For most of baseball history, the No. 1 spot in the lineup was reserved for the speediest, and therefore often the smallest, player on the team.

Vince Coleman, Maury Wills, Tim Raines, Lou Brock, Kenny Lofton and the immortal Rickey Henderson, each of whom checked in at less than six feet tall and less than 185 pounds, turned the position into a cliche that forced teams to overlook important statistics like on-base percentage and one’s ability to hit with no one on base.

Today, the leadoff position is a different ballgame.

Of the qualified leadoff hitters in the game today, only five have cracked double-digits in stolen bases this season. 

Bye-bye speed. Hello on-base percentage!

Among those players qualified, Cincinnati’s Shin-Soo Choo has the highest on-base percentage (.425). He checks in at 5’11” and 205 pounds and has more career home runs than stolen bases. 

The top batting average (.316) belongs to St. Louis second baseman Matt Carpenter. He checks in at 6’3” and 200 pounds and for his career has exactly two stolen bases.

Neither Choo nor Carpenter would have had the opportunity to hit leadoff 30 years ago with stolen base totals and figures like that.

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for the young up-and-coming leadoff hitters of the future, guys like Gary Brown and Billy Hamilton, who still place an emphasis on speed.

The simple truth is that today’s leadoff hitters are as balanced as ever, containing a combination of on-base skills and speed with a dash of pop for good measure.

With an eye to the future of the position, let’s take a look at the top leadoff hitting prospects in baseball right now.

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