Detroit Tigers Roundtable: On Nelson Cruz, the Leadoff Spot, and Magical Upgrades

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Sep 30, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler hits a RBI single against the Tampa Bay Rays during the third inning at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve already had several opinions on who should lead off for the Tigers in 2014 (and I’m sure we’ll have several more), but give a quick plug for your current top candidate.

Chris Hannum: On an everyday basis… Still Austin Jackson, though maybe Rajai Davis could teach him how to steal. He seems to be taking a lot of flak for not being the star a lot of people want him to be, but he’s easy to drive in, sports a perfectly acceptable OBP and seems to thrive when the bases are empty. Davis shouldn’t play most days and Kinslers hit trajectories suggest he would be less prone to DPs than Jackson (and that he and CoPa might not get along).

Matt Pelc: I’d say Ian Kinsler. Torii Hunter would be my second choice. The one thing I hope for is that Austin Jackson is slid down. I feel as if sometimes he presses a bit at leadoff, trying too hard to set the table for Miggy and V-Mart. Putting him lower will allow him to ease up a bit.

Matt Snyder: I like the idea of Victor Martinez leading off. He’s slow, yes, but he’s one of the better OBP guys on the team (and one of the best hitters overall), he doesn’t have a lot of home run power, and he would see far fewer opportunities to ground into double plays. The downside base clogging, but, with Miggy coming up down the line, this isn’t the portion of the lineup where you necessarily need to maximize speed.

Scott Byrne: I think this is pretty simple, and I will be surprised if it doesn’t play out this way –  Against right-handed starters (which will be the majority of the time) Kinsler will bat 1st , with Dirks 2nd, then Cabrera, Martinez, Hunter, Avila, Castellanos, Jackson, Iglesias. Dirks sucked least in the 2-hole last year, and if he is going to bounce back at all it will help him to see more fastballs and have the 1B holding either Kinsler, Iglesias or Jackson on. Versus southpaws, look for Rajai Davis to lead off, with Kinsler slotted second.

Michael Emmerich: I’m ok with Jackson retaining the lead off spot. For me it’s more important that he and Kinsler hit one and two, in whatever order. Hunter and his .308 second half OBP needs to be moved down.

Josie Parnell: Ian Kinsler is my lead-off batter for the Tigers. He’s proven in the slot, with his OBP indicating he knows how to get on base. He’s also speedy and steals bases, and he crosses home plate, all things that are important in the top spot.

Tom Zahari: I firmly believe that Ian Kinsler should be the leadoff hitter this season. He brings more versatility at the top of the order with his speed and he struck out at less than half the rate that Jackson did in the exact same amount of plate appearnces in 2013. I believe that top 5 of the order should go Kinsler, Hunter, Cabrera, Martinez, Jackson which would give Jackson more opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position.

Josh Paulisin: Ian Kinsler. He’s been leading off in Texas the past few years and I like what he’s done in that spot. Good combination of speed and power. I like Austin Jackson, but I think where we saw him in the latter part of the postseason is where he belongs.

Blair Tatrault: I like Ian Kinsler there. He’s a proven commodity in that slot and can steal a base. Austin Jackson has never truly settled in at lead off except in spurts and may flourish at six or seven in the order.

Grant Stoye: I’m all for Kinsler, and maybe even a top five of Kinsler, Jackson, Cabrera, Martinez, Hunter.

Sam O’Toole: Ian Kinsler.  I believe it is between him and Austin Jackson.  Comparing the two, Jackson’s career batting average is five points higher than Kinsler’s (.273), but their BABIP is incomparable. Jackson has a career .361 BABIP, and Kinsler has a career .281 BABIP; an average of about 30% of balls in play fall for hits. Although Kinsler’s walk rate has fallen in recent years, it is still similar to Jackson’s.  With a bigger ballpark, Kinsler’s homerun numbers could shrink, but he strikes out less than Jackson and provides more pop at the top of the lineup. The best thing about having these two is that if one struggles, than the other can step right in. It will be a great battle come Spring Training.

Summary: Kinsler (7.5), Jackson (2), Martinez (1), Davis (0.5)