Cubs Season Preview: Outfielders
I’m going to overview the Outfield as a whole, because there will be a lot of switching positions throughout the season. Right now, the Cubs starting outfield features the overpaid Alfonso Soriano in Left Field, expected lead-off hitter David DeJesus in Center Field, and light hitting Nate Schierholtz in Right Field.
Soriano has been constantly mentioned in trade rumors for a good couple of years now, but with his no trade clause, it looks like he will stick with the team until at least July, as Soriano has said he would be reluctant to accept any trade (though it is believed he would in the right situation). Soriano has consistently put up respectable numbers for the Cubs, but nothing near what he had done with the Yankees, Rangers and Nationals. However, he did put up his the best numbers of his career last season, hitting .262 with 32 home runs and 108 RBI. He has gotten much better in the field as well, removing his “hop” before catching the ball, which had gotten him injured before. Soriano has the expectations to perform just as well as the last couple of seasons which would make him look like a great acquistion for an AL team looking for a Designated Hitter.
David DeJesus, who looks to be slotted into the lead-off spot this season, is another potential trade candidate, as he is entering his final year of his 2 year deal (the Cubs do have a club option on him for 2014). David has always been great at getting on base, and last season was no different. He drew a lot of walks and did not strikeout a ton out of the lead-off hole, where he hit .263, which is still not an ideal mark. Those numbers are another reason why he might be shopped. DeJesus is a stop gap for the Cubs minor league top prospects, and Outfield is one of the areas that the Cubs shine, minor league wise. DeJesus’s power has almost left him, as he only jacked nine home runs last season. While he primarily played Right Field last season, he will be moved to Center Field this coming season, which shouldn’t be a big change, considering he player there throughout his time with the Royals. DeJesus will be counted on to produce out of the lead-off spot this season, and if he doesn’t, could see himself out of Chicago in the near future.
The biggest question mark in the Outfield is Nate Schierholtz, who was signed as a free agent this season. He split time last year between the Giants and the Phillies, where he got reasonable playing time, but was never of the starter quality. He hit .257 last season and homered six times, with five of them coming with San Francisco. Interestingly enough, Schierholtz struggles against right handed pitching, despite the fact that he hits left handed. It is safe to say he will platoon either against lefties or righties, while starting full time against the other. Schierholtz has possibly the best glove among the other two starting Outfielders, but does not make up for his lack of power with speed, as he only stole three bases all of last season, with his career high being seven. The Cubs took a risk planting Schierholtz in as their starting Right Fielder, but that could change if he becomes the main target for the boo birds at Wrigley.
There will likely be two backup Outfield jobs available, and one will be going to Scott Hairston, who should platoon with either DeJesus or Schierholtz. Hairston also makes up for the lost power with those two, as he hit 20 home runs last season with the Mets, who played in spacious Citi Field. Hairston is not part of the Cubs future, and should be gone before or when his two year contract expires, but for now he provides a spark off the bench for the Cubs, which was one of their big points of struggle last season. Their is a big position battle happening for the final spot, which is coming down to Dave Sappelt, Brian Bogusevic and Darnell McDonald. Sappelt has the three advantages of being with the team last season, having the best season of the three in 2012, and also happening to be the only one on their current 40 man roster. However, manager Dale Sveum has stated that Brian Bogusevic could be the Joe Mather of Spring Training, and sneak out a job on the major league roster out of nowhere. If this is the case, the Cubs could carry six Outfielders. Darnell McDonald, who has also had a strong spring, is another possibility. Brett Jackson, who spent two months in the big leagues last year, will start in Triple A where he will try to cut down on his strikeouts. Depending on his success, he could be the first one called up.
This Cubs Outfield could look very different come August 1st, but as it is now, should give the team solid production.