Patience, young ones!
The Cubs are bad at a lot of things, but from an organizational standpoint, there's one area at which they have really sucked lately: barring few exceptions, they lack young position player talent.
Fortunately for us, at least there are a few exceptions. Actually, it's probably more like "a couple." Really, all we've got going for us are Geovany Soto and Tyler Colvin.
And two months ago, popular opinion was that even those two weren't very good. Soto had just come off a terrible '09 season (did you hear about that? at all? maybe?), and Colvin hadn't yet visited the Beautiful State of Iowa.
But things have looked good at the start of the 2010 season, and a lot of it has to do with patience at the plate.
As of this exact moment, Geo Soto has a .500 on-base percentage. So that is pretty great. He's also shown solid power, with an isolated slugging percentage of .189 (calcuated by subtracting batting average from slugging percentage; league average is .150).
His success appears to be a consequence of his decision to be really, really, really picky at the plate, something I've written about before but feel compelled to reiterate now.
If a pitch is thrown outside the zone, Soto will rarely swing. He's third in the league among hitters with as many plate appearances as he has, having swung at just 12% of pitches thrown outside the zone (league average is a whopping 26.9%).
While Soto has always shown an above average ability to see the ball, his walk rate has never been this good. He's walking in 24.3% of his plate appearances, which is twice his career average. But hopefully once pitchers throw him more strikes, we'll see more extra-base hits.
Then there's Tyler Colvin, the Spring Fling Phenom who hit something like .879 in Arizona -- which was all well and good, except for the whole part about not walking once.
That's always been Colvin's main problem, and actually tends to be how the Cubs draft (see Vitters, Josh; Jackson, Brett; even Dopirak, Brian). I guess they figure you can teach patience, but you can't teach power.
Well, Colvin has taken that criticism and walked with it -- six times, in fact, in 53 plate appearances, for an 11.3% walk rate (which is above league average, actually).
Will that trend continue? I sort of doubt it. But I do think the power -- he's got a slugging percentage of .600 right now (.311 ISO!!) -- will hold up.
Good stuff from the young Cubs so far this season. Let's hope they keep it up.