The National League currently boasts among the best leadoff men in Major League Baseball. The Cincinnati Reds’ Shin Soo Choo has reached base successfully 43% of the time this season, Colorado’s Dexter Fowler is having a breakout campaign, and Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte has shown that he is the real deal. Cumulatively, the National League’s leadoff men have a combined .268/.338/.395 clip this season.
If the New York Mets play on Thursday afternoon, they’ll be slotting second baseman Jordany Valdespin in the leadoff position for the third consecutive day. Valdespin is the antithesis of a productive leadoff man -and despite what some may think about inconsistent playing time- a player who has a career .286 OBP doesn’t belong in the position under any circumstances. Although he has less than a year’s worth of major league plate appearances, his minor league numbers (by far his largest body of work in professional baseball) simply don’t support the notion that he should continue to receive the opportunity.
When playing in over 100 games at any level of baseball, Valdespin has never walked more than 4.8% of the time. In 2013, he has walked 5.5% of the time through 50 games, but walks don’t always comprise the entire story. The aforementioned Marte has never drawn many walks, but he makes up for his lack of walks with the ability to work deep counts while spraying line drives. Valdespin also doesn’t entirely strikeout more than other players, as his 19.1% measurement is less than Fowler’s 20.7%.
Earlier this year I examined “The Jose Reyes Effect” (Which can be found here). The definition is as follows:
The Jose Reyes Effect: From 2003-2011, the New York Mets were spoiled with a charismatic, dynamic, and energetic shortstop in Jose Reyes. Previously, the club had struggled to fill the leadoff spot, and upon his departure to Miami in 2012 the club faced a familiar void. In one season without Jose Reyes, the Mets have attempted to implement fellow Reyes’ successor, Ruben Tejada, into the role without much luck. The Jose Reyes effect isn’t about Jose Reyes, Ruben Tejada, or Jordany Valdespin. Rather, it’s about the organization and fan base trying to find a player in the mold of Jose Reyes to fill into the spot.
The assertion that the Mets are still looking to fill the void left my Reyes is relevant. It’s not to say that the Mets regret not inking him to a contract extension, but rather they haven’t been able to efficiently fill the void in one of the most important spots in the starting lineup. Reyes was never a high OBP player, but he made up for it by having copious amounts of extra base hits and not being a liability on the bases. He was very aggressive much like Valdespin and did have similar tendencies, but Reyes was a far more talented player across the board.
It’s highly unlikely that the Mets’ longterm leadoff man is currently with the club. They have been tied to rumors that they may pursue free agent to-be Shin Soo Choo this offseason to fill the void, but if they don’t choose that route it’s hard to see any one player in the organization who may be a solid longterm option.
Valdespin can be valuable to a club in specific roles, but he’s not a leadoff man.
Photo Credit: Michael Baron