After years of lamenting a low-contact approach that saw them go bust far too often for the boom to balance things out, the Cubs appear to be swinging in the other direction with their recent moves. While some of the new acquisitions do have high ceilings and power potential, the reformation of the middle of the field represents a major departure from the past.
Chief among those changes is Nick Madrigal ostensibly taking over the second base job next year with Nico Hoerner moving to shortstop full-time. The diminutive former White Sox infielder has incredible bat-to-ball skills and will almost certainly have fewer strikeouts than anyone else on the roster moving forward, but he’s only hit a total of six homers in 1,026 professional plate appearances.
Hoerner has eight homers in 749 pro PAs, but he hasn’t hit any since bursting onto the scene as a late-season call-up in 2019. While we’re only talking about 278 trips to the plate, Hoerner’s .058 ISO is the fourth-lowest out of 308 players who’ve logged at least 250 PAs since 2020. Combined with Madrigal’s .089, the Cubs would surely have the least pop of any middle-infield duo in baseball.
Just for fun, I looked it up and found that Javier Báez had 14 homers with a .215 ISO over his last 255 plate appearances for the Cubs. I’m not crying, you’re crying. There’s obviously more to it than just hitting for power, but I don’t know if you want to think about how much worse the defense will be with this new combo.
As unfair as it may be to even bother including a 19-year-old with a total of 32 plate appearances in this conversation, it bears mentioning that Pete Crow-Armstrong probably isn’t going to become a slugger. Out for the season after just a few games due to surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, the centerfielder could be more of a singles machine if things work out.
Greg Deichmann is a 26-year-old corner outfielder who’s never hit more than 11 round-trippers in any pro season, so it’s not reasonable to expect him to suddenly tap into a latent power reservoir. I mean, it could happen, but his age offers little indication that he still needs to mature physically.
Bryce Ball certainly goes against this trend and he’s still just 23 with room to figure some things out, though this season hasn’t been great for him. Kevin Alcantara and Alexander Canario are easily the most exciting position-player pickups when it comes to projectability and big tools, so they buck my theory as well.
All things considered, the Cubs seem to have flipped a bit when it comes to their philosophy on the development of pitchers vs. position players. The pitchers they’ve acquired almost all have big arms and exciting stuff, while the hitters seem to have higher floors and lower ceilings. It’s way too early to know for sure what all these players will end up being and there doesn’t appear to be a specific profile the Cubs are targeting, so I could just be connecting the wrong dots.
It’s just that upon first glance, this looks like an intentional — and perhaps dramatic — shift to contact over power.