Myles Straw is having a rough start to the season – is it time to take him out of the leadoff spot until his bat comes around?
I feel like the leadoff hitter should get on base, at least better than a .311 clip. Sure, that’s right around league average, but shouldn’t the first guy in your lineup be finding himself on base more than most? Of course I’m referencing to Guardians center fielder Myles Straw, who, after signing a splash extension and starting the season hot, has all but fallen off at the top of the Cleveland order.
Fine, yes, I concede that he’s getting on base at a .371 clip against lefties, but I’ll counter by saying his OBP against righties is .291. The bottom line is Straw isn’t producing nearly as much as he should to be maintained as the Guardians’ leadoff hitter. He ranks in the bottom 3% of the league in xSLG, xwOBAcon and the bottom 2% in hard-hit balls. It’s just not a sustainable way to begin each baseball game.
The Guardians are on a roll right now. Winners of 12 of their last 15 games, the team seems to be finding its groove, beating up on worse teams and establishing its identity in each facet of the game. There are obvious holes in the lineup that need to be plugged and the reliever situation is far from settled, but they’re finally coming together as a fun, competitive ballclub. If manager Terry Francona wants to ensure this success lasts and the team goes from good to great on most nights, he has to move Straw out of the leadoff spot.
June 15th’s lineup looked pretty normal, with the exception of Andrés Giménez. So let’s work off of that to see where Straw fits and who can replace him in the No. 1 slot. Before we dive into this, I believe Straw needs to find his swing again, but he’s too good to be left out of the lineup. Give him some time away from the leadoff limelight.
Giménez is my favorite to replace Straw. The guy is having an absolutely bonkers year thus far, evidenced alone by his .337 OBP. Baseball Savant loves his advanced metrics, though he does need to decrease his strikeout rate and increase his walk rate significantly. Slide him in at the top (likely replacing Ernie Clement) and watch the stud hitter and speed demon take over that spot.
My next pick to replace Straw would be Steven Kwan, another young guy who has been impressing the Guardians this season. This way, also, Oscar Mercado might once and for all be relegated out of the lineup. Kwan has only struck out 13 times this season, placing him in the 100th percentile for his minuscule strikeout rate. He sprays the ball across the field and has a plethora of infield hits, all while tending to hit line drives or blooping singles to center or left field. I think he’s a stud as well and another fast slap hitter that could easily slide in to Straw’s spot.
Other than Giménez and Kwan, I could also see Amed Rosario or Owen Miller spending time as the leadoff hitter, though I’d rather keep them where they are in the lineup.
Now, as for where to put Straw, I think the easy answer is ninth, making sure the eight hitter is one of the catchers or whoever is stepping in to give someone else a day off. It’s a clear demotion for Straw and something I’m sure the front office that just handed him five years and $25 million is reluctant to do. But moving Straw to the bottom of the order, effectively making him the second leadoff guy while he figures some things out, is far from signaling the white flag. Guys go through midseason slumps, that’s fine, but what’s not fine is continuing to let a guy flail at the top of the lineup while the Guardians are trying to win games, especially as the strength of schedule gets harder.