The 2017 MLB season has been quite a memorable one for batters who tend to go yard. Exactly 6,105 home runs were hit by all 30 teams during the regular season, which is a jaw-dropping statistic. But some of the game's leadoff hitters shined in 2017, including Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon who drove in 100 RBIs from the leadoff spot. Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor also comes to mind. He's had a career year offensively for an Indians team that went on a 22-game win streak. Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts carried the load in the leadoff spot with another 100-RBI campaign before turning 25!
Baseball fans will get a glimpse of them this postseason, but there's a handful of leadoff hitters from the other non-playoff teams that had terrible seasons. The Toronto Blue Jays used Kevin Pillar as their regular leadoff hitter, but much like the team's offense itself, he had a down year at the plate. However, Pillar wasn't the only one to stumble at the leadoff spot. Angels leadoff man Yunel Escobar endured an atrocious season in which he drove in 39 RBIs while playing 89 games due to injuries. With that said, let us rank each MLB's team leadoff hitter from worst to best.
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30 BALTIMORE ORIOLES - SETH SMITH
The Orioles traded for a pretty decent hitter in Seth Smith from the Mariners this past January. Smith previously played for a couple of NL and AL West teams until he found a home in Baltimore. Prior to the trade, Smith set a career-high 63 RBIs during the Mariners' 2016 season.
Unfortunately, the offensive production he previously had in San Diego, Oakland, and Colorado declined rapidly in Baltimore. Despite playing in the hitter-friendly Camden Yards, Smith launched only 13 homers and knocked in 32 RBIs. It wouldn't be completely surprising if the Orioles chose not to bring back Smith next season, as he's slated to become a free agent this winter. Entering his age 36 season, there won't be much of a market for him.
29 CHICAGO WHITE SOX - TIM ANDERSON
Shortstop Tim Anderson was one of the bright spots offensively for the White Sox in yet another disappointing season. They endured a 95-loss campaign thanks to a poor road record, having five of their position players strike out over 100 times, and their starting pitchers won less than 10 games. But let's get to Anderson's performance in 2017. The second-year infielder had decent production at the plate with 17 homers, 56 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases, yet he struck out 162 times and batted at just .257. The Sox may not allow Anderson and Jose Abreu walk as free agents in the near future, so they'll be able to preserve their lineup but let's face it, they remain a bottom-dweller in the AL Central, particularly with the Indians remaining strong and the Twins emerging.
28 SEATTLE MARINERS - JEAN SEGURA
Jean Segura played his first four years with the Milwaukee Brewers, then moved on to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016 and was traded to the Mariners in a five-player deal. Segura was coming off a career year for the 2016 D-Backs, hitting 20 homers and 64 RBIs. However, his 2017 season with the Mariners was a slightly different story. Segura had a underwhelming season in Seattle, homering just 11 times and he managed to knock in just 45 runs. Despite this, Segura managed a .300 batting average for the year. Segura should return to form for the Mariners next season and his offensive numbers should improve. For now though, he finds himself near the bottom of our rankings. His salary jumps to $14.75 million next year so the Mariners will be hoping for a jump in numbers.
27 SAN DIEGO PADRES - MANUEL MARGOT
The Padres had yet another disappointing season in a very competitive NL West. They finished with a 71-91 record and failed to make the postseason for 11th year in a row. But the Padres still had a promising leadoff hitter in Manuel Margot. The Dominican-born outfielder had a ten-game audition in 2016, then played his first full season in 2017. Margot put up respectable offensive statistics, driving in 39 runs, homered 13 times and batted .263 for San Diego. Hitting the baseball well isn't Margot's only upside, as he stole 17 bases this year. The Padres will count on guys like Margot, Wil Myers, and Hunter Renfroe to carry the offensive load next season. With the Astros having turned things around in recent years, perhaps there's hope for the Padres to improve too.
26 TAMPA BAY RAYS - COREY DICKERSON
When you think of the Tampa Bay Rays this decade, stalwarts such as third baseman Evan Longoria, pitcher Chris Archer, and Gold Glove candidate Kevin Kiermaier comes to mind. But the underrated Corey Dickerson seems to have stepped up batting leadoff for the Rays. Dickerson began his career with the Rockies, then joined the Rays in 2016. With five years of big league experience under his belt, Dickerson homered 27 times and knocked in 62 RBIs. But he struck out 152 times, which is a career-worst for the young outfielder.
