Norichika Aoki did a lot of things well during his two seasons as a Brewer, but it's possible his biggest contribution to the team was his ability to be a viable leadoff hitter, something the organization hasn't had in quite some time.
The Brewers have already announced how they plan to fill Aoki's spot in the field: Ryan Braun is expected to move from left to right to free up a spot for Khris Davis, who we'll discuss at greater depth later. The organization is going to have a harder time, though, finding someone to hit at the top of the lineup on Opening Day.
Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel spoke to Ron Roenicke about the vacancy earlier today, and tweeted this:
Just spoke with #Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. He said leadoff candidates are Segura, Gennett and Gomez, assuming Weeks isn't in lineup.— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 5, 2013
Let's look at those three guys, in order:
Jean Segura is probably the most likely to fill the spot on Opening Day, although he may also be the least likely to do it well. Segura blew expectations out of the water by hitting .294/.329/.423 in 2013, but I think it's important to remember how he got there. Segura hit .365/.400/.569 in his first 49 games, and .258/.292/.350 in the 97 after that.
Segura drew just 25 walks in his first full MLB season, so his .329 OBP would also be a little low for the #1 spot.
Scooter's meteoric rise continues today, as he's gone from organizational side note to likely everyday second baseman to potential leadoff hitter in a span of about ten months. Gennett hit the cover off the ball in his MLB debut season in 2013, appearing in 69 games and posting a .324/.356/.479 batting line.
The challenge with Scooter is twofold, though: First, his MLB sample size is still pretty limited so it's tough to tell if he'll continue to perform at this level. Second, unless Scooter suddenly learns to hit lefties he's probably going to need to be platooned or pinch hit for against tough southpaws.
Rickie Weeks has hit leadoff before, and there are certainly worse options than a Gennett/Weeks leadoff platoon. It's hard to tell, though, if the Brewers will be willing to be swapping guys in and out at one of their key spots in front of Ryan Braun.
This is an intriguing possibility but almost certainly a non-starter. Gomez led the Brewers with 24 home runs and set a career high with his .506 slugging percentage in 2013, so it's unlikely at best that the Brewers will put him somewhere where he won't frequently bat with runners on base.
Depending on what happens at first base I could see Gomez potentially batting second in front of Braun, but I think the combination of Gomez's power and .303 career OBP make him a poor choice to bat first.
Assuming more lineup changes don't happen before spring, the other less likely options would presumably be Jonathan Lucroy, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Khris Davis and the new first baseman, whoever it may be. I could see a small case to be made for Lucroy, but the remaining three known commodities are all obviously better utilized elsewhere.
What do you think? Who's the top candidate in your mind to fill this spot?