Kris Bryant to lead off for Cubs in latest attempt to solve longstanding lineup problem
“When you talk about putting the best players in baseball at the top of the order, that’s our best player and I want to put him at the top,” said manager David Ross, whose Cubs ranked last in the majors in leadoff batting (.212) and on-base percentage (.294) last year.
MESA, Arizona – After another long day of workouts, batting practice and media sessions, Kris Bryant cleaned up and headed out the side door of the Cubs’ spring complex toward his Mercedes sports car Wednesday afternoon.
Spotting a couple of Chicago baseball writers on a nearby sidewalk, Bryant smiled, pointed at himself, said “leadoff hitter,” then got in the car and pulled out of owner Tom Ricketts’ reserved parking spot.
Eat your heart out, Dexter Fowler.
The headliner of the Cubs’ who-they-gonna-trade winter was the big headline again in camp Wednesday – but this time because his new manager intends to make him the team’s new leadoff hitter to try to solve what’s been an Achilles heel for the Cubs since Fowler left for the Cardinals as a free agent after the 2016 championship.
“When you talk about putting the best players in baseball at the top of the order, that’s our best player and I want to put him at the top,” said manager David Ross, who floated the idea to Bryant the day he arrived at the complex Saturday, then again Wednesday when they held their regularly scheduled early spring meeting. “He’s on board. I’m on board. It’s something I’ve been thinking about long and hard, and I’m excited about it. … I’m super excited about it.”
Bryant, who has a career .385 on-base percentage (.901 OPS) and is one of the game’s best base runners, has led off seven times in his big-league career (.387 OPB) and said he loves the idea of moving up one spot to leadoff.
“I said, ‘I’m here to do whatever you want. If you need me to be that guy for you, I’m your guy,’ “ the 2016 MVP said. “I think I have the right mindset because I’ve always been the type to say, ‘Give me that fifth at-bat because I want it.’ “
Ross suggested Anthony Rizzo would also, “maybe” move up to the No. 2 spot, calling that “a good 1-2 punch at the top.”
The manager also said he expects to move Bryant into the outfield for some games but envisions him remaining the Cubs’ primary third baseman.
Bryant spent his final year in college as a leadoff hitter before being drafted No. 2 overall by the Cubs in 2013, earning the Gold Spikes Award as the top college player in the nation for the University of San Diego.
“I kind of look at the 2 hole as another leadoff hitter, too. So you can kind of interchange those to me,” said Bryant, the Cubs’ regular No. 2 hitter during his career. “I think the past three years we haven’t really had someone that was stuck in the leadoff hole and stayed there. I think we totally took Dexter for granted while he was here. I certainly did, because he was up there working great at-bats. He was always on base, high on-base percentage, and I think it showed in the numbers of the people who hit after him.”
The Cubs led the National League in most offensive categories with Fowler as the leadoff hitter in 2015 and 2016.
“I think we have so much turnover, just trying certain guys out, you don’t get that consistency,” Bryant said. “If I need to be the guy that’s up there that’s going to be consistent and get on base, I’ll be that guy.”
Ross – who said he’s “thought this thing to death, and I’m still thinking about it” – sounds committed to sticking with the plan for an extended stretch even if it doesn’t look exactly as envisioned out of the gate.
“It’s really easy to change the lineup from my seat, but I think that screams panic when you start to change all that,” said Ross, who characterized Bryant’s commitment even more important.
“I like professional at-bats to start it off and set the tone for this group and what we’re going to do. KB’s a great option.”
No wonder the guy seems so sure he’ll be around all year.
Source : Gordon Wittenmyer Link