career so far, Laureano has fared better against RHP (.270/.347/.481, 125wRC+) then he has against LHP (.271/.332/.458, 114 wRC+). Those are the types of numbers you can comfortably insert at the top of the order every day.
So what might a 2020 lineup look like? There are plenty of questions still unanswered, but here is one look at a possible lineup against RHP. There are, of course, a multitude of possibilities for the DH position so for funsies I have decided to let Jed Lowrie prove he is healthy in spring training and win that spot to start the season. (I have lots of doubts that Lowrie’s knees will allow him to play second base more than once in a blue moon, but I could totally see him being a productive DH in 2021.) I am guessing Piscotty will get starts against RHP, but might yield to a LH bat at times.
Laureano – CF
Lowrie – DH
Chapman – 3B
Olson – 1B
Canha – LF
Piscotty/Tom – RF
Murphy – C
Andrus – SS
Kemp – 2B
Obviously against LHP Chad Pinder gets in there somewhere (2B? DH? LF?) but most of the characters will stay the same just perhaps in a slightly different order. Except for Laureano — he’s leading off for me everyday if I’m the manager. Which, by the way, I am not.