What will Joe Maddon do with Jorge Soler in a crowded outfield?
It was one of the more exciting moments of this offseason for the Chicago Cubs.
Just hours after much of the baseball world was told Dexter Fowler was joining the Baltimore Orioles, he was trotting onto the field at Sloan Park as it was announced that he was coming back to join his former teammates on the Chicago Cubs.
Understandably, there were cheers from all over the park, including cheers from the players who were gathered near third base. There is one player, however, who may have been a bit disappointed by the surprise.
Jorge Soler was preparing to be the every day right fielder for the 2016 Chicago Cubs, and with his playoff performance in 2o15, you have to think he deserved it.
Fowler’s return to the lineup effectively squeezed the young slugger out of the every day lineup as he will start in center, and Heyward slides back to his more natural position in right. This leaves the Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon in a bit of a predicament, but if there’s one problem you’d like to have, it is having too many good players, and if there is one manager that can make it work, it’s Maddon.
One situation in which Soler will get a lot of playing time is against left handed pitching. The Cubs’ left fielder, Kyle Schwarber, struggled against left handed pitching. You have to think Maddon will start Heyward in left field and Soler in right in these scenarios.
Although Soler hit for a slightly lower average against lefties in 2015, his on base percentage (OBP) was nearly sixty points higher against south paws. He sees the ball very well against lefties and will get the majority of starts in this scenario.
Another possibility is one that could honestly deserve it’s own article entirely. That is the issue of Kyle Schwarber playing catcher. He was drafted as a catcher, skyrocketed through the minor league system as a catcher, and expected by some to be an every day Major League catcher.
Although I think the latter is unlikely, especially this season, I do believe Schwarber will catch a game or so a week. It would not surprise me to see him catch for Kyle Hendricks, who doesn’t have overwhelming stuff and relies on location and change of speeds. This would give Soler another start or two every week.
Aside from giving the every day starters a break once in a while, and pinch hitting late in games, there is another use for Jorge Soler.
Inter-league play is no longer a month-long circus in the middle of the season. Interleague games are played nearly every single day throughout the entire season, and when the Cubs play in American League parks, Soler will either be starting in the outfield or be the designated hitter, depending on Schwarber’s development in the outfield.
You’d love to have Soler’s bat in the lineup every single day, he’s going to be a huge asset keeping guys fresh and pinch hitting late in games. Joe Maddon has dealt with his fair share of problems in his years as a Major League manager, and something tells me he’s going to turn this problem into an asset without much trouble at all.