Unfortunately, Dickerson's Rays failed to reach the postseason for the 4th season in a row. The Rays should help Dickerson change his approach to hitting and improve his plate discipline. It would go a long way in bringing his average back up.
25 SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS - DENARD SPAN
After a stunning loss in the 2016 NLDS to the Cubs, San Francisco regressed to a last-place finish in their division, despite having All-Star catcher Buster Posey, and two pitching aces in Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. The Giants placed veteran outfielder Denard Span in the leadoff spot this season, and it provided mixed results.
Formerly of the Twins and Nationals, Span struggled offensively in San Fran. He drove in 43 runs, stole just 12 bases, and struck out 69 times. There were a couple of highlights for Span. He hit a leadoff inside-the-park homer against the Phillies in August, but ultimately finished the year with a .272 average. The Giants will need more offense from their lineup to improve on their 2017 season next year.
24 NEW YORK METS - MICHAEL CONFORTO
The Mets were major underachievers in 2017, considering the fact they're in a weak NL East and that they were a playoff team a year before. The franchise promoted 24-year-old left fielder Michael Conforto to bat leadoff and proceeded to go on an offensive tear. He homered 27 times, drove in a career-best 68 runs and batted .279. Unfortunately, Conforto played just 109 games because of a left shoulder dislocation that landed him on the DL and ended his season. He has yet to play over 130 regular season games in his three-year career, which is a shame considering his offensive potential.
This was a year to forget for the Mets thanks to a rash of injuries and underachievement from their pitching rotation and their most important players such as David Wright, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard.
23 DETROIT TIGERS - IAN KINSLER
The Tigers had veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler as their leadoff guy in another non- playoff season. Kinsler played eight seasons for the Texas Rangers until they dealt him to Detroit for Prince Fielder following the 2013 season.
Both teams made a blockbuster move at the time, but Kinsler's first three years in Detroit were solid by his standards. He had a 20-homer season and collected 248 RBIs over that span. However, 2017 was a year to forget for Kinsler. The 35-year-old's RBI totals dropped to 53, a year after he knocked in 83. He batted .236 in 139 games, so it seems Kinsler is almost past his prime going into the Tigers' 2018 season. He's heading into a contract year so we'll see if he's able to turn things around and cash in on one final contract before retiring.
22 LOS ANGELES ANGELS - YUNEL ESCOBAR
Coming off a disappointing 2016 campaign, the L.A. Angels were determined to make the postseason three years after their last appearance. They boasted the likes of 2016 AL MVP Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, and Albert Pujols this year, yet they placed big league veteran Yunel Escobar in the leadoff spot. Escobar had a underwhelming year in Anaheim, as he homered seven times, knocked in 31 runs at the plate, and scored 43 runs.
An oblique injury that Escobar suffered in early August limited him to 89 games, and Calhoun took over the leadoff spot for the Angels. The Angels seem lost as an organization despite having some big names in their lineup and you have to wonder if it's time for a complete rebuild in Anaheim.
21 TORONTO BLUE JAYS - KEVIN PILLAR
Coming off back-to-back postseason berths and losing longtime slugger Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, the Blue Jays had a underwhelming 2017 campaign. During the team's 2016 spring training, the Jays promoted outfielder Kevin Pillar to bat first in their lineup.
Pillar may be a guy who's endeared himself to Toronto with his knack for diving catches, but he regressed in the leadoff spot. He collected 19 RBIs and struck out 50 from April to June, which led to the Jays demoting him in favor of Jose Bautista. To make matters worse, Pillar faced a two-game ban for using a homophobic slur toward Atlanta Braves pitcher Jason Motte. Bautista didn't fare well this year in Toronto, striking out 170 times. Meanwhile, Pillar finished the year with 16 homers, 42 RBIs, and had a season average of .256.
20 PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES - ODUBEL HERRERA
The Phillies picked up a pretty good outfielder in Odubel Herrera, who's played three seasons in Philadelphia. Although Herrera has yet to be a 20-home run hitter, he's consistently provided RBI production by driving in 40 or more during his Phillies tenure. In 2017, he recorded a career-best 56 RBIs batting first in their lineup while maintaining a .281 average. The Phillies finished last in the NL East this past season with 96 losses, yet Hererra is still one of the best offensive players on their team. On a better team, he'd likely have better numbers, but for now, he'll have to settle for the 20th spot. The Phillies have him signed long-term so hopefully he can see a turnaround in Philly.
