The thought in the Marlins organization is to move Hanley Ramirez down to the third spot in the order so as to make him more of a run producer. I have said in the past that Hanley’s best spot in the lineup, the place he will see his value as a player maximized, is at the lead off spot. Hanley can hit home runs, extra base hits plus steal bases and cause general havoc out there. He can draw a pitcher’s attention and allow the second hitter to take advantage of an increased likelihood of mistakes as a result.
Yet, the Marlins brass seems to have amnesia.
Hanley’s move to the third spot in-season last year was disastrous. That said, there is the observation that Hanley has been able to add more muscle mass and seems to be preparing himself to become more of a run producer in this league than a table-setter.
So, this means the Marlins have to find a new lead off guy.
The edict out of spring training is to cut down on strikeouts. Marlins GM, Larry Beinfest, was recently quoted as acknowledging the increased strikeouts with alarm, saying that such at bats were a “finite event”. Good. But who will lead off?
Cameron Maybin is the center fielder of the future, if not right now, and his call up at the end of last season was a huge success. The question is, will he be able to keep up that kind of production for an entire season and can he do it by hitting at the top spot? His strike out numbers in the minors were quite high, so it seems that there is the probability that he will not put the ball in play as much as one would expect for a leadoff hitter. Spring training will serve as a good barometer.
Then there is the other candidate, kind of lurking in the background, Emilio Bonifacio – acquired from the Nationals as part of the Olsen/Willingham deal. Touted as a lead off hitter for the future for the Diamondbacks, Bonifacio puts up pretty good speed numbers (stolen bases) but also has a penchant to strike out quite a bit.
So the question remains, which one of these two guys will get the job of setting up the Marlins offense, and what kind of season can we expect? Don’t you just love spring training?