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Blackmon open to moving out of leadoff spot

Rockies center fielder could hit 3rd, breaking up right-handed bats
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Charlie Blackmon set Major League records from the leadoff position last season and provides power and run production like no other hitter in that spot. But when asked by reporters Thursday, Blackmon said he would be willing to move if it would make the Rockies' lineup better.

"We have not discussed it yet, but I am sure it's a possibility," said Blackmon, who avoided salary arbitration with a one-year, $14 million contract for 2018 and is eligible for free agency at season's end. "It seems like it could be a good idea.

DENVER -- Charlie Blackmon set Major League records from the leadoff position last season and provides power and run production like no other hitter in that spot. But when asked by reporters Thursday, Blackmon said he would be willing to move if it would make the Rockies' lineup better.

"We have not discussed it yet, but I am sure it's a possibility," said Blackmon, who avoided salary arbitration with a one-year, $14 million contract for 2018 and is eligible for free agency at season's end. "It seems like it could be a good idea.

"I am comfortable leading off. And it has been working. But it may not be the best lineup construction."

Blackmon amassed 103 (of his 104) RBIs from the leadoff position to eclipse the previous mark, 100 by the Angels' Darin Erstad in 2000. Blackmon's 383 total bases also set a Major League record, and his 86 extra-base hits were a National League record.

However, with Carlos Gonzalez exploring free agency, the Rockies potentially could enter 2018 without a proven hitter at the No. 3 spot -- between No. 2 hitter DJ LeMahieu and cleanup man Nolan Arenado. It's conceivable that the spot is appropriate for Blackmon, who is coming off leading the NL in batting at .331 and tied Arenado for the team lead in home runs with 37. He would be a lefty bat between two productive righties.

Video: MLB Network breaks down Blackmon's Silver Slugger win

But with about two months before the start of the season, the Rockies could address the middle of the order via free agency or even a trade.

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Also, David Dahl, who didn't appear in the Majors last season because of a rib injury, and Raimel Tapia are outfielders who have been groomed to hit at key spots in the lineup throughout their Minor League careers -- at the top or in the middle. Each has flashed potential in the Majors.

Dahl hit .315 with seven home runs, 24 RBIs, 12 doubles and four triples in a 63-game trial in 2016. Tapia bounced between Triple-A and the Majors last year, but had a solid .288 average, two home runs, 16 RBIs, 12 doubles and two triples during his 171 plate appearances with Colorado. Both are baserunning threats, with Statcast™ having clocked Tapia with some of the highest top speeds in the Majors last season.

Blackmon hit .291 with a .321 on-base percentage while breaking in from 2011-13 -- a period interrupted by foot and knee injuries. Blackmon became the regular center fielder and leadoff man in 2014, and he responded with an All-Star Game appearance and a .288 average and .335 on-base percentage. His OBP and slugging percentages have improved each year since, leading to a career season and an All-Star start in 2017.

Since 2014, according to STATS, Blackmon tops all leadoff hitters with 2,318 at-bats, with Dee Gordon (now with the Mariners) second at 2,136, and Blackmon's .309 batting average and .517 slugging percentage are tops. His .367 on-base percentage over that period ranks sixth, but no one ahead of him has more than 1,639 at-bats (the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter leads at .389).

But to turn away from Blackmon at the top of the order could mean turning away from record-setting run production and power from a spot not known for either. His 102 homers, 418 runs scored, 312 RBIs and 127 doubles lead Major League leadoff batters since 2014, and his 31 triples are second only to Gordon's 35.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Charlie Blackmon