Wow – can it really be true? Can we really believe Cubs Manager Lou Pinella at his word? We know it’s still early in spring training, but Pinella actually said that he wouldn’t throw out the possibility that Alfonso Soriano could hit somewhere else in the lineup other than the leadoff spot. Stop the presses, stop the presses!!!
Pinella was asked about the 3, 4 and 5 spots in his lineup, and although he was talking about Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and newly acquired outfielder Milton Bradley, Pinella also indicated that Alfonso Soriano could find himself in the mix for one of those spots. Pinella has also emphasized the fact that he wants to give Lee and Ramirez more days off during the course of the season, so who’s to say that Soriano couldn’t fill one of their spots on those off days or even more often.
Although Soriano doesn’t have the on-base percentage (.344 in 2008) or stolen base (19 in each of 2007 and 2008) numbers that you want out of your leadoff hitter, it’s hard to argue with his success for the Cubs in that spot in the lineup. During the 2008 MLB season, Soriano hit .287 in 105 games as the leadoff hitter and the Cubs won 69 of those games – a .657 winning percentage. In his other 4 games in 2008, Soriano hit 2nd in the lineup twice and 3rd and 7th in the lineup one time each. For the 2009 MLB season, other options for Pinella include Ryan Theriot, Aaron Miles, Reed Johnson, Mike Fontenot and Kosuke Fukodome (only if he shows can be more patient than he was at the end of the 2008 MLB season).
My prediction is that Soriano will remain in the leadoff spot once we make it all the way through spring training. One intriguing option, at least for me, is to put Ryan Theriot in the leadoff spot. Theriot held his own during the 2008 MLB season and continues to build into an all-around dependable player. In 148 games in 2007, Theriot hit .266 with a .326 on-base percentage. In 149 games in 2008, Theriot made a dramatic improvement on both numbers with a .307 batting average and a .387 on-base percentage. With Theriot in the top spot, I would move Derrek Lee up to the 2-hole (since his power numbers have continued to decline – 22 home runs and 82 RBI’s in 2007; 20 home runs and 90 RBI’s in 2008), insert Alfonso Soriano into the 3 spot and follow them up with Ramirez, Bradley and Soto. In the 7th and 8th spots you can work with Fukodome and Johnson in center field, and Fontenot and Miles at 2nd base, depending on the match-ups. Will Sweet Lou take my free advice? I doubt it, but it would sure be nice to see Soriano in another spot in the lineup – at least for a few games in spring training…