Who Will Lead Off for the Phillies: Santana or Hernandez?
CLEARWATER - Had you been listening to Middays With Q or The Sports Bash with Mike Gill on 97.3 ESPN in recent weeks, we have discussed at length as to what the Phillies starting lineup might be when camp breaks at the end of April. Despite following this team and major league baseball for about 30 years, "I don't know" was the best I could muster. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler enters Spring Training with "Be Bold" as the team's motto. Is he bold enough to pat the club's new $20 million first baseman leadoff?
Saturday's Grapefruit League home opener featured an interesting lineup choice. The leadoff hitter was not Cesar Hernandez. It was not even Odubel Herrera. Instead, Carlos Santana lead off for the Phillies in the first Grapefruit League lineup. He was followed by left fielder Rhys Hoskins. Hernandez was even in the lineup: he batted fifth.
So is this an indication of things to come for the Phillies?
If it is, the lineup worked at least this first time. Behind number two hitter Hoskins was Jorge Alfaro batting third. The "cleanup" hitter was Aaron Altherr. I have "cleanup" in quotation marks because this lineup is not functioning in the traditional sense. But Kapler will be on the forefront of the latest research.
As I have previously written, the number two spot in the lineup tends to go to a club's strongest hitter. Kapler might consider Hoskins to be that guy. That could be why he put a reliable on-base producer such as Santana ahead of him. While the number three hitter might not be the best hitter in the lineup in this model, it does say a good deal about Alfaro, who hit a grand slam in the second inning.
Then again, Kapler might just have wanted to see Santana and Hoskins get the most at bats on Saturday afternoon, and batting them first and second could get them more at bats than if they batted lower, since the subs come in early. And, since the Phillies had non-starters Roman Quinn and Ryan Flaherty in the lineup did it throw things off without Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco? That remains to be seen.
We usually do not see the final Phillies lineup until later in Grapefruit League action before the club breaks camp. However, it's pretty interesting to look at today's lineup and wonder what Kapler is thinking. Even though the subs came in en masse later, the lineup seemed to work.