19 TEXAS RANGERS - SHIN-SOO CHOO
If you didn't notice, the Texas Rangers regressed this past season after winning the AL West two years in a row. They finished with 78 victories, witnessed Adrian Beltre collect his 3,000th career hit, and leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo had a fairly productive season at the plate.
Choo's played 13 seasons in the big leagues as an outfielder with the Mariners, Indians, and Reds until joining Texas in 2014. His 2017 campaign was decent during a mediocre Rangers season, hammering 22 homers with 78 RBIs and 77 walks drawn but struck out over 100 times. Choo's had a history of striking out regularly, as it was the seventh 100-strikeout season of his career. The Rangers will need him to put the ball in play a lot more in future seasons.
18 MIAMI MARLINS - DEE GORDON
Dee Gordon may not have home run pop, but he had a decent offensive season in Miami. The Marlins were forced to usher in a new era of baseball without pitching star Jose Fernandez, who lost his life in a boat accident a year ago. The loss of Fernandez affected Gordon, but it didn't stop him from hitting a homer to right field at Marlins Park one day later.
Gordon's 2017 campaign was one of his best offensively as a Marlin, collecting 201 base hits, 33 RBIs, drew 25 walks and hit .308. He also dominated on the basepaths, stealing 60 bases. The Marlins aren't quite sure where they want to go as an organization, as there are rumors of them looking to trade Giancarlo Stanton, which would leave Gordon on a team really short on talent.
17 CINCINNATI REDS - BILLY HAMILTON
The Reds missed baseball's postseason in 2017, and their leadoff man in outfielder Billy Hamilton was a disappointment offensively. Despite stealing 59 bases for Cincy, he launched four homers, drove in 38 runs and struck out 133 times. There should be lots of room for improvement in Hamilton's hitting and offensive production in general. Hamilton made some bold claims this season that he could beat NFL speedster John Ross in a 40-yard dash, and his 59 stolen bases may lend some credence to that claim. Perhaps the two could race this offseason. Hamilton said back in May: "I think we could do 40 and I think it'd be a good race for the city and for me and him to get our names out there," Hamilton said. "It's something we could look forward to looking into, our agents [could talk] and see how it goes."
16 PITTSBURGH PIRATES - ADAM FRAZIER
The Pirates and their fanbase endured yet another miserable season in 2017. Playing in a very competitive NL Central, the Pirates couldn't keep pace with the likes of the Cubs and the Brewers. On top of that, their usual leadoff hitter Starling Marte faced an 80-game suspension for using a banned substance, which opened the door for second-year infielder Adam Frazier to bat leadoff. In 121 games for Pittsburgh, he showed potential by collecting 112 base hits, while driving in 53 runs and sported an average of over .270. In a way, Frazier essentially supplanted Marte in the midst of his PED suspension. Frazier likely earned himself a nice raise going into next season.
15 MILWAUKEE BREWERS - JONATHAN VILLAR
Onto another NL Central team, the Milwaukee Brewers made some strides to become a playoff team this season, yet they fell short of clinching the NL's second wild-card berth with an 86-76 record, narrowly losing out to the Colorado Rockies. But Milwaukee placed second baseman Jonathan Villar in the leadoff spot this past season. Villar had a down 2017, homering 11 times and knocked in 40 runs. His offensive totals this year somewhat dipped from his 2016 stats, as he collected 63 RBIs and 19 long bombs. Still, his body of work merits him a spot in the top 15 and should his numbers improve in 2018, he should climb the rankings a little more. It'd go a long way in the Brewers potentially returning to the postseason.
14 KANSAS CITY ROYALS - WHIT MERRIFIELD
It seems that the Kansas City Royals went from a playoff contender in the AL to a club that struggles to stay in contention for the postseason. The Royals made back-to-back World Series trips and won it all in 2015 until they missed the playoffs a year later.
Their 2017 season began without the late Yordano Ventura, who shockingly died this past January. They also traded away closer Wade Davis to the Cubs. The Royals turned to second-year infielder Whit Merrifield, a late draft pick of the Royals in 2010, to be their leadoff hitter in 2017. Merrifield had a good '17 campaign with 19 home runs, 78 runs driven in, and averaged .288 for Kansas City. He also provides solid base running on a team that already boasts Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, stealing 34 bases. It appears Merrifield has a bright future ahead of him in KC, as they look to make a run at the postseason next year.
13 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS - DEXTER FOWLER
After failing to make the postseason in 2016, the Cardinals made a big splash in free agency by signing former Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year contract worth $82.5 million last December.
