The Baltimore Orioles have not done much this offseason, in fact it could be argued that they haven't done anything, but through their moves or lack of moves, they did settle one spot in the lineup and that is the leadoff spot. Nick Markakis is by far the clear cut choice to be the O's leadoff man in 2014.
When you look at the Orioles roster as it is composed right now, there is barely even any competition for Markakis in regards to the leadoff spot.
Before we even get into the lack of competition, let's take a look at why Markakis is the perfect fit.
Nick has lost some of the home run power we saw from him in his earlier years, that is no secret, but we do expect his gap power to come back now that his wrist should 100% this season and his batting average and on base percentage should return back to his career norms.
Markakis has a career .292 average with a .360 OBP, .441 slugging percentage and a .801 OPS, and some of those numbers may surprise some fans on just how good Nick has been throughout his career. If his on base percentage returns to his career average, then he would have the second highest OBP on the team behind Chris Davis, and correct us if we are wrong, but you want your leadoff man to get on base. In addition, once he is on base, although he is not a stolen base threat, Markakis is one of the best baserunners in the league in his ability to read the defense, understand the situation and overall base running ability, which again is something you want out of your leadoff man.
What else do you want out of the leadoff man? Well for starters, you want your leadoff guy to be able to hit both right handers and left handers with relatively equal ability and Markakis certainly does that and does it well. Markakis has a career average of .294 against right handed pitchers and a .289 career average against left handers and gets on base at a .345 clip or higher against both. In addition, Nick can spray the ball all over the field and you certainly do not want your leadoff man to only be able to hit the ball to one side of the field.
So who would even be given consideration if it weren't Markakis? Honestly, the only guy that would really have a chance would be David Lough. He is a career .278 hitter (400 career MLB plate appearences) with a .308 on base percentage, does hit both right handers and left handers as he boasts a career average of .277 against right handers and a .282 average against left handers. Think about it though, if this is the closest competitor to Markakis for the leadoff spot, is it even a competition? Lough has just 400 career plate appearances and even still his numbers are lower than Markakis' are, plus is Buck Showalter really going to trust an unproven guy to be the igniter of this offense when you have someone like Markakis available?
Outside of Lough, there really is not any other player on the roster that would work there. Who? Ryan Flaherty? Jemile Weeks? C'mon, no way.
Let's face it, outside of the stolen bases, Markakis is the prototypical leadoff man. He gets on base, runs the bases well, hits both righties and lefties well and has the pop to drive in runs when the bottom of the lineup turns it over. Keep in mind, in 88 career games as the leadoff man, Markakis has a .329 batting average with a .375 OBP and 49 RBI.
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