2008 Cubs Preview: Alfonso Soriano
It's a testament to Alfonso Soriano's solid season last year that Cubdom is more abuzz with speculation about where he'll hit in the lineup, than whether or not the Tribune company would have been better off to buy Bear Stearns stock.
Last year, you'll remember, The Fonse finished with a .299/.327/.599 line (Avg/OBP/SLG), 33 home runs, 70 RBI, 97 runs, 42 doubles, 5 triples, and 19 stolen bases. Solid production to be sure, but some have questioned the wisdom of his longterm contract.
Looking forward to 2008, we can hopefully expect a modest increase in most of those numbers. If you'll recall, Alfonso tore his quadriceps on August 5th, missed 19 games, and was hobbled for the remainder of the season.
With any luck, Soriano will play the entire season healthy. You'd thus expect the 'count' statistics to increase, and we hope the rate stats increase as his speed continues to recover. Further, in '08 Soriano will also be playing left field for an entire year. Last year, the Fonse played the first 12 games in centerfield... and that was an adventure, to be kind.
The only major thing that looks to change this year is Soriano's spot in the lineup. Uncle Lou's tried him as the leadoff man, in the two-hole and as the #5 hitter at points this spring. While I won't pretend (today) to be a better lineup constructionist than Sweet Lou, I know the Fonse doesn't fit as a natural leadoff hitter... this isn't news of course... even Alfonso will admit that and has repeatedly stated he'll bat wherever he's asked to. Still, willingness to be flexible, and success with that flexibility are two different things.
If the Brian Roberts trade does go through, we'll all be excited and we'll have a natural lead-off man. But, if we don't nab Baltimore's second sacker, Soriano might end up being the Cubs' best bet at the top of the order.
Opening day is in one week. Until then, enjoy your sweet dreams of Fonsie gunning down runners at the plate. He nabbed 19 outfield assists last year in 122 games in left.