As we continue to wonder if the Orioles will add an outfielder and just who that may be, another interesting question is which player will be the club’s leadoff hitter now that Nick Markakis is a Brave.
The odds-on favorite is probably Alejandro De Aza, the likely starter in left field. That is unless manager Buck Showalter has a surprise in store for us or plans to do something unconventional in that spot.
While Markakis served as the Orioles’ leadoff hitter 148 times last year, De Aza ranked second on the club, batting first six times.
Here are some career slash lines for players in the leadoff role:
Markakis - .294/.353/.402 in 982 at-bats
De Aza - .271/.334/.405 in 1,219 at-bats
Nori Aoki - .285/.353/.385 in 1,361 at-bats
In case you are wondering, Colby Rasmus has been a leadoff hitter for just 20 career at-bats. He has batted mostly second in his career.
De Aza made a nice impression in his 20 games with the Orioles last year, batting .293 and the club went 14-6 in those games.
I’m sure the Orioles would gladly take a repeat of his 2012 season with the White Sox. He hit .281 with 29 doubles, six triples, nine homers, 81 runs and 50 RBIs. He had a .349 OBP, a .760 OPS and stole 26 bases.
He hits right-handed pitching better, with a .274 average compared to .247 against southpaws. Maybe that means Showalter sits him some against lefties and the O’s need another leadoff guy for those games.
Is there an answer for the O’s right now at the leadoff spot beyond De Aza?
The defense never rests: The Orioles play pretty good defense. We know that. In fact there is only one team better than Baltimore on defense in the game according to ESPN’s Buster Olney and his latest MLB team rankings. That team is Kansas City.
The Orioles and Royals tied for the MLB lead with three Gold Glove winners each and the O’s saw first-hand just how good Kansas City’s defense is in the American League Championship Series when the Royals made a highlight reel play about every five minutes, usually from an outfielder. Yep, they’re pretty good.
Tampa Bay was ranked as having the seventh-best defense with the Yankees rated 10th.
Earlier, the Orioles were listed as honorable mention in a listing of the game’s top 10 starting rotations with Washington at No. 1 and Tampa Bay at No. 7.
Of the Orioles, Olney wrote:
The Baltimore Orioles could have a top-10 rotation if Kevin Gausman’s talent fully blossoms in 2015 and he evolves into one of the game’s better starters.
In a ranking of the top 10 bullpens, Kansas City was No. 1 with the Yankees No. 2 and the Orioles No. 5. Of course, the Yankees added Andrew Miller and the Orioles lost him, but Baltimore still gets the No. 5 nod here.
Boston was ranked No. 1 in a listing of the best current lineups and that would be a big step up after the Red Sox finished 11th in the AL in runs scored in 2014. Toronto was ranked No. 3 and the Yankees were 10th. The Orioles were listed as an honorable mention.