The Padres seems like they are constantly making due without a good leadoff hitter. In 2013 Everth Cabrera staked his claim before getting busted for PEDs and could not make it work after that. Before that, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable had their moments, but didn't hold up. Jody Gerut had a fine 2008. Dave Roberts had a nice two year run in 2005-2006. That's the most consistency you can find in the Petco Park era. So with all this offseason change, is there anyone that might be able to grab hold of that top spot?
Last July, Fangraphs did an article where they found a simple stat that could identify leadoff hitters. The idea being that you could eschew power and ignore speed when looking for the top-of-the-order guy. Power can come later in the lineup and once you minimize that skill you should be left with guys that get on base and were pretty likely to have some speed to help them accomplish that. If you read the article, the results are pretty good. The top leadoff guys in history bubble up. The easy calculation is OBP - ISO. Or OBP - (SLG - Batting Average) if you don't know what ISO is. The author called it Leadoff Rating or LOR. Here are three tables showing who could do best at that stat. The first uses Steamer projections, the second uses ZiPS projections (both from Fangraphs) and the third uses just 2014 numbers.
|2015 Steamer Projections
Now that we've seen the numbers for the first time you can see the relative scale for the current Padres, but there's no context as to how good they are. Let's compare to the greatest Padre of all time. Tony Gwynn could bat anywhere in the lineup, but I think all of us would recognize that his skills worked great in the leadoff spot (even if that might not have been the best spot for him on a given team). His career number for this would be .267. One of the best of all time. Hall of Fame leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson tallied .261. Last year White leadoff hitter Adam Eaton put up .261 and Marlins leadoff hitter Christian Yelich accumulated a .244.
By comparison, Steamer projections give us Yangervis Solarte as the best option with only a .202. That is less than ideal both from a numerical component and also because Solarte is not the favorite to be a starter on opening day. The highest ranked likely starter is Yonder Alonso and his LOR is less that .2, which I would call the minimum necessary to be an acceptable option.
|2015 ZiPS Projections
ZiPS gives Solarte a bit of a boost it is starting to feel like maybe he should get the 3B job just so that the Padres have a decent leadoff hitter. Again Alonso comes in 2nd, but is a little closer to the .200 line. Clint Barmes makes himself known in the conversation for the first time here.
|2014 Actual Stats
Oh, hello again Mr. Barmes. The projections don't believe that Barmes will be able to hit for as high of a batting average in 2015 as he did in 2014, but somehow hit for more power. 2014 was a down year for the aging Barmes, but a repeat could make him an okay leadoff guy. Solarte also looks better when you consider what he did in his only major league season. Rymer Liriano only ranks high because his power did not translate in his limited debut. Derek Norris pops up as an interesting candidate. He is the highest ranked player on here who actually has a likely starting job.