Cleveland Indians: Predicting lineup as summer camp opens

Cleveland Indians Oscar Mercado (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Cleveland Indians Oscar Mercado (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Indians
Cleveland Indians Oscar Mercado (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Top of the order

RHP and LHP: Hernandez, Mercado, Lindor

For the first time in years, Francisco Lindor won’t be batting leadoff for the Cleveland Indians. His presence at the top of the order was mostly borne out of necessity, but with the Indians adding some lead-off candidates, in addition to the presence of Oscar Mercado, the Tribe can breathe some depth into the lineup by moving Lindor down.

Newly acquired second baseman Cesar Hernandez has a ton of experience batting first,  as does outfielder Delino DeShields. Mercado, could also be a candidate after a stellar rookie campaign in which he mostly hit out of the No. 2 spot.

In what’s been a stellar five-year career, Lindor has lead off in 364 games, while hitting second and third in a combined 342 games.

Since DeShields doesn’t project as an everyday player, Mercado would be the ideal leadoff hitter, since he’s in the 97th percentile when it comes to spring speed. That said, Terry Francona may not want to put the pressure on younger player who’s entering his second year under unusual circumstances.

It’s for this reason I’d look for Hernandez, a switch hitter, to bat leadoff. He’s done so 433 times in his career, posting a lifetime .276 average with a .360 on-base percentage. He might not be as fast as Mercado or DeShields, but he’s quick enough and his on-base percentage .333 was higher than Mercando’s (.318) a season ago.

I’d keep Mercado at the No. 2 spot, though, giving the Tribe a formidable duo on the base paths to start games, while Lindor would bump down to No. 3. The third spot is where you want your best hitter, a la Ken Griffey Jr. in his days with the Mariners. Sure, he could hit 56 bombs, but it was Jay Buhner, who was batting clean-up.