Don’t be surprised if Alfonso Soriano ends up in the leadoff spot this season.
It won’t happen anytime soon, or necessarily come as a permanent change, but dire circumstances could place Soriano atop the Cubs order once again.
It’s a situation Dale Sveum tried to put to rest earlier this spring after batting Alfonso in the leadoff spot during a spring training game.
But the manager has yet to set his Opening Day lineup and is admitting ‘losing sleep’ deciding his everyday batting order–a brain teaser that will undoubtedly carry over into the regular season.
Sveum’s frustration, however, is to be expected. The Cubs everyday players are riddled with question marks–including Soriano.
Is Castro ready to bat third? Has Darwin Barney improved his stamina? Will Bryan LaHair hit as well in the bigs as he did at Triple-A? Can David DeJesus be a productive leadoff man?
Ideally, Sveum would like to hit Soriano 3-4 or 5 in the lineup. And given Sori’s monster spring, there’s no reason not to hit him in the middle of the order.
But what if the Cubs don’t get off to the ideal start? What if DeJesus is a flop, Barney suffers a sophomore slump…what about injuries? Then who does Sveum pencil into the leadoff spot?
There’s certainly a host of candidates to lead the lineup in replacement of DeJesus, but none may be as qualified or as comfortable as Soriano hitting from the top spot.
Jeff Baker doesn’t fill the role, neither does Ian Stewart. Marlon Byrd could be traded leaving the popular choice as speedster Tony Campana, who has the look of a typical leadoff man, but often appeared over-matched at the plate last season.
This isn’t me clamoring for Soriano to bat leadoff. In fact, if and when it does happen, it will clearly signal the Cubs are headed in the wrong direction in the standings.
Nothing is ideal about starting a 36-year-old leadoff hitter with a penchant for striking out–unless he’s your best option, of course.
The baseball season rarely goes as planned from start to finish, which is why Soriano in the leadoff spot isn’t a far off reality, even as unlikely as it appears nine days before the season’s lid-lifter.