This spring, Alfonso has seemingly flown under the radar with his spring. He is blasting pitching in spring training, hitting an otherworldly .946 slugging percentage boosted by his Cactus League-leading six home runs. Undoubtedly, Soriano won’t hit for that, or even close to that slugging percentage over the course of the season, but other aspects of his performance could indicate that he may be changing his game a touch.
Soriano has struggled to draw walks this spring, as he typically does. He has yet to draw a walk; in fact, he hasn’t drawn a walk over the past three springs (159 ABs). That’s not a trend. Soriano will eventually draw a walk. However, Soriano has somehow increased his contact, while making hard contact.
More likely than not, this is just a spring training fluke, but could he be improving his strikeout rate? His strikeout rate currently sits at 16%. Be wary that Soriano’s K% hasn’t been below 20% since 2005, but it’s sat comfortably around 21%. Assuming Soriano can stay healthy this season, a decrease in strikeouts could be feasible for a variety of reasons.
Before finishing the 2011 campaign, Soriano finished with a 16.5 K% in September, and was largely an above-average hitter. This was led largely because he was much more patient in that month.
Over the entirety of the season, Soriano swung at 45% of pitches outside of the zone. Anyone watching a Cubs game featuring him would probably have thought the number to be higher, however over the team’s final month, Soriano offered at a mere 19.4% of pitches outside the zone. Could September be a small sample outlier, or could Hitting Coach Rudy Jaramillo have worked on Soriano’s swing, stance, bat position, or any number of million variables possible that could have contributed to it.
When Alfonso Soriano makes contact, it typically goes very far. His innate ability to continually put the ball in the air suppresses his batting average, while boosting his capacity to hit for extra bases. If he can continue to hit for power the way he always can, while depressing his strikeout rate, he can be a very productive hitter in 2012.