Like most M.L.B. teams, San Diego’s most effective and dangerous hitting threats are found in the middle of their lineup. Yet for players like Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin, Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso to be at their run producing bests’, they need the hitters in front of them to get on base and “set the table” on a consistent basis.
During the 2012 season, the Padres used a number of different players in the leadoff spot, and the team had their fair share of issues determining who their best option as in said spot. Some of these players performed extremely well when they hit first in the batting order, others however struggled there (Cameron Maybin), yet performed well in other places in the lineup (2012: .171 Batting 1st, .326 Batting 6th).
Shortstop Everth Cabrera was one Friars player in particular who shined down the stretch last year in a leadoff role, and his particular Offensive skill-set gives him the potential to be an effective weapon to insert at the top of San Diego’s lineup on a daily basis in 2013.
2012 was a career year for the now 26 year old Shortstop in many respects. Cabrera set career-high’s in At-Bats (398), Hits (98), and Doubles (19), and most impressively: Stolen Bases (44).
In fact, Cabrera’s 44 Stolen Bases led the National League in 2012, and that number is even more impressive when one considers how Cabrera did not even begin the regular season with the Padres (he was called up from Tucson in mid-May). “Cabby” really found his groove on Offense and on the base-paths last year when he was used as San Diego’s leadoff hitter over the last month and a half of the 2012 campaign.
Beginning on August 19 and continuing until October 3rd, Everth shined in the 27 games he led off for the Friars. Cabrera hit .282, smacked 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, scored 13 Runs and drove in 5, and stole 23 of his 44 total Stolen Bases over said stretch. Not incredible numbers by any means, but it was still a very effective stat line for someone who helped set the table for the Friars during their late season run of successful baseball. This however is not me saying that Cabrera was without his own faults as the Padres’ leadoff man though.
The Switch-Hitting Shortstop had his issues with posting a high On-Base Percentage (.325) in the leadoff role, and this was largely due to his problems with Strikeouts and plate discipline overall. During those 27 games, Cabrera Struck Out 26 times and Walked only 12 times. I should also add that this was during a season in which he Struck Out a total of 110 times over a total of 449 Plate Appearances (just over 24.4%, or almost 1 out of every 4 times up to bat).
Plate discipline aside, Cabrera’s speed and overall ability to steal bases successfully when he does get on (44 out of 48, 91.6% success rate in 2012) could be exactly what the Padres need to kick-start their Offense early in 2013. Having Cabrera on base in front of guys like Headley, Quentin, Grandal and Alonso is a recipe for favorable Offensive output, and the Padres’ productivity at the plate is sure to rise if their Shortstop emerges as a consistent force out of the leadoff spot in front of the team’s power-hitters.
With Logan Forsythe taking reps in the Outfield and the news that the Shortstop position is “Cabrera’s to lose” according to Padres.com Beat Writer Corey Brock, it certainly appears that Everth will receive the opportunity to play every-day for the Friars in 2013. With the chance to play every day will come the chance to be the Padres’ every-day “table-setter,” a role which Cabrera has all the tools necessary to excel in for the team.
This is not to say that Cabrera will not have to out-perform the Right Field platoon of Chris Denorfia and Will Venable for time to hit leadoff this year. Although both players are sure to split time out in Right, both performed just as well if not better than Cabrera last year when they hit first in 2012.
Denorfia (51 Games, 45 Games Started Batting 1st) not only posted the highest Batting Average (.303) of all of San Diego’s regular leadoff hitters, but also was tops or tied for 1st in On-Base Percentage (.345), Home Runs (5) Slugging Percentage (.468), OPS (.822), and Runs (31). Not to be outdone, Venable (52 Games, 48 Games Started) ranked 1st or tied for 1st in Home Runs (5), Doubles (15), RBI’s (22), and Walks (17) to go along with a .264 Batting Average.
Like at Shortstop, the opportunity to handle the Leadoff duties should be Cabrera’s to lose. Thus, watching who will inevitably step up for the Padres as the leadoff hitter will definitely be something to follow during the next two months. And it will definitely be interesting to see if Cabrera can build off of his finish to the 2012 season as San Diego’s “table-setter.”
Readers: Can/Will Cabrera step up into the Leadoff Role this year? Are Denorfia and/or Venable better options? Share below
Stats & Contract Information Courtesy of: Baseball Reference