The Great Debate: Brian Roberts Or Nick Markakis Leading Off?
Yeah, I know the Orioles haven’t gotten anything from him the past three seasons, but Brian Roberts return to form could dramatically improve the O’s lineup this season. So far, every sign in spring training points to a start on April 2 in Tampa Bay for the Birds veteran second baseman.
Buck Showalter has Roberts leading off in today’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Sarasota in a lineup that could look very similar to the one he posts on Opening Day. Sure, Manny Machado is out after traveling to Fort Myers yesterday, but Roberts, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters have a great chance of being the starting four (or close to it) for the O’s.
The spring is young, but so far Roberts is 3-for-8, with two doubles and two runs scored. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian was impressed with what he saw from B-Rob during his visit on Wednesday. “He’s running hard, totally engaged, healthy,” Kurkjian tweeted.
In his last full healthy season (2009), Roberts hit .283/.356/.451 with 16 homers and 79 RBI. At age 35, the Orioles shouldn’t expect Roberts to return to the .290-.295 numbers he posted in 2007 and 2008, but if he can get on base close to 40 percent of his at-bats, that would be a big boost at the top of their order.
It will certainly be a tough decision for Showalter, who saw Nick Markakis hit .354/.426/.417 in 54 games in the leadoff spot last season, but I suppose it’s a good problem for the Orioles to have.
Some have suggested batting Roberts at the bottom of the lineup, MLBDepthCharts.com lists him as the Orioles number nine hitter — although they have Markakis at three. I could see the benefit of having another leadoff type guy in the nine hole, but I think it will probably be Nate McLouth with Roberts and Markakis in the 1-2 (in either order)