Sure the Astros have yet to find their leadoff hitter, but let’s take a look at our options for the cleanup hitter. Now it’s quite possible the cleanup hitter for the Astros will spend a lot of time leading off the 2nd inning, but we can still reasonably assume our cleanup hitter to be a power guy.
Looking over the roster, it seems like the most likely candidates for the cleanup role will come from the first base position (or DH). Carlos Pena seems to be the most logical candidate for the cleanup role. He hits for a lot of power, and if he has to lead off the 2nd inning, we know he can take a walk and start the inning on base. For his career, Pena has actually batted from every slot in the lineup. He has taken the most AB’s from the cleanup spot in his career (1263 AB’s) and has hit 69 HR’s and 220 RBI’s along with a .226 AVG, .351 OBP, and a .803 OPS. Those numbers are lower than his career numbers, and though he has seen more AB’s there than any other spot, it seems like he would fit better in the 3-hole. Batting in the 3-spot (445 AB’s) Pena has hit 41 HR’s and 107 RBI’s, along with a .256 AVG, .421 OBP, and a 1.009 OPS. It seems pretty clear that Pena should bat in the 3-hole and I hope the Astros have looked into those numbers.
CF Justin Maxwell certainly has the power to knock guys home. Maxwell batted 4th for the good guys for 35 games last year. His numbers were not too great however, hitting just 6 HR’s, 18 RBI’s and a subpar .198 AVG and .701 OPS. Maxwell may have the pop, but so far in his career, it seems like he may be better served batting 2nd, 3rd, or 5th for the Astros. Another option for the Astros will be J.D. Martinez. Martinez is coming off a bad year, and will look to rebound for the Astros. Martinez has also struggled mightily from the cleanup spot in his career and should probably be hitting elsewhere if in the lineup.
With Pena and the others eliminated, let’s look at the rest of the first baseman. Brett Wallace is unlikely to bat 4th for a few reasons. His power isn’t quite there yet to be batting from that spot, and he’s also a lefty, so if Pena is batting 3rd, Porter may not want to go with two lefties in a row. Another option is Nate Freiman. Freiman certainly has the pop to hit 4th, but may not get the playing time to hit there consistently. If in the lineup, the Astros may elect to hit him fourth, and he can produce from the cleanup spot. The other option is Chris Carter, but just like the others on the team, he too has subpar numbers from the 4-hole in his career.
The Astros have no legitimate cleanup hitter quite yet (at least one that has proven success from the cleanup spot in his career), and will probably do a lot of lineup shuffling earlier in the year. Porter will have the tough decision, and we may not have a definitive answer for a couple of months.