The Twins have not had a decent leadoff hitter since Denard Span was traded after the 2012 season and he was a good leadoff man, not a great one. This past season the hitters that Ron Gardenhire sent up to the plate to hit lead off for the Twins were just plain dismal.
The Twins could use Brian Dozier to hit lead off again but that is not his ideal spot in the batting order but yet Gardy might not have a choice. All things being equal, if you look a the projected Twins line-up the leadoff hitter should come from center field. But who will play center field for Minnesota in 2014? Unless something dramatic happens it looks like Darin Mastroianni, Alex Presley, and Aaron Hicks will battle it out this spring in Ft. Myers to see will open the season as the Twins center fielder.
Mastroianni spent most of 2013 on the DL and if you look at his major league OBP, it stands at .298 which is not very good but it is a small sample size of just 230 at bats. In the minor leagues Mastroianni had a .370 OBP but that is in the minors. Darin is 28 years old so he is not the Twins center fielder of the future by any means and is best suited in a back-up role but that doesn’t mean he might not start the season in center field.
Alex Presley who the Twins acquired from Pittsburgh last season in the Justin Morneau trade is also 28 and he was OK in that role at the tail end of last season but nothing in his past major league stats indicates that he could put up the same kind of numbers over a 162 game schedule. In the minors Presley had a .352 OBP but again, that is in the minors. He too has a shot at being the Twins center fielder on Opening Day but he too might just be a placeholder.
The ideal man for the job is 24 year-old Aaron Hicks but when the Twins gave him the job in 2013 he hit for a .047 average and his OBP was a microscopic .109 in the 46 plate appearances that Gardy gave him in that role. Hicks would like to get the 2013 season in his rear view mirror and start his major league anew in 2014 but who knows if the Twins brain trust will let him start the season with the Twins in Chicago. The Twins sent Hicks down to prove he belongs in the big leagues after hitting .192 in 81 games and Hicks responded by hitting all of .222 in the 22 games he played in Rochester. The Twins sent Hicks a message by not recalling him in September and Hicks had better come to Florida with a chip on his shoulder and play like a man possessed if he want to be the Twins opening day center fielder because he has something to prove to Gardy and Terry Ryan. Then again, Hicks had a fantastic spring training in 2013 and yet when the season started Hicks flopped big time. Hicks could very well start the season in Rochester and have to beat the Twins door down to prove he belongs in the big leagues with Minnesota. Dozier did it in 2013 and Hicks can do it this year. This team needs Hicks as their center fielder.
Looking back in Twins history to see who the best Twins leadoff hitters have been from a OBP perspective you have to admit that Chuck Knoblauch was the best the Twins have ever had. I know that Knoblauch was a jerk at times and a stuck up snob much of the time but the man played some good baseball for the Twins and it is a joke that he is not in the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. Hopefully he will get voted in this year, remember that you are voting for him for what he did in a Twins uniform on the ball field, not how he choses to live his life. While you are voting, put a “X” down next to Cesar Tovar too, he also deserves to be in the Twins HOF.
Best OBP hitting lead off with 100 games or more