Phillies: Who hits leadoff in the team’s new-look lineup?

MIAMI, FL - JULY 15: Cesar Hernandez #16 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a triple during the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on July 15, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 15: Cesar Hernandez #16 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a triple during the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on July 15, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

The Phillies begin Spring Training games on Friday. As the team looks forward to April, who leads off, Cesar Hernandez or Jean Segura?

Spring training has begun, and the Phillies finally played their first game last week, but since it is the first game of the spring, fans likely won’t see many regulars.

Back in December, the team acquired Jean Segura and two relievers from the Seattle Mariners for former top prospect J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana. With that, Philadelphia has a double-play duo of Segura and Cesar Hernandez, who played the second half of last season on a broken foot.

The middle infield combination could be the best in the National League by season’s end, and it gives the Phillies two very good leadoff hitters to choose from.

Gabe Kapler has labeled Hernandez as the “ideal leadoff hitter,” however, Segura’s presence makes things interesting.

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Hernandez scored 91 runs last season, Segura 92. Hernandez stole 19 bases last season, Segura 20. Segura has some more power, which likely suits him better in the two-spot. That makes perfect sense since Segura hit second in 116 games last year.

In the event of an injury to Hernandez, though, it seems that he would be just fine in the leadoff spot.

Hernandez could benefit from a deeper lineup, with Segura, Rhys Hoskins, a certain free agent right fielder, J.T. Realmuto, and others. Hernandez should see better pitches than he did in front of players of Carlos Santana’s caliber, who were not enough of a threat to opposing pitchers.

My only criticisms of Hernandez might have come from Kapler’s philosophy of taking more pitches and drawing more walks. I’d like to see Cesar swing earlier in the count this year and get more doubles.

While he did have a broken foot at the end of last year, Hernandez had 15 doubles and 219 total bases in 161 games compared to 26 doubles and 215 total bases in 128 games in 2017.

Hernandez possesses a line of .276 with 28 HR and 119 RBI in 1816 plate appearances as a leadoff hitter, and .294 with no home runs and 28 RBI in 312 plate appearances as the two-hole hitter.

In addition, Hernandez has not hit second in the lineup since Pete Mackanin penciled him in on June 24, 2016, a game that also featured starters Ryan Howard, Cody Asche, Cameron Rupp, and Peter Bourjos.

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Hernandez went 0-5 in that game for a club 13 games under .500.

Segura possesses solid time at both spots in the lineup. In 351 games leading off, he has a line of .309 with 35 HR and 137 RBI in 1607 plate appearances. In 14 games leading off last year, he had 26 hits in 63 at-bats (.413). In 276 games in the two-spot, he is hitting .279 with 19 HR and 103 RBI in 1,206 plate appearances.

It is surprising to see those splits take a tip when he was hitting right in front of Robinson Cano and Mitch Haniger, who were both solid three-hole hitters for Seattle.

With all that said, Hernandez has fallen into a niche in the last few years as the leadoff hitter. I feel it might be difficult for him at this stage of his career to change his approach. It has been since 2016 since he has even hit in the two-spot, and has not regularly hit anywhere except leadoff in his entire big-league career.

Others have hinted at outfielder Andrew McCutchen getting some looks at leadoff. However, his hitting approach is more power-focused rather than contact-focused, which you would want most in a leadoff hitter. Plus, he takes more pitches, walks more, and subsequently strikes out more (95 BB and 145 K in 2018).

With Hoskins, Realmuto, and a potential Bryce Harper addition, I see him in the six-spot most nights. A large quantity of strikeouts by the leadoff hitter generally does not spell well for a team.

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With all that said, I ultimately believe that Hernandez will get the nod for the leadoff spot, and Segura will hit right behind him. Hoskins and Realmuto should be featured in the middle, with McCutchen, Nick Williams (for now), and Maikel Franco behind them.