SEATTLE MARINERS

Who should bat leadoff for the Mariners?

May 23, 2016, 12:50 PM | Updated: 1:51 pm

The AL West-leading Mariners are tied for fourth in the majors in home runs, sixth in RBIs and seventh in runs scored. That’s thanks in part to the dangerous middle of their lineup – Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager – that has accounted for 29 home runs and 94 RBIs.

But the top of the order has still left something to be desired.

The Mariners rank in the bottom half of the league statistically at the leadoff spot, ranking 23rd with a .253 batting average and having no pop – a league-worst nine RBIs and just one home run from the spot.

Related: Leonys Martin providing Mariners with surprising power on offense

The top of the order has primarily been handled by Nori Aoki and Ketel Marte, with Leonys Martin recently getting into the mix. With a sprained thumb expected to keep Marte on the DL for the next two weeks, questions remain about what to do at the spot in the short- and long-term.

Aoki has been given the most opportunities thus far but has been unproductive, at least statistically, with a paltry .214/.307/.283 slash line in 145 leadoff at-bats. Meanwhile, in just 10 plate appearances at the top of the order, Martin has seven hits and a home run. He’s been less productive at the bottom of the lineup, hitting under .225 in both the eighth and ninth slots. Marte has also been successful at the top, batting .348, with a .409 OBP in his 22 plate appearances.

Although the numbers aren’t yet sparkling for the 34-year-old Aoki – who has a career .351 on-base percentage – 710 ESPN Seattle’s Justin Myers says his willingness to go deep into counts is an unquantifiable key for the lineup.

“I think eventually Ketel Marte, because he is far too talented, is going to be at the top of this lineup,” Myers said. “But I like Nori Aoki sitting in the leadoff spot just from a getting-deep-into-counts perspective.”

While Martin might not be getting on base at a high clip, his speed-power combination provide them with the most Ricky Henderson-esque potential. He is tied for third on the team with eight home runs and leads the squad in base thefts. On Sunday, the Mariners put Martin at the top of the lineup and Aoki in the two-hole and the results were promising: a combined 6-for-10 with three runs scored.

ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia, sitting in as co-host on “Justin and Gee,” noted that it’s too small a sample size to judge Martin’s most recent success at the top, as the 28-yer-old lefty has a career .307 on-base percentage.

“We have to look at the bigger picture,” Kapadia said. “Has he turned a corner or is this just the natural progression of a baseball season when a guy puts together one month of strong play?”

2016 stats

Leonys Martin | BA: .252 | OBP:.331 | HR: 8 | SO: 43 | SB: 7 of 10

Nori Aoki | BA: .234 | OBP: .320 | HR: 0 | SO: 23 | SB: 2 of 8

Ketel Marte | BA: .276 | OBP: .307 | HR: 1 | SO: 31 | SB: 5 of 7

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Who should bat leadoff for the Mariners?