It’s clear the Cubs could use more pop in the lineup.
Since leading the National League in home runs in 2004 (the Cubs finished second in MLB to the Yankees & White Sox who tied with 242 HR) Chicago’s seen a steady decline in its overall power numbers.
The threesome of Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano accounted for the lion’s share of home run production from 2007 until the band was broken up in 2010 with the trade of Lee to Atlanta. Aramis was gone a year later and Soriano appears out the door any day now.
From 2009 on the Cubs have had only two players aside from A-Ram, D-Lee and Soriano crack 20+ home runs in a season: Tyler Colvin with 20 (2010) and Carlos Pena with 28 (2011).
Not surprisingly, with Colvin and Pena departed by 2012 the Cubs had but one hitter surpass the 20 home run mark last season: Soriano with 32 HR. The next closest was Bryan LaHair with 16 HR.
The outlook for 2013, unfortunately, isn’t much better. With LaHair traded this offseason to Japan, and Soriano rumored to be headed elsewhere via trade, the Cubs are starved for power at the traditional power positions for an NL team.
Ideally you want your big boppers patrolling the corner outfield and the corner infield. As it stands, the Cubs’ outfield consists of David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz–who combined for 15 HR last season–and a handful of light-hitting backups. So unless Ian Stewart and Louis Valbuena finally reach their potential, it’s basically Anthony Rizzo as the lone power threat at the corners.
Rizzo of course appears to be a lock to reach 20+ home runs for the foreseeable future. He hit 15 HR in 87-games last year, which projects out to roughly 30 bombs over a full season. And thankfully more muscle appears on the horizon.
- Starlin Castro could develop more power. His home run numbers have increased in each of his first three seasons: 3, 10, 14.
- Top prospect Jorge Soler, 20, has all the makings of a dynamic major league power hitter. At 6’3″, 205lbs he’s already displayed majestic power shots in the minor leagues; quickly earning the nickname ‘Soler Power’.
- Outfielder Albert Almora, 18, who was Chicago’s top-pick in the amateur draft last June, could potentially be a 20+ home run hitter.
- Shortstop Javier Baez, ranked the top prospect in the Midwest League this past season, has shown plenty of raw power.
- Brett Jackson still has a shot to be a power guy if his revamped swing this offseason pans out.
There are likely to be other prospects who will show power potential and it’s fair to assume the Cubs will eventually dip into the free agent market to land a slugger. My guess is that would most likely come to fruition next winter, although this offseason is far from over and it’s becoming more unpredictable by the day.
But while it’s nice to think about the Cubs’ power production looking upwards in the seasons to come, it’s worth remembering round-trippers don’t mean everything.
What better example than the world champion Giants? San Francisco not only hit 34 fewer home runs than the Cubs did last season, but ranked dead last in all of baseball with 103 dingers.
Pitching and defense have always been the staples of championship teams, but it couldn’t hurt the Cubs’ anemic offense to park a few more hits on Waveland and Sheffield next summer.