A team's leadoff hitter is often its catalyst. He is the one responsible for getting on base so that the heavy hitters behind him have a chance to drive in runs. A player's ability to handle the bat well is generally a good determinant of a solid leadoff hitter.
Throughout Major League Baseball, there are a number of good leadoff hitters — each with their own set of strengths.
Jacoby Ellsbury's speed makes him a major threat at the top of the Red Sox order, especially given the talent that follows him. This season, Ellsbury has become even more dangerous because of his ability to get on base consistently. Ellsbury is batting .298 and has a .368 on-base percentage, both higher than his career averages. His 19 stolen bases are tied for first in the majors.
Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler is hitting at only .242 this season, but he still boasts a respectable on-base percentage and above-average speed, making him a major asset to the Rockies lineup.
Ian Kinsler is a player who, when healthy, has shown that he is one of the game's elite second basemen. He is also one of the most dangerous leadoff hitters in baseball, which Red Sox fans saw first-hand when he went deep to lead off the first two games of the season. The Texas Rangers second baseman has 16 leadoff home runs in his career, including three this season. Kinsler is a two-time All-Star and seven blasts to his credit in 2011.
Braves outfielder Martin Prado has put together a solid 2011 campaign thus far. Hitting out the leadoff spot, Prado sets the table for the Braves offense. He has seven home runs to go along with 32 RBIs and a .282 batting average – all solid numbers for a leadoff hitter.
There's no denying the talent that Mets shortstop Jose Reyes possesses. The issue for him has always been whether or not he can stay healthy. Reyes has this season, though, and has thus returned to his All-Star form. He is hitting .335 — good for fifth in the majors — and has swiped 19 bases — which has him tied with Jacoby Ellsbury for the most in the majors in that category.
Ichiro Suzuki is not only one of baseball's best leadoff hitters, but he's perhaps one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game. He's had over 200 hits and has hit over .300 in all ten of his major league seasons. This season, Ichiro is off to a relatively slow start, with a .272 batting average, but he continues to steal bases and pose a threat every time he steps to the dish.
Reds centerfielder Drew Stubbs put together a solid 2010 season, blasting 22 home runs and driving in 77 runs, while also stealing 30 bases. He has shown an ability to be a five-tool player, which has helped the Reds achieve success in the NL Central.
Playing in the most games he's played in a single season in 2010, Rickie Weeks put together his best season yet. The Brewers second baseman hit 29 home runs and finished with 83 RBIs. That power has carried over into this season, and the 28-year-old is hitting at .288 — well above his .256 career average.
These are only a few of the guys that grace the tops of lineups throughout Major League Baseball. So who's the best of the best?
Who is the best leadoff hitter in baseball? Share your thoughts below.
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