Dale Sveum is impressed with Alfonso Soriano (don't implode with anger) at the lead-off spot. This comes as a surprise to many Cubs fans, Soriano hasn't been exactly a "lead-off quality" batter over the past few seasons, if even at all, only batting tops for one game. The season before that, Soriano didn't even have a single at bat leading off.
It'd be easy to wonder why this is a decision worth entertaining if you are new skipper Dale Sveum. Sveum would be - by popular opinion, under a microscope of sorts in this new era of the "Cubs Way". Many assumed two key moves in "Aeon Theo",
And those moves would be:
1. Get rid of Carlos Zambrano
2. Get rid of Alfonso Soriano
Zambrano was immediately moved to Miami, with cash in his breast pocket for Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. Soriano however, is not only staying with the Cubs as presently constituted - he got a vote of confidence too.
It would be safe to say that Alfonso has earned his money in the leadoff spot. He has well over 3,000 more at bats in that lineup spot than any other. He also has saw his most productive offense - as far as career numbers are concerned - in that very position. This table shows exactly how contrast the production numbers are for Soriano when he isn't leading off, compared to when he is in the top of the order,
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
Sveum didn't set the lineup in stone, but he did use Soriano in the leadoff spot during the team's intrasquad game Friday. The insert wasn't a direct indication of Soriano maintaining leadoff position, but he didn't rule it out indefinite. When asked about he possibility of Sori starting lead Sveum told the Chicago Tribune,
"You can possibly see just about anything," he said of his lineups. "But like I said, the middle of March, (maybe) March 20, you'll find out that I have made up my mind."
And Soriano wasn't opposed to the possibility, or any other possibility for that matter,
"I don't know my last time leading off here, two or three years ago?" he said. "I told the manager today I'm open to any decision he makes. The most important thing is I'm feeling good. We'll see what happens."
There are many possibilities as to who will be the main lead hitter for the Cubs - with David Dejesus leading the pack. I myself, have been a long fan of young superstar shortstop Starlin Castro developing into a productive lead-off batter. His speed, power combination always reminded me of a, well - Alfonso Soriano, in his prime. Tony Campana is another option with considerable speed, but not much big league experience to make a sure handed decision.
Many fans may balk at the idea of Soriano leading off for the 2012 Chicago Cubs, however this may be the best option and most productive for a unidentified Cubs lineup. Having Soriano in his most productive lineup spot in his career may give the lineup some resemblance of consistency from technical standpoint, as long as he produces.
Numbers alone should prove that Soriano is worthy, however his recent production and absence from the lead spot has caused some concern in the Cubs community. In the past two seasons, Soriano only saw 2 plate appearances. In 2009, Sori batted .228, hit 14 home runs and struck out 74 times, his lowest statistical performance batting in the top of the order.
Soriano is now 36yrs old. His up's and down's for the Cubs clubhouse have been well documented. He was spotted working out with young superstar Starlin Castro during winter workouts in their home country of the Dominican Republic, and he even appears to be taking on a role as mentor to the shortstop. For all the right reason's I am excited about Soriano's recent implementation from the cellar of the lineup to a more productive spot.
At one point in time for the Chicago Cubs, Alfonso Soriano was an MVP. Prior to that, he was a world champion. He posses the experience, skills, and leadership capabilities to assume a role as the wise vet. He also has the track record that proves he can be efficient in the lineup that desperately needs a leader by example.
In order for the Cubs to be on track this season, they will undoubtedly need Soriano's assistance - as long as he is on the roster. Whether or not he will make those contributions in the lead-off spot will depend on his focus. He has done it before, let's just hope he can still compete at the big league level and that Theo, Sveum and Hoyer are all making the right decision by keeping him a Cub.