St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay has only played four games as a leadoff batter, but it could be a glimpse at his future.
While a center field leadoff hitter may sound a bit out of the ordinary, we've seen Jay flourish in the absence of mildly-injured shortstop Rafael Furcal.
When batting leadoff, Jay is 5-15—That gives him a .333 average. Sure it's a small sample size, but it is an interesting idea.
Having Furcal a little lower in the lineup, while out of the ordinary for him, could alleviate some of his stress before the Cardinals get into the heat of a playoff run in the final weeks of the season.
Overall in 2012, Jay has been hitting .308/.383/.405 with a .789 OPS. That's certainly a respectable line score and already more than was expected from him coming into 2012.
In his short stint as a leadoff hitter, he's batting .333/.412/.533 with a .945 OPS. He obviously wouldn't keep up that pace forever in that spot, but he has the potential to be a great leadoff man.
Jay is capable of getting on base and has shown increased patience at the plate this year with his 23 walks.
In 2011, Jay spent a bit more time in the top spot of the lineup.
Over the course of 15 games, he was 17-57 with six extra base hits and seven walks. Over that period, he put together a line score of .298/.302/.384 with a .786 OPS.
Who is the Cardinals lead off hitter of the future?
The 2011 numbers are more along the lines of what could be expected of him long-term (at the same position) than the 2012 statistics are. Either would make for a great leadoff man.
Jay also has good speed around the base paths and isn't afraid to run. He had stolen 13 bases in 2012, one more than Furcal.
Furcal's 2012 statistics at leadoff have slid considerably since the halfway point of the season. So far at leadoff, he is hitting .267/.338/.344 with a .682 OPS.
Furcal has had a very successful career as a leadoff hitter, but it may be time to hand over the reins, even if only on a part-time basis.
He's been a huge asset to the Cardinals since they traded for him in 2011, but at least for the time being, he's not getting the job done. Whether it's due to the injury or being more physically taxed as the season drags on, the Cardinals need a consistent leadoff hitter right now.
With Cincinnati beginning to struggle and a six-game deficit with seven weeks of baseball to go, having someone on base when the middle of the lineup gets to the plate is more important than ever.