One of the most common critiques a manager faces is how to put together a lineup. Cardinals skipper Mike Shildt is no stranger to this, and he will only become more familiar with it as the year goes on.
A big reason for that is Paul Goldschmidt. When the front office acquired Goldy this offseason he was touted as the middle of the order bat they’ve been missing for years. However, in the first game of the season, he didn’t even hit in the middle of the order.
Like most situations, there are two sides to the coin here. On one hand, if Goldschmidt hits second, he’ll get more at-bats. On the other, he may not get as many opportunities to drive in runs, especially early in games, in the two hole that he would batting third. Additionally, if he hits second, Paul DeJong has to step up and be a power bat in the middle.
Those things considered, here’s a look at how Goldy fits in the second spot and the third spot.
Goldschmidt found himself hitting second, behind Matt Carpenter, in the Opening Day lineup. Unfortunately, he went 0-3 with three strikeouts in what was his Cardinal debut. It’s unlikely that his poor performance was due to where he hit in the order, though, especially when you look at his career numbers.
Over the course of his seven years, Goldy doesn’t have a very big sample size from the second spot. However, in the 49 games, he has hit there, he’s been very good. In 225 career plate appearances out of the two hole, Goldschmidt has a slash line of .342/.427/.658 with 27 walks, 11 doubles, 17 home runs and 40 RBI. If the Cardinals get that kind of production out of him batting second, Shildt should face no scrutiny at all.
A bigger concern than Goldy’s performance in the second spot, is the vacancy he leaves in the third spot. For now, it looks like Paul DeJong will get every opportunity to prove himself in the three hole. He actually has hit third more than anywhere else up to this point in his career. In 87 games he’s slashed .261/.324/.449 with 14 home runs and 54 RBI. For Goldschmidt to work as the two hitter, the Redbirds are going to need more production than that out of DeJong.
Goldschmidt is no stranger to hitting third in the order. He, like DeJong, has hit there more than any other position in his career. Unlike Dejong though, Goldy has 3,215 plate appearances out of the three hole. His numbers aren’t quite as good as they are out of the second spot, but considering the sample size, they’re equally as impressive.
Goldschmidt has a .299/.408/.530 slash line with 137 home runs, 178 doubles, 477 RBI and 485 walks in those 3,215 plate appearances. That is the kind of production the Cards have been missing out of the third spot since Matt Holliday’s injuries began.
Of course, if Shildt moves Goldy down to third, he has to put someone in the second spot. DeJong doesn’t profile well as a two-hitter, so he would likely move down as well. Dexter Fowler from 2017 would be a great candidate to hit second, but it’s still unclear what the Redbirds are going to get from him this season, especially after last year.
Another guy that comes to mind though, is Harrison Bader. He definitely has the speed to score runs in front of Goldschmidt, as long as he doesn’t run over Matt Carpenter, but he’ll have to prove he can be more consistent at the plate than he was last year.
Kolten Wong provides a similar option to Bader, though he comes with the same consistency issues. The Cardinals would also have stacked lefties at the top if Wong hit second.
No matter which spot Goldy hits in, someone is going to have to pick up the slack in the other position. That means where he ends up permanently will likely depend more on his teammates than himself.