Tag Archives: Alfonso Soriano

Cubs Suffering Power Outage

Chicago Cubs HR

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.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Cubs Blog

When Cubs Had Josh Hamilton, Angel Pagan and Alfonso Soriano

Crazy to think at one point the Cubs could’ve played an outfield of Josh Hamilton, Angel Pagan and Alfonso Soriano.

It could’ve happened as early as 2007, but the possibility hardly had a chance to take root and likely wouldn’t have lasted long anyway.

Chicago selected Hamilton with the third overall pick in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, but immediately traded him to Cincinnati for $100,000.

Meanwhile, Pagan, then 24, had just made his major league debut in 2006. He stayed through 2007 as a part-time player (injuries too) before Jim Hendry traded him during the offseason to the Mets for Corey Coles and Ryan Meyers, neither of whom reached the big leagues.

Granted the Cubs won back-to-back divisions titles in ’07-’08, but what might have been had Hendry not pushed all his chips in on outfielders Matt Murton, Felix Pie and Kosuke Fukudome?

And that’s not to forget Soriano’s mega-deal of 8-years, $136M.

To be fair, Hendry wasn’t always afforded the luxury of a long-term approach to win a world series. The Tribune company wanted to sell the team and a championship trophy was the leverage to increase the selling price. The future success of the organization was barely an afterthought.

Shortsightedness, however, is one of the pitfalls of a ‘win-now’ mentality the Cubs were operating under five-years ago. It induces panic to set in when falling short of the ultimate goal, and when panic takes hold you sign Milton Bradley.

That’s why it’s so encouraging Tom Ricketts is taking an opposite approach from the previous ownership. With Team Theo the Cubs are methodically building a plan for sustained success.

The ultimate goal will always be winning the world series, but when the Cubs fall short it won’t take hitting rock-bottom to get another crack at the hardware.

The pace of rebuilding is painfully slow, but the chance another dynamic outfield trio slips through Chicago’s hands is unlikely. With Epstein at the wheel the future will never be out of sight out of mind; for which we can be thankful.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cubs Blog

Cubs Better Off Keeping Soriano?

Theo Epstein says he won’t ‘give away’ Alfonso Soriano this week via trade.

But the more I think about it, ‘settling’ on an offer for Sori during the Winter Meetings might be the best option for Chicago.

Soriano turns 37 in January. His trade value will likely never be higher than what it is now coming off his productive season in 2012.

If the Cubs wait to deal Soriano there’s the risk he gets off to a slow start in 2013 or worse, gets injured. Then what do you get for him?

His full no-trade clause could also make it tougher to deal him next July, as was the case this past year, which only increases the risk of hanging on to him.

Perhaps the biggest trouble is replacing Soriano’s offensive production (32 HR, 108 RBI, 121 OPS+).

The Cubs finished 28/30 in runs scored last season with only a few signs indicating the offense could be slightly better next season.

However, if the Cubs land a quality center fielder this week the offensive outlook changes. Another legit hitting outfielders alongside Soriano could survive with a rotating platoon in right field.

It may take the Cubs figuring out what they’re going to do in center field before determining what to do about Soriano in left.

But if I’m the Cubs I’d pull the trigger on the best offer for Soriano in Nashville. He needs to be replaced eventually and it’s hard to imagine the offers for him are any better following the Winter Meetings.

I don’t want to see the Cubs ‘give away’ Soriano, either. But I would like to see something of value in return for him, too.

2 Comments

Filed under Cubs Blog

Cubs MVP 2012

-Alfonso Soriano: .262/.322/.499, .821 OPS.

Say what you will about Sori, but this was his best all-around season with Chicago. Despite a nagging knee injury, Soriano played in 151-games, hit 32 HR and drove in a career-high 108 RBI, leading the club in both categories, with little protection in the lineup.

He may not win the Gold Glove, but his fielding was the best it’s ever been and the guy earned every penny of his contract setting a positive example for the youthful Cubs both on and off the field.

Now it’s a matter of whether or not the Cubs should trade him this offseason? If so, how do the Cubs replace Soriano’s offensive production, or is it best to keep him for another season?

