Mike Aviles is, in many ways, far from an ideal fit as a leadoff hitter. He doesn't walk enough to generate the desired on-base percentage for the role. And while he can run, he isn't, to use his term, a burner.
The Royals just don't have any better options among their projected starters, which is why Aviles topped the lineup in the first two spring games and seems likely to remain there for the foreseeable future.
"When I broke our lineup down," manager Ned Yost said, "and I looked at Aviles ... he is a guy who puts the ball in play. He's a .300 hitter. He's a guy who is going to get on base.
"When I looked at it, I thought, 'OK, as good of a hitter as Mike is, I don't really have any leadoff candidates outside of (Chris) Getz — because Getzie has some speed and can steal some bases.' But Mike has more offensive capabilities."
What Aviles doesn't have is a leadoff hitter's mind-set.
"I don't change my approach depending on where I hit in the lineup," he said. "I go about my business the same way. If I get a good pitch to drive, I go for it. That's just how I hit.
"I think you're only really a leadoff hitter one time a game. You start the game, and that's about it. After that, anybody who leads off an inning is a leadoff hitter."
Yost would, of course, prefer a more-traditional alternative. He recently identified speedy rookie Jarrod Dyson as a prototypical leadoff hitter but acknowledged Dyson is no lock to make the club — let alone play his way into steady duty.
"What you want," Yost said, "is on-base percentage, and a guy who knows how to run the bases — a guy who has the capability of igniting the offense. You want a guy who can put a little pressure on the defense when he gets on and when he comes up."
Aviles can do some of that.
He did, in fact, lead the majors last year, among players with at least 100 at-bats, by compiling a .412 average and a .450 on-base percentage when leading off an inning.
"When I saw the (first) lineup," Aviles said, "I thought, 'That's cool. That's interesting.' I figured I might be two. I figured it would be me and Melky (Cabrera) one and two; I just didn't know how it would play out."
Aviles looms as Royals' best-available fit at leadoff
Kansas City Star | Mar 1