The case for anyone else
While Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, and Victor Robles are the three primary candidates for the gig, there are some intriguing options for the Washington Nationals who have led off at one point or another in their respective careers.
Much like Turner and Robles, Michael Taylor would certainly bring a lot of speed to the team in the top spot. He finished second on the team in stolen bases with 24 steals which was the most he had recorded in a season in his five-year career.
However, not only does Taylor not currently have a starting spot on the team, but he also strikes out far too often to ever seriously be considered. He led all Nationals with at least 100 plate appearances in strikeout rate at 30.1 percent, so he won’t be hitting at the top of the lineup.
Soto led off once last season on May 30th against the Baltimore Orioles, and this move would be solely based on on-base ability. he led the team in OBP with a .406 figure, just ahead of Eaton, Harper, and Anthony Rendon.
The fact of the matter is, Soto has proven that he is too valuable to put at the top of the batting order, and should be in the heart of the order driving in runs instead. His power really came to the fore in 2018 which should see him hitting between third and fifth for years to come.
One of the other lesser thought of candidates to lead off could be the new addition, Brian Dozier. He led off plenty of times for the Minnesota Twins as he currently boasts a solid enough but not spectacular .324 career OBP
Unfortunately, there are simply better options than going with Dozier for the top spot, as there are players who are simply better at what he does best. Maybe if the team suffers a rash of injuries, we may see him top the order, but it’s unlikely.
Yes, though some may not like it, Bryce Harper could still potentially return to the Nationals next season and beyond. Early on in 2018, Martinez put Harper in the leadoff spot in an effort to try and bust him out of his slump, while also making the most of the number of walks he was getting.
But like Soto, the problem with having him hit there frequently is that he is much more valuable in the middle of the order where his power can thrive. He was a constant presence in the three-hole when he was in the lineup last year, and that’s where he would hit if he returns.