Roster Spot #3- LF- Alfonso Soriano #12
Ht: 6'1'' Wt: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right
Few things offer as much excitement for Cubs fans as an Alfonso Soriano at-bat. Though he frequently strikes out and seems to be a walking contradiction to our belief in the power of On Base Percentage, no one, bar none, has as many eyes on him when he comes to the plate as Alfonso. Because everyone knows when he gets one, he hits faster and harder than just about anyone else in the league. Last night's spring training game against the Mariners is a prime example. In Fonzie's second at bat he hammered the first pitch he saw nearly 500 feet down the left field line. Foul. On the second pitch he hammered the next pitch 400 feet to right. Fair. How one human being has so much power in a relatively slight frame no one knows. But he downright punishes the ball.
Soriano started out in Japan, then was signed as second baseman by the Yankees, played with them from 1999-2003, though his first full year was 2001. Before the 2004 season he was traded to the Texas Rangers as the centerpiece of the A-Rod deal. After spending 2004 and 2005 with the Rangers Soriano was traded to the Washington Nationals, who wanted to move him from second base to left field, as Soriano was a less than adequate defensive second baseman. Soriano at first refused the move to left field and said he wouldn't play. When Nationals manager Frank Robinson reminded him that if he didn't play he wouldn't be eligible for free agency after the year, Soriano relented and took the field. In his two seasons as a left fielder Soriano hasn't been spectacular other than with his power arm, as he leads all major league outfielders in assists over that period with 31.
But Soriano is an offensive player and his offense vonsists of the long ball. He's hit 241 of them in his career and averages 36 a season. In his season in Washington he hit an amazing 46 over the deep walls of RFK stadium, which lead to him being the most sought after free agent of the 2006 offseason. Surprisingly the Cubs actually went after the most sought after free agent and gave him the biggest deal in Cubs history for 8 years and $136 million.
In his first season with the Cubs Soriano stayed true to his exciting-if-inconsistent history, if one looks at his month by month totals:
April: .270, 0 hrs, 1 RBI, .308 OBP, .392 slugging
May: .302, 4 hrs, 11 RBIs, .362 OBP, .500 slugging
June: .336, 11 hrs, 18 RBIs, .379 OBP, .697 slugging
July; .265, 3 hrs, 12 RBIs, .276 OBP, .425 slugging
Aug.: .250, 1hr, 1 RBI, .294 OBP, .375 slugging.
Sept/Oct: .320, 14 hrs, 27 RBIs, .354 OBP, .754 (Jesus Christ!) slugging
Soriano's April/May and August numbers especially were hurt by two stints on the DL with leg injuries which also cut his stolen base numbers from 41 in 2006 to 19 last year, but you can see that in general when he was hot, as he was in June when he won National League Player of the Month, and in September when he set a Cub record for home runs in the final month of the season, he was an unholy power-hitting force. When he was cold, he was mostly a mediocre guy who struck out a lot and had a very hard time getting on based. In the end, however, Soriano finished with 33 homers and 70 RBIs despite missing over a month total with the injuries and was the spark plug for the Cubs, as their two really great runs of the season corresponded with Soriano's two really good months, and their August slump began as soon as he went down with his quad injuries.
As Soriano goes, so go to the Cubs, so pray he goes all season long in 2008.