To win the game, you must score the most runs. To score runs, you have to drive in runners on base. That entire process begins with one player, the leadoff batter. In this case for the Nationals, Denard Span is that player. However, ever since trading for him in 2012, the Nationals have not seen the benefits they expected from their “missing piece”. According to FanGraphs, Denard Span’s OPS is a mediocre .662 since being traded from Minnesota, a below average number compared to Shin-Soo Choo’s .909 this year. This year, he’s batting .239 and only getting on base 28 percent of the time. That’s not what is expected from a leadoff hitter. Span has not been what he was advertised to be and what he was supposed to be. He has not stolen bases, and he has not drawn walks. This year, as the Nats continue to fall down in the first inning, the bounce-back is so important, but it’s hard to do if nobody is getting on base. So the move should be obvious for Matt Williams, except for one tiny problem. There’s no true leadoff hitter on this ballclub.
Rendon has too much pop and too little speed. Harper may hustle, but his purpose is down in the order. Jayson Werth is not a leadoff hitter nor are his valuable RBI worth losing. The only player that makes sense seems to be Ian Desmond, as he gets on base and can steal. His rough start makes his numbers look bad, but he could very well take that spot.
But even so, don’t rule out Denard Span having a rough start to the season. The calendar could turn to June, and Span could get hot. Who knows? I’m sure many of you have opinions on who should leadoff. Comment back using #(PLAYERNAME)Leadoff, or vote in the poll. I’ll calculate the results and tell you next time.