| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Statistically speaking: Cubs' Alcantara, Baez, Soler come up swinging

Pirates/MLB Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Pirates podcasts

  • Loading...

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By David Golebiewski
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, 10:57 p.m.

The Chicago Cubs' days as NL Central pushovers finally might end now that top-hitting talents like Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler have reached the majors. All three cracked double-digit home runs and slugged north of .500 at Triple-A Iowa, and Alcantara is the oldest at just younger than 23.

However, they haven't immediately translated their Pacific Coast League slugging exploits to the big leagues. While they could get away with chasing pitches in the minors, more seasoned MLB hurlers are exploiting their free-swinging tendencies.

Alcantara, Baez and Soler are swinging at more offerings outside the strike zone than the MLB average. Opponents have taken note and rarely are tossing them a pitch over the plate. Soler has managed to rake in his first handful of games, but all that hacking has led to abysmal on-base percentages for Alcantara (.274) and Baez (.217).

Taking their cuts

Pct. in-zoneBatter O-swing rate pitches

Baez 40.6 39.8

Alcantara 33.1 41.4

Soler 31.0 42.3

MLB Avg. 29.9 48.8

Source: Fangraphs

Baez, in particular, makes all-time hackers like Pablo Sandoval and Vlad Guerrero look patient. He's drawing walks in less than 5 percent of his plate appearances and has the fourth-highest strikeout rate (40 percent) for a rookie getting 120-plus plate appearances during the Expansion Era (1961-present).

Then-Cub Brett Jackson (41.5 percent) set the rookie punchout record in 2012, while Mike Olt (39.6 percent) is going whiff for whiff with Baez this season.

While Baez's plate approach needs serious work, there's a reason Baseball America recently named him the seventh-best prospect in the game: He makes harder contact than nearly anyone. Baez's seven home runs have traveled 10 feet farther (an average of 405 feet) than the MLB average (395 feet), according to ESPN Home Run Tracker. Those homers left his bat at an average of 105 mph, besting Andrew McCutchen (103 mph), among others.

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Pirates

  1. Pirates third baseman Ramirez’s last ride is about winning a ring
  2. Gameday: Pirates at Twins, July 28, 2015
  3. Pirates notebook: No sign of improvement for RHP Sadler
  4. Cole collects MLB-best 14th win as Pirates take series against Nationals
  5. Starting 9: Pirates help and the illusion of help
  6. Pirates minor league report: Moore a breakout star in Morgantown
  7. Pirates notebook: Cervelli cherishes All-Star gift from teammate Burnett
  8. Making splash at MLB trade deadline not always in buyers’ best interest
  9. Nationals pound Burnett, Pirates
  10. Rossi: Pirates, Cardinals deserve October showdown
  11. Gameday: Pirates vs. Nationals, July 23, 2015