2012 Cubs recap: Center field
October, 18, 2012
By Doug Padilla
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireDavid DeJesus had the third-best on-base percentage among NL leadoff men this season.Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position. Today he focuses on center field.
David DeJesus wound up being a steady contributor from center field for the Chicago Cubs, while Brett Jackson showed that more seasoning is needed before his day finally arrives.
There were even contributions made by Tony Campana, who sparked the offense for a stretch as a table setter before retreating to the bench and eventually Triple-A Iowa when the club needed more run producers.
The first game DeJesus ever played at Wrigley Field came on Opening Day and the park was probably least accommodating to the veteran of seven-plus previous seasons, all in the American League.
The early-season winds blowing in off the lake seemed to cost DeJesus more home runs than anybody, but it also seemed to encourage him to play to his strengths. DeJesus has never hit more than 13 home runs in a season, but he is adept at getting on base.
That rang true again in 2012, as DeJesus had the third-best on-base percentage (.358) among National League leadoff men (minimum 175 plate appearances). Only the St. Louis Cardinals' John Jay (.362) and the Colorado Rockies' Dexter Fowler (.384) were better.
DeJesus eventually got the long ball going, hitting nine home runs with 50 RBIs. And his versatility helped the Cubs with lineup maneuverability. He not only started a team-high 37 games in center, he also started a team-high 85 games in right field.
Campana got his chance when Opening Day center fielder Marlon Byrd was traded to the Boston Red Sox. At the time, the Cubs were struggling through a rough April, scoring 82 runs with a .294 on-base percentage. With Campana starting to wreak havoc on the base paths, the Cubs scored 103 runs in May and posted a .320 on-base percentage.
By June, though, Campana was squeezed out of the lineup as Anthony Rizzo arrived. DeJesus grabbed the bulk of the time in center while Bryan LaHair took over in right.
The search for additional slugging percentage was minimal, though, and by August, Brett Jackson was called up to take over in center field, with DeJesus going back to right and LaHair moving to the bench.
President Theo Epstein admitted that Jackson was called up before he was ready, but with one of the worst records in the game, the Cubs felt as if there was nothing to lose. The results were ultimately predictable as Jackson proved to be exceptional on defense, but his penchant for striking out was at an all-time high.
After striking out in over one-third of his at-bats at Iowa, Jackson struck out 59 times in 120 at-bats in the major leagues and the plan is now for him to start next season at Triple-A again.
"Jackson was promoted for specific reasons," Epstein said. "We sat in (manager) Dale (Sveum's) office and for those of us who'd seen him play at Triple-A, and those who know him a lot better than I do, we all said, right now his swing is not ready to compete up here. He does a lot of things very well, but we don't think he's necessarily ready to succeed up here, but there were other reasons to get him up here.
"Dale wanted to see it first-hand. We wanted Dale and (interim hitting coach) James (Rowson) to have a chance to work with him, and we wanted to show Brett certain things, certain adjustments he needed to make to ultimately have success at the big-league level."
Center field is not expected to be an area addressed this offseason with DeJesus and Campana back next season, barring any winter trades, and Jackson expected to be called up at some point before the summer ends.
FRIDAY: Right field.