Shuffle at the Top
We’ll start with a tough sell, because the 2019 Indians offense doesn’t allow for the same flexibility as previous iterations. In the old days, it didn’t matter if you took Carlos Santana out of the middle of the lineup because you still had Mike Napoli or Edwin Encarnacion in there. Even without a true cleanup thumper to turn to, I’d turn back the clock and try Santana in the leadoff spot again.
Santana has long since proven to have one of the more disciplined plate approaches in baseball, and if his 2019 numbers hold fast, he will record more walks than strikeouts for a second consecutive season. It may seem like splitting hairs between Santana and Francisco Lindor; after all, their overall numbers since Lindor returned to the lineup on April 20 are pretty similar. With so many other variables being relatively equal, however, give me the guy with the higher walk rate in the leadoff spot.
After Santana, it would be a sight for sore eyes to find some consistency in the two-hole. Whether that means one guy stakes his claim to the second spot in the lineup or the team is able to unearth an effective platoon split, the Cleveland Indians desperately need reliable plate appearances there.
For what it’s worth, as mightily as he has struggled, Ramirez has the highest on-base percentage on the team since April 20. We’d all like to see him truly return to form, but I don’t hate the idea of two players with walk rates above 15% (again, since April 20) occupying the top two spots in the order for a stretch.
Naturally, a shift at the very top of the lineup means Lindor needs somewhere else to hit. The way I see it, he can hit leadoff behind a revolving door of utility players with low on-base percentages, or he can hit third behind at least one guy who is routinely going to set the table for him. If it were up to me–and it very obviously is not–I’d switch Santana and Lindor in the batting order for a time and at least see how it plays out.