Cubs hope to take advantage of Dodgers’ weakness against lefties

The formidable Dodgers actually have a weakness that the Cubs hope to exploit Saturday in a split doubleheader at Wrigley Field.

The Dodgers, who lead Major League Baseball with a plus-57 run differential while averaging 5.39 runs a game, are batting only .226 with a .657 OPS against left-handers.

That presumably has prompted the Cubs to start left-handers Drew Smyly and Daniel Norris against them.

Smyly’s start will be finalized once he’s officially activated from the bereavement list. Smyly has limited left-handed batters to a career .219 average, and he’s allowed only one hit in 12 at-bats against lefties this season.

Max Muncy and Justin Turner are each batting .087 (2-for-23) against left-handers, and Gavin Lux (.214) hasn’t fared much better.

Norris, who will be making his first start since 2020, has allowed one hit in 10 at-bats against lefties this season.

The teams will play a doubleheader at 12:05 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. after Friday’s game was postponed due to inclement weather.

Outfield outlook

Cubs President Jed Hoyer tempered expectations as early as last September when Brennen Davis, the organization’s top prospect, was concluding a dominant 2021 season at Triple-A Iowa.

Davis had reduced his strikeout rate by more than 8% to a 22.1% whiff rate in 68 plate appearances at Iowa following a promotion from Double-A Tennessee last summer. The assumption was that Davis was putting the finishing touches on a promotion to the majors in early 2022.

Hoyer’s warning has been validated by Davis’ 34.1% strikeout rate in 91 plate appearances at Iowa this season. Davis is batting .195 with two home runs and seven RBIs, so any hint of a promotion would occur after a cutdown in strikeouts and more production.

There’s no rush to promote Davis, who has only 661 professional at-bats.

The forecast currently is brighter for Nelson Velazquez, a fifth-round pick out of PJ Educational School in Carolina, Puerto Rico, in the2017 draft.

The Cubs placed Velazquez, 23, on the 40-man roster last November after a breakout season at South Bend, Tennessee and Mesa in the Arizona Fall League.

His .288 batting average with nine home runs and 17 RBIs in 22 games at Tennessee earned him a promotion to Iowa on Friday. Velazquez was ranked as the organization’s 15th top prospect by Baseball America.

Velazquez’s promotion was first reported by The Athletic.

Pete Crow-Armstrong’s start has raised optimism that the organization could finally develop a bonafide leadoff hitter. Crow-Armstrong, acquired from the Mets for Javier Baez last July, is batting .397 with a .495 on-base percentage and 1.123 OPS at Class-A Myrtle Beach.

Crow-Armstrong, who was selected by the Mets with the 19th overall pick in the 2020 draft, has produced four home runs, 16 RBIs and seven stolen bases after missing nearly all of last season after suffering a torn right labrum.

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