The early question in Spring Training that many reporters are asking when they look at the projected Opening Day lineup of the Chicago Cubs is where will the power come from? Gone from the team are first baseman Carlos Pena and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, the two players that provided the most power for the Cubs last season. Pena was replaced with Bryan LaHair at first base, and Ramirez was replaced with former Colorado Rockie Ian Stewart at third base.
Cubbies Crib has already gone into great length talking about what LaHair will bring to the team in 2012, but Stewart has gone unnoticed to a certain degree. Stewart hit below the Mendoza line with no home runs in 2011, but the third baseman has proved that he is capable of hitting 18+ home runs in a season. Nonetheless, considering Stewart will likely be in a semi-platoon with Jeff Baker, the former Rockie may not garner enough at bats to be the Cubs’ main source of power in 2012.
The Cubs’ power input in 2012 may come from the one player that the Cubs’ fans have been lobbying the front office to trade since 2010. That player being Alfonso Soriano. Soriano is in an interesting position with the Cubs’ in 2012. Soriano has observed the likes of Pena, Ramirez, and Carlos Zambrano be shown the door from the organization, and it was no secret that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had multiple conversations with the Baltimore Orioles earlier this off-season about a potential trade involving the left fielder. Not to mention that Soriano was only Cubs’ player to be booed at the Cubs’ convention in January.
Despite all the reasons to think that Soriano is on the outs with the Cubs’ organization; Epstein, Hoyer, and manager Dale Sveum have done nothing but talk up the left fielder. Initially, I thought that Epstein was talking up Soriano the same way the organization had on Tyler Colvin, Sean Marshall, and Zambrano. At one point this off-season, it would seem that the member’s of the Cubs’ front office would talk up a player before finalizing a trade that involved said player. But that does not appear to be the case with Soriano as the left fielder remains with the Cubs and there are no plans for the team to release him.
Soriano has responded well to the new voices in his ear as the left fielder has started Spring Training off on a strong note. In eight at bats over three cactus league games, Soriano is hitting .625/.625/1.875/2.500 with three home runs and four RBIs. The caveat to Soriano’s numbers would be that for one, it is too early to judge Soriano and two, judging a player from Spring Training statistics is risky business. But nonetheless, with the Cubs in search for a power source in 2012, it is nice to see Soriano get off to an impressive start.
One thing Soriano’s impressive Spring start will not change is the fact that he should be playing in the American League. There is talk that the National League will eventually adopt the designated hitter rule, but until that happens, Soriano will always be a misfit on the Cubs’ roster. For that reason, it is still in the Cub’ best interest to rid themselves of Soriano as soon as they can.
The Cubs are going to score runs in 2o12. Every Major League team manages to put up at least two or three runs per game. But in a season in where the Cubs’ are building towards the future, Soriano’s power may not be as welcomed as Brett Jackson‘s athleticism would be.