Inciarte solidifying role as leadoff hitter

Inciarte solidifying role as leadoff hitter

ATLANTA -- Over the past three seasons, 19 players have batted leadoff for the Braves. And although eight have filled that spot this year, Ender Inciarte has cemented his status atop the order over the past two months.

Since becoming the team's primary leadoff hitter on Aug. 5, Inciarte has batted .341 (72-for-211) with 43 runs in 48 starts. His average since the All-Star break sits at .351, which ranks as the eighth-best mark in Atlanta history.

"We haven't had a good leadoff hitter for a while. Ender's come in and solidified that role for us," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Now we've got guys behind him, and when he gets on base, there's a real good chance we're going to score. It's been a lot better."

When Atlanta acquired Inciarte from the D-backs in the Shelby Miller trade on Dec. 9, 2015, the club hoped the speedy center fielder would give it a viable option at the top of the lineup that has been missing in recent years. And with a .316 average while hitting leadoff in 2016, the 25-year-old has proven to be just that.

Only one player (Michael Bourn in 2012) has appeared in 100 games as the Braves' leadoff hitter since Marcus Giles did so 113 times in 2006. While Inciarte has batted leadoff on just 73 occasions, he has established a stranglehold on the position entering next season.

Inciarte's presence at the top of the order has paid dividends for the entire Atlanta lineup, which has remained fairly consistent since he moved to the leadoff spot.

"I think that's big in any team," Snitker said. "I remember years ago when the Phillies were so good. Obviously, they had their pitching, but they played that same lineup every day. I think good teams have that established lineup, and guys come in every day knowing what's going on. If they're not playing, then you tell them the night before. It's a constant."

And Inciarte has been, too.

Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.