Spring Training Preview: In the Outfield
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training last week, while position players reported this weekend. And Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is almost here.
To get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five categories—starting pitching, relief pitching, catchers, infielders and outfielders—to give fans a clearer picture of what to expect when the Cubs break camp and head to Chicago.
Below is a look at the outfield. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.
While Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus appear to be locks in the outfield, the Cubs may be inclined to move either of them if the right deal comes along this year.
In 2012, Soriano provided value to the Cubs in a multitude of areas. He was surprisingly durable (his 151 games played were the most in his Cubs career) and drove in a career-high 108 runs (though consistently hitting in the clean-up spot for the first time certainly helped). He also slugged 32 home runs and received a few MVP votes, accomplishments he hadn’t achieved since his first season with the club. Soriano markedly improved on defense and emerged as a leader on a team that was sorely lacking in that department after trading veterans at the deadline.
DeJesus provides strong defense in right field and delivers solid on-base skills. The signing of Nate Schierholtz means DeJesus might spend quite a bit of time in center field, where his defensive skills are average at best. But that should increase the value of his bat due to the lower expectations for power that come with moving from a corner outfield spot.
The left-handed Schierholtz provides a strong bat against right-handed pitching and solid defense, including a great arm in right field. It’s likely he will be part of a platoon with new acquisition Scott Hairston. Dave Sappelt is also a rangy outfielder who could rack up some innings in any of the three spots. Elite prospect Brett Jackson, who made his big league debut last season, will start 2013 in Triple-A and continue to refine his swing and work on his contact rate.
The trajectory of the Cubs’ 2013 outfield could be similar to that of the 2012 starting pitching staff, a unit that looked vastly different at the end of the season than it did at the beginning.