As position players begin to trickle into camp, it looks like new manager Ron Roenicke is dropping hints when it comes to his batting order. Considering the success of last year’s group and the fact that not much has changed, it appears that Roenicke won’t be changing much. As Adam McCalvy wrote, it’s probably safe to assume that last year’s top 5 spots of the lineup will include the same old familiar faces. Changes may come when you get to the 6th spot, presumably behind Casey McGehee. So who is Roenicke thinking of putting there?
“Betancourt, here’s a guy who had a nice year last year in a tough hitting ballpark [in Kansas City],” Roenicke said. “So, he’s not your on-base guy because he doesn’t walk a lot, but he’s driving in runs and he’s hitting home runs. Where do you put him? … Whoever our last bopper is [in the five-hole], somebody has to be there to protect him a little bit. Maybe [Betancourt] is the guy.”
The idea of lineup protection has been debated to death on many blogs across the Internet, but even if you do believe in it, the idea of Yuniesky Betancourt giving Casey McGehee protection is probably enough to make you chortle. To Roenicke’s credit, he did say he preferred a higher-OBP guy to hit 8th to help turn over the lineup, but just about anyone you bat 8th will be a nice OBP guy assuming he knows when he’s getting pitched around.
This isn’t the first instance of Roenicke thinking out loud when it comes to his lineup. Last week he suggested he might experiment with batting the pitcher 8th and using Carlos Gomez in the 9th spot, but seemed to realize that Gomez’s lack of on-base skills might make that strategy counterproductive. Assuming he doesn’t want to bat Betancourt and Gomez — two low-to-no-OBP guys — back-to-back, perhaps Betancourt isn’t a terrible choice. Jonathan Lucroy would help the team more by batting 6th, but it’s understandable if Roenicke doesn’t want the last third of his lineup (Yuni-Gomez-Pitcher) to be largely useless. Good thing Roenicke still has a few weeks to try some things in spring training and find a lineup that fits what he’ll be trying to do.