Chicago Cubs: Assessing the left-handed power production

Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs
Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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It was a bit of a bummer for some Chicago Cubs fans to hear that free agent outfielder Michael Conforto was heading to the San Francisco Giants on Friday morning. Conforto, while risky with missing last year due to shoulder issues, seemed like an ideal fit to give the Cubs a lefty power bat. As it stands, the Cubs are very heavily right-handed in their lineup.

Evaluating what they currently have in the left-handed power department, it is safe to say there are a lot of "what ifs" in terms of what we will get in 2023. The guys on the team and in the organization slated to be the left-handed power contributors this coming season contain a mix of players looking to bounce back and prospects.

The first guy we have to mention is Ian Happ, the switch-hitter. In his MLB career, he has taken 1,600 at-bats from the left side and 527 from the right. 89 of his 104 career home runs have been hit as a lefty. The sample size is obviously very lopsided, but throughout his career, he has had more success slugging as a lefty.

However, we have to note that Happ in his 2022 All Star season did sacrifice some power for contact. He hit 17 home runs (as opposed to 25 in 2021) but dropped his strikeout rate by six points and raised his contact rate 5.5 points. It's probably safe to estimate his home run total to be around 20 next year. Steamer projections slate him to hit 23. It is worth noting that he averages 2.5 home runs from the right side a year, so if we estimate 20 home runs for Happ in 2023, likely around 17 of them would be from the left side if we are just basing off averages.

The only other lefty with established power on the current 40-man roster is Cody Bellinger, and he is looking to regain some form. Last year, despite his struggles, he did hit 19 home runs in 144 games. He's hit 152 home runs in 745 games in his career. It is hard to imagine him hitting 47 as he did in his 2019 MVP season, but if he can hit around 20, that would give the Cubs something.

One possible source of power that is not currently on the 40-man is first-base prospect Matt Mervis. There is a lot of speculation that he will be on the team at some point in 2023. Whether it is on Opening Day or not remains to be seen. He hit 36 home runs in 137 MiLB games in 2022, plus another six in the Arizona Fall League. He is currently the team's 21st-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline. His path could be greatly determined in Spring, especially if they land another first baseman. It does feel like a safe bet that he will see MLB time at some point in 2023.

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Things can change between now and Opening Day, and hopefully the lefty pop the Cubs do have can maximize their production, because there is not a whole lot of it.

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