Honorable mentions: Darwin Barney (clutch fielding, leadership), David DeJesus (gamer, leadership), Anthony Rizzo (sparked lineup, solid defense), Shawn Camp (because Sveum says so!).

Leave a comment

Filed under Cubs Blog

Cubs Best Fielder 2012

-Darwin Barney: A no-brainer. Set the NL record and tied the major league record for most consecutive games at 2B without a fielding error (141).

And despite the consecutive-games errorless streak, Barney continued to show solid range, dive after balls and make difficult throws from his position.

He started the second most games (146), turned the second most double plays (96) and his two miscues were the fewest of any regular starting second baseman in the National League.

It’s a crime if Barney doesn’t win the Gold Glove. And no, I don’t think the Cubs should trade Darwin this offseason…see above. Honorable mentions: Alfonso Soriano (12 assists, 1 error, .996), David DeJesus (8 assists, 2 errors, .993), Reed Johnson (3 assists, 1 error, .987).

Leave a comment

Filed under Cubs Blog

Cubs’ Most Improved Player

-Anthony Rizzo 2012: .285/.342/.463, .805 OPS.

After an underwhelming debut with San Diego in 2011 (.141, 1 HR, 9 RBI) Rizzo revamped his swing at Triple-A Iowa to become a legit hitting threat for the Cubs upon his arrival in late June.

In just over half a season (87-games) Rizzo hit 15 HR and drove in 48 RBI. In addition to his power, he also hit for average, against left-handers (4 HR, 17 RBI) and in the clutch with a sparkling .338 average with RISP. He finished second only to Soriano in game-winning RBI and held down the No.3 spot in the order from day one.

All signs indicate Rizzo will be a fixture at first base for years to come, a perennial All Star and a key figure in the Cubs’ rebuilding plans.

Perhaps the only thing more exciting than Rizzo’s improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 is how much better he could become next season.

Honorable mention: Alfonso Soriano 32 HR, career-high 108 RBI, best defensive season of his career.

2 Comments

Filed under Cubs Blog

Sori’s New Company, Barney’s Streaks, Marmol & Valbuena

Yesterday I gushed over Alfonso Soriano’s numbers this season. He homered again last night, a two-run blast onto Waveland Ave in the sixth, giving him 30 HR & 103 RBI for the year.

He now joins an elite group of Cubs players age 36 or older to hit 30-plus HR and drive in 100 or more RBI:

  • Hank Sauer
  • Andre Dawson
  • Fred McGriff
  • Moises Alou

GOLD GLOVE: Last night Darwin Barney struck out swinging in the bottom of the ninth snapping his string of 55-plate appearances without a strikeout–which was the longest in the majors.

His 0-for-5 performance also ends his career-high and team season-high 13-game hitting streak this year.

However, Barney’s National League record of consecutive games without committing a fielding error remains intact at 134-straight contests. With 12-games remaining this season Darwin still has an opportunity to break Placido Polanco’s major league record of 141-straight games without an error at second base.

MARMOL TIME: Would you believe Carlos Marmol has successfully converted his last 19 save opportunities? That’s a career-high for Marmol, whose previous mark of consecutive saves was 18-straight from August, 2010- April, 2011.

Marmol’s last blown save came on May 2, making him one of only two closers in the majors to be perfect in save chances since the second month of the season–the Padres’ Huston Street is the other (18/18).

DOWN LOOKING: I want to believe in Brett Jackson, but his glaring strikeout rate and inexperience was on full display last night when he struck out looking with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth and the game tied 5-5.

That simply can’t happen, especially on a pitch up in the zone and right over the inner half of the plate.

Bob Brenly wasn’t pleased with Jackson’s at-bat either saying “A batter has to be hungry to hit in those situations.” A lesson learned I hope.

WAKING UP LUIS: Is Josh Vitters’ lack of production making Luis Valbuena a little too comfortable at third?

It was only a month ago Valbuena was guilty of not running hard out of the box on a hit he presumably thought would leave the yard in Milwaukee. Valbuena was inexcusable picked-off second base while fiddling with his batting gloves last night.

Is Sveum too desperate to avoid a 100-loss season that he won’t sit Valbuena to send a message. What’s it going to take to keep Valbuena’s head in the game?

Leave a comment

Filed under Cubs Blog