By Jason Shetler
It appears the Pirates will be heading into the 2016 season with John Jaso as their leadoff man versus right-handed pitching. Jaso as we all know is an on base machine, as he owns a career .361 on base percentage and a .380 on base from the leadoff position. The Pirates are going to have Jaso in a first base platoon with Michael Morse, so who would be in the leadoff spot against left-handed starters? – One name that should be taken into consideration is Francisco Cervelli.
2015 was a career year for Cervelli, posting an OBP of .370, which was second best among National League catchers. He was particularly better versus left-handed pitching. Here are some of his numbers against southpaws last season.
11.2% BB rate
Cervelli’s on base mark of .386 against lefties last year was right in line with his career figure of .385. Going by wRC+, he created runs at an All-Star level, thanks in part to a solid walk rate. During his big league career, Cervelli has never batted leadoff. Despite that, his ability to control the strikezone and work deep counts would be most ideal at the top of the lineup. In 2015, Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco combined to post only a .326 OBP in the leadoff spot, so at the very least, Cervelli can’t be any worse. If the goal for the Pirates is to have high on base ability from the first two batters in the lineup, John Jaso and Andrew McCutchen against RHP, then why wouldn’t it make sense to have Cervelli’s strong on base presence 1-2 with McCutchen versus LHP?