Dale Sveum pictures Alfonso Soriano hitting in the cleanup spot. Really?
Seems hard to believe given the 36-year-old isn’t nearly the hitter he was five years ago when he joined the Cubs.
Even Mike Quade never hit Soriano above the fifth spot last season, instead using him primarily as a sixth & seventh hole hitter, which seems more in line for a guy who batted .244 with an on-base percentage of less than .300.
Of course, Quade had Aramis and Pena. Sveum has, well, Soriano, whose 26 home runs in 2011 tied Aramis for second most on the team and trailed only Carlos Pena’s 28 HR. Soriano’s 88 RBI was also second best, trailing A-Ram’s 93 RBI.
But with Ramirez and Pena having departed the North Side, Alfonso remains the Cubs most experienced power bat, which appears why Sveum will pencil him into the four hole.
This isn’t the end of the world, folks. We know Soriano isn’t the answer at cleanup for the long haul, maybe not even through May.
The Cubs, thankfully, have several potential power bats on the roster, and a few more in the minor league ranks.
But realistically, until those potential power bats start churning out productive power numbers, you can’t blame Sveum for playing the hand dealt to him.
That aside, I’m particularly interested how Soriano responds to hitting higher up in the order. That is what he prefers to do, and he said as much last season, albeit with great diplomacy as a team player.
And considering Sveum intends to bat Starlin Castro third, can’t we fairly assume pitchers would rather face Soriano than the reigning league leader in hits?
Soriano, in turn, would likely see more strikes, more fastballs (especially when Castro’s on base) and hit in better counts.
Just imagine what the Cubs could accomplish with a healthy Soriano hitting 30-plus HR and driving in more than 100 RBI.
Or simply imagine the possibility of Soriano actually gaining trade value come the end of July.
I fully admit that’s a big stretch of one’s imagination–even for Dale Sveum.
Now it’s up to Soriano to make it a reality.