At 5’10” (which is being generous) and 180 pounds, Scooter Gennett looks like a leadoff hitter. He has the slap-hitting persona that the leadoff spot covets and owns the speed it requires. According to manager Ron Roenicke, Gennett is one of three Brewers (Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura are the others) being considered for the top of the order. I wrote about Gomez and Segura as candidates here and here.
In 2013, with Rickie Weeks falling into darkness, Gennett eventually took over second base duties. In 213 at-bats, the 23-year-old batted .324 with six home runs and 21 RBI. His on-base percentage (.356) was third-best on the team (those with at least 200 plate appearances) and his BABIP (.380) was off the charts. Gennett did more than enough to earn the starting job in 2014.
But would he be a successful leadoff hitter? Based on last year’s stats, the clear answer is no.
Gennett has a glaring problem – no patience. While his on-base percentage was fantastic, his BB% was appalling. He walked on only ten occasions and found himself in a three-ball count in only 26 plate appearances. Essential to the leadoff position is being able to see pitches and make the pitcher work, something Gennett didn’t do last season.
Unlike former Brewers left-handed leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki, Gennett flounders against southpaws. In 2013, he hit .154 against left-handed pitchers; in fact, his lack of success against lefties was why the Brewers platooned Gennett and Weeks. And that scenario might happen again if Gennett fails to improve.
The Brewers don’t have many options when it comes to capable leadoff hitters and, even though Gennett put up phenomenal numbers during his first season in the majors, his few deficiencies could keep him from leading off ball games.