Are the Angels making a mistake with bold choice for 2024 leadoff hitter?

The Angels are going with a very bold choice with their leadoff hitter to start the 2024 season.
Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels
Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

One thing that will unite Los Angeles Angels fans -- and, really, baseball fans in general -- is that everyone has strong feelings about how their team should construct their lineup. From those who take the traditional view (a speedster leading off and the best hitters hitting in the heart of the order), to those that take the more extreme, analytically inclined point of view where the best hitters maximize their plate appearances by topping the order, everyone has their take on what a lineup should look like.

The Angels are obviously no different, and they have certainly had plenty of lineup iterations to choose from over the years. Just take Mike Trout as an example. Everyone agrees that, when healthy, he is among the best players in baseball, but the Angels have still tried him out thoroughly at all three of the top spots in the lineup during his career. For those wondering, his production is very close at all three spots, with his 1.013 OPS in the three hole being very slightly superior over hitting him leadoff or in the No. 2 spot.

Going into 2024, the Angels had a number of interesting options for the leadoff spot. Trout, as the best hitter on the team, had a strong argument for the spot. However, manager Ron Washington recently revealed that rookie Nolan Schanuel will not only serve as the team's every day first baseman, but that Schanuel will also be the Angels' leadoff hitter for at least the start of the 2024 season.

LA Angels News: Nolan Schanuel is an inspired choice to hit leadoff

When the Angels picked Schanuel with the 11th overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft out of Florida Atlantic University, few would have thought that he would make it to the big leagues in his draft year. However, that is exactly what he did, as he blasted his way through the minor leagues and debuted in the big leagues just 40 days after being drafted.

In a vacuum, Schanuel hitting leadoff is a fantastic choice. In his first 132 plate appearances in the big leagues, he put up a .402 on-base percentage, which bodes well for the guys behind him in the lineup to produce some runs. He isn't a speedster, which will irk some fans, but having a guy that consistently gets on base at the top of the lineup sets the tone for the rest of the order and makes the Angels' best bats all the more likely to do some damage.

Such a move to put Schanuel at leadoff doesn't come without some risk, however. While he was very impressive in his first look at the big leagues, Schanuel still was just drafted this past year, and batting him leadoff is a lot to ask of a guy that has only played 29 games in the big leagues. The Angels will have to be willing to adjust course if he struggles early in the season, although their thought process is sound in giving him a shot.

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