SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Charlie Blackmon was historically good as a leadoff hitter last season. So good that the Colorado Rockies might try to move that production into a more productive spot in the lineup.
As spring training opened, the Rockies already have talked to Blackmon about the possibility of hitting in the middle of the order this season as they attempt to fill the hole left by the apparent loss of mainstay Carlos Gonzalez, who remains a free agent but does not appear to be in the team’s plans.
“I think Charlie is the type of player who can hit a lot of different places in the lineup,” manager Bud Black said.
“If it makes sense to hit him somewhere else besides first, we are really going to look at it. When we start games on (February) 23rd, you might see him hit third. You might see him hit different spots. Don’t be surprised if that happens in spring training and we’ll see what that looks like.”
The 31-year-old center fielder has spent almost all of his last four full seasons hitting first, and he won the NL batting title at .331 with career highs with 37 homers and 104 RBIs there last season.
His production was prodigious. Blackmon’s RBIs and 383 total bases were major league records from the No. 1 spot. His 86 extra-base hits were an NL record, third-best ever. His 144 “runs created,” a new analytic figure, was tied for the highest.
Second baseman DJ LeMahieu and third baseman Nolan Arenado appear to be fixtures at the No. 2 and No. 4 spots, and the left-handed hitting Blackmon might be a good fit at No. 3 inasmuch as he would break up the two right-handed hitters.
“He can hit first, second, third, fourth, fifth, based on our personnel,” Black said.
“The beautiful part of this is, Charlie is open because he’s an extremely team-first guy. He’ll do what is best for the team and not have any mental hangups about it.”
“A lot of times, you run into some players (where) you do something out of the norm and they freak out. He’s not one of those guys. He’s so mentally stable that he could handle that,” he said.
If Blackmon moves, the top possibilities for the leadoff spot appear to be outfielders Raimel Tapia and Ian Desmond.
Tapia is a candidate for Gonzalez’s vacant outfield spot, as is Desmond, who also played first base last season and could see time there again.
Tapia had a .329 on-base percentage in 171 plate appearances as a rookie last season, with 12 doubles and five stolen bases.
Desmond, who missed two months with a broken hand, had a .326 on-base percentage last year and has a career .317 percentage. He had four 20-homer, 20-stolen base seasons in his last five healthy years.
“Basically, a lineup works when you get guys on base,” Black said. “Charlie does a good job of getting on base. DJ does a good job of getting on base. Nolan gets on base.
“Ian adds a couple of different elements that are enticing for a leadoff hitter. He has some speed. He has some power. Again, Ian can hit anywhere in the lineup.”