Although he was a vogue suggestion for the leadoff spot throughout the offseason – and he expressed a willingness to do it – I don’t know that anyone actually expected Kris Bryant to slide into that role for the Cubs in 2018. Sure, they don’t have a clear, “traditional” leadoff option available, but I’m not going to fault Joe Maddon for preferring Bryant a click or two down in the order.
Maddon offered that much today, as well as a couple possibilities for the leadoff job:
Maddon said four players under consideration for leadoff spot. Bryant not in that group.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 23, 2018
Joe Maddon made out his lineup today with a purpose. He says Ian Happ will be one of 3-4 players they try out at the top of the order this spring. He didn't go into detail but said Kyle Schwarber could get some looks there again. Schwarber is batting… https://t.co/nMpA6FFN4t
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) February 23, 2018
Given the rest of the lineup, given the priorities of having the best hitters up top and wanting on-base ability at the very top, I don’t think it’s too great a stretch to make an informed guess at those three to four players.
Schwarber has already been discussed quite a bit as a possibility, and although he makes so much sense in so many ways … I still would probably prefer he not take that role on right out of the gate. Happ, too, makes sense if he is making consistent contact (enough to support a bump in his OBP, since he’ll take his walks). If Ben Zobrist bounces back, he’ll clearly get consideration when he’s in the lineup. And when the Cubs are facing a lefty, it’s pretty hard to argue against getting Albert Almora in there up top.
Those would probably be the four guys you’d be considering at this point, and the reality is, there probably isn’t going to be just one leadoff hitter again this season. The players, themselves, will be shuffling in and out of the lineup, so I’m guessing the leadoff job will also shuffle around depending on match-ups. That’s fine by me, especially if (1) the guy is a good hitter for that day, and (2) it leaves Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Willson Contreras to go 2 through 4.
For today, all we know about the leadoff hitter for sure is it won’t be Kris Bryant.