Cincinnati Reds: Who will be the leadoff hitter in 2019?

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 04: Jesse Winker #33 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a 2 RBI single in the 4th inning against the Chicago White Sox at Great American Ball Park on July 4, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 04: Jesse Winker #33 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a 2 RBI single in the 4th inning against the Chicago White Sox at Great American Ball Park on July 4, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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The new look Cincinnati Reds will have a revamped lineup in 2019 with a few new faces. The question remains however, who will be the leadoff hitter?

The Cincinnati Reds acquired a few new faces this offseason, particularly the potent bats of Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. While these two could put up huge numbers in Great American Ball Park, neither of them are your prototypical leadoff hitter, nor will they be tasked with manning the leadoff spot. So, who will be the leadoff hitter when the season starts on March 28th?

From the leadoff role you would like to have a player with a higher on-base percentage who can serve as the table-setter for the entire lineup. In my opinion, there are 4 candidates, given their skills and experience in the role, who could be the first man to the plate for this new, exciting Cincinnati Reds lineup.

1) Nick Senzel

Nick Senzel will most likely spend the first 14 games of the season in Louisville, thus, gaining an extra year of club control due to service time rules. Most fans will be clamoring for him to start the year in Cincinnati.

However, from a financial and future standpoint, it only makes sense to wait at least 14 games before throwing him into center field, which seems to be his position to lose at this point. What skillset does Senzel bring to the table as a potential leadoff hitter?

His .390 OBP across his three years in the minors is a good start, especially if he can get on base for a heart of the order led by Joey Votto, Euegnio Suárez, and Scooter Gennett who are all RBI machines.

Senzel does have the ability to add a lot of extra base hits, which could lead to plenty of RBI opportunities of his own, leading me to believe he could fit in nicely as a deadly No. 2 hitter to transition to the devastators who follow him in the lineup.

Verdict: Senzel will bat leadoff (10% chance) or 2nd (90% chance) when he joins the big club in Cincinnati.

2) José Peraza

José Peraza spent most of his time in 2018 batting 1st or 2nd in the order. He could be in for much of the same this year if David Bell feels he’s best utilized atop the order. Possessing good speed, an above average bat, and the ability to steal bases (24 in 2018) are all traits that could lead to him being the leadoff man. Here’s what the 2018 numbers say:

  • Batting 1st in the order (210 AB): .286 BA .332 OBP .751 OPS 10 SB .302 BABIP
  • Batting 2nd in the order (307 AB): .303 BA .325 OBP .788 OPS .318 BABIP
  • Leading off the game (47 AB): .319 BA .360 OBP .934 OPS .325 BABIP

Verdict: More likely than not (60% chance) Peraza will be the leadoff man in 2019. If not leadoff, 2nd could be a great spot for him again as well.

3) Scott Schebler

Scotty Schebler bounced in, out, and around the Reds lineup last season due to injuries of himself and others. He’s a candidate to rebound to his 2017 power numbers (30 HR) in Cincinnati this season, should he stay healthy

Schebler provides power, good speed (with limited stolen base ability however) and an ability to get on base when he puts the ball in play. With all the moving and shaking the lineup had last season, Schebler has a case for two spots in the order, 1st and 6th:

  • Batting 1st in the order (175 AB): .257 BA .335 OBP .798 OPS .303 BABIP
  • Leading off the game (41 AB): .244 BA .262 OBP .652 OPS .308 BABIP
  • 6th in the order (106 AB): .255 BA .373 OBP .826 OPS .300 BABIP

Verdict: Schebler will end up in the 6th spot (50% ) or 7th spot (50%) when he is on the field, as he just doesn’t have the on base ability of Peraza when leading off a game.

4) Jesse Winker

Jesse Winker seems like an obvious choice, right? His .405 OBP 124 OPS+ and .299 BA in 2018 before going down with a shoulder injury, generally indicate he could be a great fit for the leadoff role. David Bell has already said he wants to get Winker plenty of at-bats.

Wouldn’t batting leadoff present plenty of AB’s for Winker? Not so fast though, as a deeper look at the numbers might show he’d be better served hitting lower in the lineup. In 2018, he hit leadoff, 5th and 6th for the majority of his at bats:

  • Batting 1st in the order (136 AB): .265 BA .373 OBP .718 OPS .313 BABIP
  • Leading off the game (32 AB): .188 BA .257 OBP .507 OPS .231 BABIP
  • Batting 5th in the order (28 AB): .536 BA .581 OBP 1.331 OPS .583 BABIP
  • Batting 6th in the order (78 AB): .308 BA .443 OBP .943 OPS .317 BABIP

Verdict: Winker has a legitimate shot to become the leadoff hitter in Cincinnati this year, however, if I was in Bell’s position, Winker would slot in at the 5th or 6th spot in the lineup.

Predicting the Reds bench in 2019. Next

Final Verdict: José Peraza has the skillset to be a real leadoff hitter and table-setter for the Cincinnati Reds high-powered lineup, unfortunately for him, Bell likes Jesse Winker a lot. His on-base percentage value last season might be too high to ignore atop the Reds order, even if his ability leading off a game was subpar at best.