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Inside the colorado rockies’ dugout, bench coach Tom Runnells hangs a lineup card on the cement wall before each game. The batting order, the bullpen, the bench players—everyone who is available to play is listed. (The card below is part of a real one from the Rockies’ 10-2 win over the San Diego Padres last year.) How skipper Walt Weiss and his coaches shuffle the lineup—taking into consideration injuries, hot streaks, slumps, and game situations—can mean the difference between a W and an L. Here, Weiss explains his philosophy on who gets put where and tells us whom we should be paying attention to at Coors Field on opening day (April 8).
1. The Table-Setter
Weiss says a good leadoff man has to be “a good runner who gets on base for the power-hitting run producers behind him.” Look for newly acquired Gerardo Parra, who will play left field, or bearded center fielder Charlie Blackmon to kick-start the offense in 2016.
2. The All-Arounder
The number two spot is usually filled by a strong situational hitter (for example, a player who can bunt the leadoff hitter from first to second base). But Weiss often moves a player up from the middle of the order so that “the lineup is more dangerous earlier on.”
3–5. The Power Players
In the third, fourth, and fifth lineup spots, expect to see players who knock in RBIs and have no problem going yard. Third baseman Nolan Arenado (pictured), who led Major League Baseball with 130 RBIs in 2015, and right fielder Carlos Gonzalez (who ranked third in the National League with 40 home runs) make a perfect righty-lefty duo.
6–7. The Young Guns
Consider the sixth and seventh lineup spots something of a training ground. The players in these slots are typically younger and haven’t yet shown where they naturally fit best, but they are responsible for getting base hits that drive home the power hitters ahead of them.
8. The Intentional Walker
Hitting eighth is often a thankless job, and Weiss admits it isn’t easy on a player’s psyche. By batting right before the pitcher, the eighth hitter will often get walked so the opponent can face an easier out.
9. The Pitcher
Fans don’t expect a pitcher to blast home runs to the center field fountains, so they’re happy enough with someone who can pull off a well-timed sacrifice fly or even a ground out that advances base runners.
Watch for DJ LeMahieu
Second baseman DJ LeMahieu hit in every spot in the order during the 2015 season but took to the plate the most often in the number two slot (286 of 564 appearances in 150 games).
Watch for Nick Hundley
Hundley—who is taking over the starting catcher spot full time this year after an injury ended his season this past September—typically hits in the sixth, seventh, or eighth position.