One of the biggest turnovers this season came in the outfield. Two out of three opening day starters ended on different teams while the third was nonexistent. What went from a weak spot something to look forward to.
Over the off season, the Cubs signed four outfielders in hope that they could find the potential that other teams gave up on. Chris Coghlan (former Rookie of the Year winner) along with Ryan Sweeney (former top White Sox prospect), Justin Ruggiano (batted .313 in 2012), and Ryan Kalish (former top-10 Red Sox prospect) were cast offs whom at one point were valuable prospects, now looking for a second chance.
Left Field – Started with Junior Lake, and ended with Chris Coghlan.
Coming off a promising rookie campaign, Junior Lake looked like an everyday player, but he then went down the Geovany Soto route. For whatever reason, he tried to become a power hitting pull hitter rather than a contact hitter, and it cost him the starting role. He ended the season hitting a miserable .211 with 110 strikeouts in 308 at bats and never found his swing.
This gave Coghlan the chance to redeem himself after years of disappointment. Coghlan got a chance to play every day after struggles from the rest of his teammates, and he did not disappoint. Coghlan cemented his place as the leadoff hitter during the second half of the season after Emlio Bonifacio was traded to the Braves. He had a .352 On-Base-Percentage (OBP) while tying a career high nine home runs. Being able to hit the other way and get on base, Coghlan made his case to be a part of the Cubs roster going into next year.
Center Field – Emlio Bonifacio was not expected to be the long term solution, but another trade piece, and that is what happen. After a good first half playing second and center, he along with James Russell, were traded to the Altanta Braves.
This opened the door for Arismendy Alcantara, who showed flashes of speed and power while in the big leagues. After a .253 average in July, he began to struggle batting .195 in August and .176 in September. He had trouble figuring out what pitchers were throwing him which resulted in 93 punch outs in 300 plate appearances.
The upside for Alcantara is second to none. His speed made him a solid outfielder, even for someone who has never played it. He also showed superb hitting ability when making contact, hitting 22 extra base hits. Similar to Javier Baez, Alcantara has to understand how he is being pitched to succeed, and if he can, he will be tough out.
Right Field – After a career best season for Nate Schierholtz in 2013, he followed 2014 with a career worst. Before being waived by the Cubs in mid August, he was below the Mendoza line and was hardly playing in July and August. Between his bad play and injuries from Kalish, Sweeney, and Ruggiano, there was not much of a bright spot in right field.
Then Jorge Soler showed up and wowed everyone. His size, power, and strength gave fans a glimpse of what Cub fans hope to expect from their young stars next season. In 24 games, Soler had 20 RBIs and five home runs. The most impressive stat was his .333 average with runners in scoring position.
While Soler began to show some signs of decline during the last week of the season, it does not overshadow his success.
The Cubs outfield is a perfect example of not how you start, but how you finish and looking at who started the season to who ended it, I would say that it was a success.
Next we will cover the Cubs starting pitching.