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

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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.

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