NL teams seeking answers to the leadoff spot

Sep 30, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts (50) hits a solo home run in the first inning of the game against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts (50) hits a solo home run in the first inning of the game against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tommy Edman. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Edman. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

Pittsburgh Pirates: Until they traded him to San Diego, Adam Frazier was the logical Pirates’ leadoff choice. In Pittsburgh, Frazier had a gold-plated .388 on base average. His other credentials were tepid; a 9.6 percent rate of reaching second unaided that is barely above MLB average, and a below average 8.9  run-scoring rate.

With Frazier gone the Pirates have experimented with Ke’Bryan Hayes, an interesting pick in that he’s young with power potential.

Hayes has not yet learned the art of reaching base; he’s at .319, barely above the MLB average. Nor is he yet skilled at getting himself into scoring position, as his 9.3 percent rate illustrates. His 13.8 run-scoring rate, about 15 percent above the MLB average, does hold up.

So the question regarding Hayes is his growth potential.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals spent all of 2021 locked on to Tommy Edman as their leadoff man. He fits many of the positional stereotypes; he’s a fast middle infielder with little power.

The only thing he hasn’t established he can do is get on base. Edman’s .311 on base average is six percentage points below the league average.

If he can improve in that area, Edman could indeed become that prototype. Thanks to 41 doubles and 28 stolen bases, he reaches scoring position unaided in 12.3 percent of his plate appearances, about 35 percent above the MLB average. That’s exceptional.  He scores 13.3 percent of the time, a rate that is less than optimal for the leadoff spot but workable.

The alternative is Harrison Bader, the team’s young centerfielder. At .322, Bader’s on base average is better than Edman’s but hardly persuasive to a change. Beyond that, with a 10.7 percent rate Bader is less effective at getting himself into scoring position, and he only scores 10.2 percent of the time.

So Edman is the obvious place to start, but with the understanding that he needs to improve his on base skills.