One of the Angels biggest offensive shortcomings in 2010 was the lack of a solid lead off man. Erick Aybar got the first chance but appeared to almost force patience in route to posting an abysmal .306 On base percentage. Once Aybar flamed out, Bobby Abreu, Maicer Izturis and even OBP challenged Howie Kendrick all got a crack at leading off for the Halos but no one was able to stick and thrive in the top spot. This left the Angels void of a potent table setter that most of us took for granted with Chone Figgins around.
Once called up Peter Bourjos got a few looks as the Halos lead-off batter but he like his predececors struggled in the role. So that brings us to the poll question. Who should be the Angels lead-off hitter in 2011? Check out the case for and against each player and vote after the jump.
- Peter Bourjos – The Case For : Bourjos has the game changing speed you want in a lead-off man. He has the potential to steal 40 -50 bases, and can score and take the extra base on plays most runners would not. His speed alone could “manufacture” numerous additional runs for the Angels and by the looks of the current roster they are going to need it. The Case Against: Three words , On Base Percentage. Bourjos has yet to demonstrate he can hit major league pitching or be patient enough to coax walks in order to use his blazing speed on the base paths. Bourjos’ highest OBP % in the Minors was just .364.
- Bobby Abreu – The Case For : Abreu has been an OBP machine throughout his career posting a career percentage right at .400. He can still run also as evidenced by his 24 stolen bases (34 attempts) last year. The Case Against : Abreu is also one of the Angels few power threats in the lineup and also a great situational hitter. Abreu’s power and run producing skills are probably better utilized towards the middle of the lineup.
- Erick Aybar – The Case For : Aybar is a great bunter and has been among the lead leaders in infield hits for 2 years in a row. While he has yet to master the art of base stealing he has the same game changing speed on the base paths to help the Angels manufacture runs by scoring and advancing on plays others would not. The Case Against : Aybar was just ok in the lead-off role last season (.279 / .336) and appears to hit better lower in the lineup. Aybar has also yet to master the strike zone and at times appears to make up his mind whether to take or swing before tracking the pitch toward home plate.
- Maicer Izturis – The Case For : While Izturis has never posted an OBP north of .365 he is routinely among the Angels leaders in pitches seen per at bat, an often overlooked skill set for a lead-off hitter. Izturis has above average speed , and can also morph into a good situational hitter when the lineup flips over and men are on base. The Case Against : Health , Maicer just cannot stay healthy enough to provide the top of the lineup continuity that the Angels need. Izturis is also the ideal number 2 hitter posting a .780 OPS in such situations for his career. In 2009 he was one of the top number 2 hitters in the game.
- Howie Kendrick – The Case For : There really isn’t a strong case for Howie to hit lead-off other than the fact that the Angels played pretty well in the 12 games when he hit first last season. Howie has pretty good speed and posted one of the Angels best stolen base percentages in 2010 (14/18). So maybe hitting lead-off would force him to run more. The Case Against : Howie is a hacker. He just doesn’t take very many pitches or walk hardly ever. As as a result, Kendrick has just a career .327 on base percentage, which is only 32 points lower than his career .295 average. Needless to say this is not ideal for a lead-off hitter. At the same time when you look at those numbers you realize that if Kendrick learns to be more patient all that bating title talk could soon become a reality.
- Johnny Damon – The Case For : Career .355 OBP And while he has slowed down some on the base paths he is still effective when he does run. 11/12 last year. The Case Against : Age , 1 year rental
- Scott Podsednik – The Case For : The guy can still run. He swiped 35 bags just last year. The Case Against : Scott has posted just a .340 career OBP and like Damon would be a 1 year rental player.