Examining the 3 best KC Royals leadoff options and why Dairon Blanco makes sense

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Maikel Garcia is the incumbent lineup leader

Looking at the 2024 roster, it is hardly a stretch to assume third baseman Maikel Garcia will the the leadoff man come Opening Day. After all, 322 of his 515 2023 plate appearances came from the top of the batting order. While there are holes in Garcia's game, he has the tools any leadoff hitter needs.

First, his expected stats offer promise. He was not stellar across the season, but his .274 xBA ranked in the 82nd percentile, thanks partially to his 50.6 hard-hit rate which ranked in the 93rd percentile. He limited swinging strikes despite MLB inexperience, put plenty of balls in play, and his above-average speed saw him leg out 12 infield hits, second to only Witt.

Garcia's slugging leaves a lot to be desired and that didn't change in the leadoff spot. His .344 slugging percentage in that spot was the fourth-worst amongst leadoff hitters with at least 250 plate appearances.

Power in the leadoff spot is a luxury, but Garcia's apparent lack of it in 2023 was concerning and limited the sparse baserunners the lineup's lower half provided. Garcia lit up winter baseball and looks like he put on muscle this offseason, so here is hoping he can produce some more extra-base hits in 2024.

He was successful on 98% of his 45 baserunning-advance attempts in 2023. That doesn't rank very high on the Royals roster but leads me to believe he was overly conservative on the basepaths. The stereotypical rookie is too aggressive when trying to stretch a single into a double, but that wasn't the case for Garcia.

His raw sprint speed is not amazing (28.2 ft/sec ranks 8th in Kansas City's 2023 roster), but he had opportunities to do more damage in the leadoff spot. More base-running experience will help Garcia in 2024 too, and the leadoff hitter will have more opportunities than any player to get on base.

In total, Garcia is both a promising and fine leadoff option. He had a ceiling in 2023, but that was his first lengthy taste of MLB action. 2024 marks his first time being on the Royals roster on Opening Day, so he is still plenty green.