Fowler joined a heated division rival after leading the Cubs to a World Series title in 2016, so a handful of Cubs fans might've felt shocked he joined the Cards of all teams. Fowler set a career-high in home runs (18) and RBIs (64), which isn't bad for his first season in St. Louis. He's still expected to carry the load in St. Louis with catcher Yadier Molina and pitcher Adam Wainwright in the twilight of their careers. They definitely have their work cut out for them in trying to surpass the Cubs.
12 OAKLAND ATHLETICS - MATT JOYCE
The Athletics finished in the bottom of the AL West with only 75 wins, yet their decision to place Matt Joyce in the leadoff spot worked out well. He joined his fifth different team this year and went on to have a solid year in Oakland. Joyce hit a career-high 25 home runs, 68 RBIs, yet batted .243 with 114 strikeouts. The A's don't look like they'll be climbing out of the AL West basement anytime soon, but Joyce was a bright spot for them.
A's fans and management should praise Joyce for the offensive production he had, but he'll also have to bring that average up. It's possible he returns to the form he previously had in Tampa Bay for six seasons.
11 ATLANTA BRAVES - ENDER INCIARTE
The Braves had yet another mediocre season despite moving into a new ballpark outside of Atlanta. Their leadoff man and outfielder Ender Inciarte was one of their bright spots offensively for the rebuilding club.
Playing his second season for the Braves, the Venezuelan-born Inciarte set career-highs in multiple offensive categories. He collected 201 hits, 57 RBIs, and stole 22 bags for the Braves. In fact, he became the first Braves player since Marquis Grissom in 1996 to reach the 200-hit milestone. He fared quite well defensively too, committing only three errors all season long. Inciarte's stellar 2017 campaign shows that he's still in his prime, and Atlanta would be foolish to part ways with this guy.
10 ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS - DAVID PERALTA
In 2017, the Arizona Diamondbacks snapped a six-year postseason drought by clinching their spot in the Wild Card Game. They beat Colorado 11-8 in an interesting battle but were swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS. Arizona possessed a trio of great hitters in Paul Goldschmidt, J.D. Martinez, and leadoff man David Peralta, who's been with the D'Backs since he signed as a free agent in 2013, then made his big league debut a year later.
Peralta seemed to shine in the '17 campaign with over 50 RBIs and 14 home runs while playing 140 games for Arizona. But during their brief playoff run, Peralta had little offensive production, driving in no runs and averaged .222. It was still a good season for Peralta overall, so maybe the best is yet to come once the D'Backs commence spring training next year.
9 WASHINGTON NATIONALS - TREA TURNER
Trea Turner might play second-fiddle to Bryce Harper in Washington, but he's certainly emerged as a solid player in his own right. The Nationals promoted the 24-year-old shortstop to bat leadoff since 2016, and it's worked out nicely for him this year. Turner had a fine 2017 campaign, hitting 11 homers, a career-best 45 RBIs and stole 46 bases. However, he struggled defensively with eight fielding errors at short.
The Nats may have bowed out in the Division Series to the previous defending World Champion Cubs this year, but they should have faith in Turner's play going forward. The Nationals can't seem to snap their reputation as playoff chokers, but Turner's definitely not to blame.
8 NEW YORK YANKEES - BRETT GARDNER
The Bronx Bombers returned to form in 2017 thanks to the likes of Gary Sanchez, pitcher Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, and veteran leadoff man Brett Gardner. A member of the '09 Yankees team full of veterans that won a World Championship, Gardner is their longest-tenured player since 2008.
His '17 campaign might be one of his finest as a Yankee. Gardner excelled in the leadoff spot, recording the first 20-homer season in his MLB career, then knocked in 63 RBIs and batted .264 while playing 151 games for the Yankees. He also collected his fifth 20-stolen base season. Gardner somewhat declined at the plate during the 2017 postseason with a home run, four RBIs, and 12 strikeouts, but his veteran presence helped a young Yankees team push the Astros to a seventh game in the ALCS.
7 CHICAGO CUBS - KYLE SCHWARBER
A third-year veteran and 2016 World Series champ for the Cubs, Kyle Schwarber hasn't lost a step in his ability to hit or drive in runs from the leadoff spot.
Sharing leadoff duties with veteran outfielders Jon Jay and Ben Zobrist, he's rebounded from an injury-shortened 2016 with 30 homers and 59 RBIs. The 24-year-old slugger began to peak offensively, but he also recorded a career-worst 150 strikeouts during a strong bounce-back year, so his decent production at the plate makes up for that dubious feat. He only managed to record one homer in the postseason. However, Schwarber should have many big league seasons ahead of him and the prime of his career is yet to come.
