Zach McKinstry is the BEST option for the Tigers #1 spot in the order

When Zach McKinstry first was announced as a move made by Detroit Tigers President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris, there was little reason to be excited. For the former top prospect, life hadn’t gone swimmingly in the MLB and he’d been bounced from a couple of organizations before landing in Detroit.

Now, a month and a half later and McKinstry has made believers out of the skeptical, fans out of the confused, and has secured himself atop the Tigers lineup setting the table for Javy Baez, Riley Greene, and Spencer Torkelson. And, now it’s time to play him every day and stop the platoon with Jonathan Schoop, who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.

Zach McKinstry

McKinstry’s table setting makes the Tigers better

The Tigers have deployed four different hitters in their top spot: Matt Vierling, Akil Baddoo, Nick Maton, and McKinstry. McKinstry tops them all with 20 games in the leadoff spot, and in those 20 games, the Tigers are 12-8. The other three have a combined win total of 11. What was believed to be just an organization depth piece when Harris made the move, has actually become a stabilized piece in the Major League lineup – a type of piece that helps successful teams. He’ll never be a star, but you don’t need that.

Jonathan Schoop is for sure on the chopping block. He’s been in the lineup for 12 of the Tigers’ 25 losses – though obviously not all his fault – and just picked up his first RBI of the season against the Royals on May 24th, after 108 at-bats. He’s been the main platoon for McKinstry against left-handed pitching. If the Tigers are serious about contention, and we saw it last night a bit against lefty relievers, McKinstry must be an everyday player.

Zach McKinstry by the numbers

The case for McKinstry to remain at the top of the Tigers’ batting order for the foreseeable future is made even stronger when you consider the numbers.

  • For the season McKinstry is slashing: .270/.388/.396 with a wOBA of .353
  • He’s accumulated 1.2 fWAR through 48 games.
  • He has walked 14.8% of the time and struck out 18.5%.
  • He’s 28% above league average creating runs with a 128 wRC+
  • As a leadoff hitter, McKinstry is hitting .292/.434/.369, with a wOBA of .369
  • He has 15 walks and 11 strikeouts, which translates to a 18.1% BB rate and a 13.3% K rate.
  • He’s 39% better than the league average creating runs with a 139 wRC+.

But the impact was most clearly seen in the game against the White Sox on May 25th. In that 7-2 win by the Tigers, their leadoff hitter had five plate appearances, but only one official at-bat. He walked three times, was hit by a pitch, and scored two of the Tigers’ runs in front of the three-headed monster of Baez, Greene, and Torkelson. That’s exactly what a leadoff hitter is supposed to do.

The Bottom Line

There’s really not much more to discuss other than Zach McKinstry’s place on the Tigers as an everyday player. The Tigers are a better team with Zach at the top of the order. Not to mention, we haven’t even discussed his positional versatility. A.J. Hinch should keep putting his name in ink at the top of the order. He’s the best option they have and they’ll be a better team for it.

Written by AJ Reilly

A.J. is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid storyteller. His debut novel, The Askren Boys, won the Literary Classics Gold Medal and Seal of Approval in November of 2018. When not writing, he is spending time with his wife Jessica, son Jack, daughter Nora, and new arrival Teddy. A.J. lives in Metro Detroit.

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