One key aspect of any team is finding a great leadoff hitter that can bat atop the batting lineup each night. Some of the best leadoff hitters in baseball and the best leadoff hitters of all time could change the entire approach of a team, starting with their first at-bat in the top of the first inning.
Despite the best hitters getting all the recognition, the best leadoff hitters are getting on base and scoring runs and deserve credit as game-changers who can start a rally from the team’s first at-bat.
Here’s a look at the top 10 best leadoff hitters in baseball and the top 3 best leadoff hitters of all time. Read on!
10 Best Leadoff Hitters in 2023
1. Jose Altuve
Current Team: Houston Astros, Former Teams: NA
When you look around Major League Baseball today, the leadoff hitter continues to evolve, sometimes looking for speed and on-base percentage while others look at it as a way to get your best hitter the most at-bats.
Nonetheless, one hitter that ranks among the best pure hitters in baseball and ranks as the best leadoff hitter in baseball is the Houston Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve.
The Astros second baseman ranked 2nd in hits (158), 2nd in doubles (39), 3rd in home runs (28), 14th in batting average (.302), and 11th in on-base percentage (.390) among all leadoff hitters last during the 2022 MLB schedule.
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2. Mookie Betts
Current Team: Los Angeles Dodgers, Former Teams: Boston Red Sox
Mookie Betts is one of those baseball players who would not have initially fit the mold of a prototypical leadoff hitter. Betts, who owns an AL MVP Award, has been a proven power hitter throughout his career while providing some speed on the bases.
Over his MLB career, Betts has picked up at least 150 hits in six different seasons and posted at least 20 stolen bases in four different seasons while hitting at least 20 home runs in six different seasons, including a career-high 35 last season.
Betts 35 home runs trailed only Kyle Schwarber, who hit 38 as a leadoff hitter. Off the field, Betts is recognized as one of the hottest, chain-wearing players in the MLB.
3. George Springer
Current Team: Toronto Blue Jays, Former Teams: Houston Astros
Following suit along with Mookie Betts is the former Houston Astros and current Toronto Blue Jays leadoff hitter George Springer.
Springer is a modern-day leadoff hitter who hits for power and is one of those players a team prefers to get the most at-bats possible during the game. In addition, over his career, Springer has produced in clutch moments, including during the MLB playoffs.
The Blue Jays All-Star finished last season ranked 5th in hits (135), 4th in home runs (28), and 3rd in runs scored (75) while posting a .267 batting average and .342 on-base percentage.
4. Ronald Acuna Jr
Current Team: Atlanta Braves, Former Teams: NA
Entering the 2023 MLB season healthy, Ronald Acuna Jr looks to return to the 40-home run hitter he was back in 2019 while also being a proving run producer and a player who can top 100 runs scored.
Last season, Acuna split time as the leadoff hitter across his 119 games played. Nonetheless, when in the leadoff spot, the Braves outfielder ranks among the best leadoff hitters in the game right now.
Last season Acuna posted a .351 on-base percentage to go along with 15 home runs, 24 doubles, and 71 runs scored in just 119 games.
5. Cedric Mullins
Current Team: Baltimore Orioles, Former Teams: NA
If you are looking for a player to work a count, find a way to put the ball in play, steal second base, and score on a base hit from the leadoff spot Cedric Mullins of the Baltimore Orioles is your guy.
Mullins finished last season ranked 3rd in hits (155), third in doubles (32), 7th in home runs (16), and 6th in runs batted in (62), all coming from the leadoff position. In addition to those numbers, Mullins ranked among the league leaders with 34 stolen bases and 89 runs.
Despite Mullins taking a step back last season from his All-Star performance in 2021, the Orioles’ star outfielder has all the tools to continue to rank among the best leadoff hitters in baseball.
6. Brandon Nimmo
Current Team: New York Mets, Former Teams: NA
A fan favorite in the New York Mets organization is the team’s everyday leadoff hitter and center fielder Brandon Nimmo.
Nimmo, who made his MLB debut in 2016, has been solid for the club since arriving in the majors while posting a strong on-base percentage despite less-than-stellar batting average marks.
Last season it all came together for the Mets center fielder as he posted a career-high 102 runs scored to go along with a career-high 159 hits over 151 games played.
In addition, Nimmo added 30 doubles, 16 home runs, seven triples, 64 runs batted in, and a .367 on-base percentage mark. His ability to get on base earns him a spot among the best leadoff hitters in baseball.
7. Kyle Schwarber
Current Team: Philadelphia Phillies, Former Teams: Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals & Boston Red Sox
When you hear the name Kyle Schwarber, you think of a power-hitting outfielder with a lower batting average not typical for a leadoff hitter.
