Cubs hope to take advantage of Dodgers’ weakness against lefties

The Dodgers are batting only .226 with a .657 OPS against left-handers.

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The Cubs hope lefty Daniel Norris will present problems for the Dodgers.

The Cubs hope lefty Daniel Norris will present problems for the Dodgers.

Morry Gash/AP

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

The Dodgers, who lead the majors 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 officially is activated from the bereavement list. He has limited left-handed batters to a career .219 average, and he has allowed only one hit in 12 at-bats against lefties this season.

The Dodgers’ Max Muncy and Justin Turner are 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 at 12:05 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. after the game Friday was postponed because of inclement weather.

Outfield outlook

President Jed Hoyer tempered expectations as early as September, when top prospect Brennen Davis was finishing a dominant 2021 season at Triple-A Iowa.

Davis had reduced his strikeout rate from 30.7% in 316 plate appearances at Double-A Tennessee to 22.1% in 68 plate appearances at Iowa after a promotion last summer. The assumption was that he was putting the finishing touches on an imminent 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 RBI, so any hint of a promotion will have to wait until he cuts down on his strikeouts and starts producing more.

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

The forecast right now is brighter for Nelson Velasquez, a fifth-round pick out of Puerto Rico in the 2017 draft.

The Cubs put Velasquez, 23, on the 40-man roster in November after a breakout season at High-A South Bend, Tennessee and Mesa in the Arizona Fall League.

His .288 batting average with nine homers and 17 RBI in 22 games at Tennessee earned him a promotion Friday to Iowa. Velasquez is ranked as the Cubs’ 15th-best prospect by Baseball America. (Velasquez’s promotion first was reported by The Athletic.)

Pete Crow-Armstrong’s start has raised optimism that the Cubs finally might be able to develop a bona fide leadoff hitter.

Crow-Armstrong, who was acquired from the Mets for shortstop Javy Baez at the trade deadline last season, is batting .397 with a .495 on-base percentage and 1.123 OPS at Low-A Myrtle Beach.

Crow-Armstrong, who was drafted three spots behind Cubs first pick Ed Howard IV with the 19th overall selection in 2020, has produced four homers, 16 RBI and seven stolen bases after missing nearly all of last season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

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