6 BOSTON RED SOX - MOOKIE BETTS
Outfielder Mookie Betts had stepped up for the Red Sox batting first in their lineup. He had his second 100-RBI campaign with 102, smacked 24 home runs, and drew over 70 walks. Unfortunately, Betts had injury troubles late in the season. A thumb contusion and a banged-up left wrist forced then Boston manager John Farrell to bump Betts and promote Xander Boegarts to the leadoff spot during the final weeks of the season and the entire ALDS. They lost that series to the Houston Astros in four games, but it appears that Betts could peak as a productive big league hitter in the coming seasons. The Red Sox will be in a dog fight with the Yankees over the AL East crown, so they'll definitely need all they can get from the leadoff spot.
5 LOS ANGELES DODGERS - CHRIS TAYLOR
Chris Taylor is not just the Dodgers' leadoff man this season, he's also a late bloomer in the bigs. The 27-year-old Taylor had three seasons of MLB experience as a part-timer with the Mariners until they traded him to LA last June. He played a career-high 140 games for the Dodgers and had a breakthrough offensively this year.
Taylor hit 21 homers with 72 RBIs and batted over .270. He's also a decent base stealer, swiping 17 bases. He also shared leadoff duties with trade deadline acquisition and former Met Curtis Granderson. But Taylor's fared decently in a Dodgers lineup led by Yasiel Puig, Cody Bellinger, and Justin Turner. That hitting core helped the Dodgers reach the 2017 World Series, so it's likely Taylor will have a productive career for years to come.
4 COLORADO ROCKIES - CHARLIE BLACKMON
The Rockies boast an elite leadoff hitter in Charlie Blackmon. A year after franchise icon Todd Helton retired, the Dallas native became the newest face of the Rockies in 2014. Blackmon ascended as Colorado's most consistent run producer who's also a defensive specialist in the outfield.
The '17 season was Blackmon's breakout season. He picked up his first 30-homer season collected over 100 RBIs and batted over .330 in 159 games. Blackmon not only shined at the plate, but he emerged as a potential Gold Glove candidate for the Rockies. He made a whopping 339 putouts at center and helped turn three double plays. It's obvious that he's made a huge impression in Colorado.
3 MINNESOTA TWINS - BRIAN DOZIER
When you think of Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, his underrated ability to hit and produce runs while serving as one of their clubhouse leaders comes to mind.
He's played his entire six-year career in Minnesota and seems to live up to expectations for that team. A consistent hitter and run producer, Dozier had another fine season in 2017 by launching 34 dingers and over 90 RBIs, while scoring 106 runs. Dozier is the proud owner of 151 career home runs. The Twins took a huge step forward this year, making it to the wild card game against the Yankees and Dozier's emergence was definitely a big part of that. We'll see if the Twins can keep pace with the Indians next year.
2 CLEVELAND INDIANS - FRANCISCO LINDOR
The 2017 Cleveland Indians promoted third-year shortstop Francisco Lindor to be their leadoff guy after a tough World Series loss in 2016. Lindor excelled at it with timely offensive production, along with his knack for making defensive plays at short.
He enjoyed a career year at the plate, homering 33 times while collecting 89 RBIs, and batted over .270. He turned 111 double plays, despite committing 10 errors all season. But on top of Lindor's incredible season, this year's Indians set an unprecedented 22-game record winning streak. But the momentum from the streak faded after a five-game loss in the ALDS to the Yankees. Still, the Puerto Rican infielder showed lots of promise for the Indians and has the potential to be an MVP-calibre player.
1 HOUSTON ASTROS - GEORGE SPRINGER
The Houston Astros scored an AL-leading 896 runs in 2017, but their leadoff man in George Springer was one of many offensive sparkplugs for the team. The 28-year-old slugger set career highs in homers (34) and RBIs (85). Springer is no slouch defensively, committing just one error in 131 games playing the outfield. He also committed no errors in this year's postseason. For Springer, it also helps to have a good supporting cast.
The dynamic duo of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa combined to hit 48 home runs and 165 RBIs, while Yuli Gurriel drove in 75 runs and Marwin Gonzalez collected 90 RBIs! That should take some of the pressure off him to produce at the plate, as he capped of his incredible season by taking home the World Series MVP award.
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