However, as teams focus on getting their biggest hitters their most at-bats, Schwarber took advantage of it last season, hitting 38 of his 46 home runs for the Philadelphia Phillies in the leadoff spot in the batting order.
Schwarber added 94 runs batted in, 100 runs scored, and 21 doubles to go along with those numbers while picking up 86 walks.
If the Phillies outfielder could raise his batting average to the upper .200 mark, he would rank as the one of the upper best leadoff hitters in baseball.
8. Steven Kwan
Current Team: Cleveland Guardians, Former Teams: NA
The 2022 Cleveland Guardians rookie made a huge splash in his rookie season while appearing in 147 of 162 games played.
The Guardians outfielder ranked among the game’s top leadoff hitters last season despite playing in his first games at the big-league level.
Kwan finished his rookie season with a .298 batting average, with a .373 on-base percentage mark, scoring 89 runs and driving in 52 runs.
In addition, Kwan posted 168 hits, 25 doubles, seven triples, six home runs, and stole 19 bases while being the Guardians’ leadoff hitter.
9. Luis Arraez
Current Team: Miami Marlins, Former Teams: Minnesota Twins
Another name that might be less familiar to fans is Luis Arraez of the Miami Marlins. Arraez, who joins the Marlins this season after spending the past four seasons with the Minnesota Twins, ranked among the best leadoff hitters last season, picking up 173 hits in 144 games.
Among those 173 hits, the former Twins first baseman picked up 31 doubles, one triple, and eight home runs while driving in 49 runs and scoring 88 runs.
Overall, Arraez finished the season with the most games played in his career (144), posting a .316 batting average with a .375 on-base percentage mark.
10. Yandy Diaz
Current Team: Tampa Bay Rays, Former Teams: Cleveland Indians
Rounding out the 10 Best Leadoff Hitters in Baseball right now is the Tampa Bay Rays’ everyday third baseman, Yandy Diaz.
Diaz is coming off his best season in the majors last season after posting career highs in runs scored (71), hits (140), doubles (33), and walks (78).
In addition to those numbers, Diaz posted a .296 batting average across the season while posting a .401 on-base percentage mark.
The Rays’ leadoff hitter ranked tied for 11th in hits (100), 5th in doubles (28), 1st in batting average (.317), and 1st in on-base percentage (.407) among qualified leadoff hitters batting in the leadoff position last season.
3 Best Leadoff Hitters of All Time
1. Rickey Henderson
Former Teams: Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox & Los Angeles Dodgers
When you think about the greatest lead hitter of all time, Rickey Henderson is one of the first names that comes to mind.
The former 25-year-old Baseball Hall of Famer finished his career ranked as the all-time leader with 1,406 stolen bases, the most stolen bases in a single season with 130 during the 1982 MLB schedule, and is the MLB stolen base career leader.
Henderson was a player who could turn a hit or walk into a triple after stealing both second base and third base, allowing a single to drive him.
However, Henderson could also get ahold of a pitch to lead off the game as he hit 81 leadoff home runs over his career.
His overall statistics, including his 3,055 hits, 2,295 runs scored, and 1,406 stolen bases, easily make him the best leadoff history in history.
2. Ichiro Suzuki
Former Teams: Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees & Miami Marlins
Another phenomenal leadoff history in baseball history while ranking among the game’s best leadoff hitters is Ichiro Suzuki.
Suzuki, however, was not only a great leadoff hitter in MLB but also a great hitter in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, delaying his MLB debut until he was 27 years old.
Nonetheless, the older start didn’t slow him down as he finished his career with 3,089 hits, 780 runs batted in, 509 stolen bases, and a career .311 batting average while winning both the AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP awards in his rookie season in 2001.
To go along with those numbers, Ichiro posted a career .355 on-base percentage while scoring 1,420 runs over his career.
3. Tim Raines
Former Teams: Florida Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Montreal Expos
The third-best leadoff hitter in MLB history is the great Tim Raines, who played 23 seasons in the majors while posting a career .294 batting average with 2,605 hits.
Raines was a craft leadoff hitter who could work the count, show a little power, and steal a base. Over his career, Raines picked up 430 career doubles, 170 home runs, drove in 980 runs, and stole 808 bases.
In addition to the 808 bases stolen, Raines scored 1,571 runs while maintaining a career .385 on-base percentage.
His ability to get on base allowed his teammates a chance to pick up an early run or start a rally.
Baseball is built around many components, all coming together to create the game of baseball we all love to play and watch. These baseball components start with the game’s fundamentals, from pitching and hitting to stealing bases to throwing to field.
In addition, many strategic elements of baseball, including building a baseball lineup, deciding who will be the leadoff hitter and the nine-hole hitter, and building the roster around what the team is looking to do, may go unnoticed.
Hopefully this article sheds more light on the best leadoff hitters in 2023, as well as the best leadoff hitters of all time!