For starters, a look at the leadoff position in the order

Last season, Nate McLouth and Brian Roberts combined to bat first in 125 of the Orioles' games, or 77 percent of the time.

There will be a new man atop the O's order in 2014. Who is the best choice?

Looking back at 2013, O's leadoff hitters batted a collective .266 with a .331 OBP and .715 OPS. That was just ahead of the American League average in two of those three categories. The AL average was .263/.324/.716.

Boston was first in the AL with a .348 OBP from the leadoff spot and the Orioles were seventh at .331.

O's 2013 record by leadoff hitter:
* Manny Machado 0-2
* Nick Markakis 17-17
* Nate McLouth 60-48
* Nolan Reimold 0-1
* Brian Roberts 8-9

markakis-from-below-white-blue-sky-sidebar.jpgIn 34 games batting leadoff last year, Nick Markakis hit .319/.352/.720. His career numbers are even better there at .329/.375/.816 in 88 games and 405 plate appearances.

Two other possibilities, should they win full-time or platoon jobs at their positions, are outfielder David Lough and infielder Jemile Weeks.

Lough hit leadoff in 19 games for Kansas City last season, batting .271/.297/.626. His overall minor league numbers, not just his leadoff stats, are .297/.349/.808.

Weeks has a career .320 OBP in 707 major league plate appearances out of the leadoff spot. He is also a switch-hitter, but first has to win the second base job before they could put him atop the order. When he had his strong 2011 season, batting .303 in 97 games for Oakland, he batted atop their order in 85 games, hitting .299/.338/.744 with 21 steals in 30 attempts.

Markakis, while not running as well as the other two, is probably the safest bet to put up a good OBP atop the order. We know he can work a count and is a good situational hitter if it's called for later in the game.

He seems comfortable batting first and pretty much embraced the job when it came his way. If his run production, which has been in decline, stays that way, maybe this is the best spot for him to hit.

The O's of course could add someone that fits well in the leadoff spot and we'll see if that happens. At the Winter Meetings, manager Buck Showalter was asked about Markakis batting first.

"He's a candidate," Showalter said. "He's one of the guys if I have to fill internally, he's a guy that at the end of the day we'll look at. In a perfect world, I'd rather not. But I could and I think Nick would do a fine job."

What is your take on the O's leadoff spot? Who should bat first for the 2014 Orioles? How important is the leadoff hitter?

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