Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position. Today he focuses on right field.
CHICAGO -- Right field at Wrigley Field was where Bryan LaHair was sent to reinvent himself this past summer, just before the plug was pulled on one of the more curious seasons in a good long while.
If LaHair eventually is dealt to a different club this winter, his season will barely go down as a footnote in Chicago Cubs lore, but as it happened it took on a triumph-to-tragedy tone.
By the time LaHair was moved to right field in late June, the story still had not been completely written on his adventure at first base.
It was Anthony Rizzo's arrival that forced LaHair’s position change, but the change of scenery still didn’t prevent LaHair from being named a backup first baseman on the National League All-Star team in a vote by fellow players.
In fact, LaHair was nearly the NL’s starter, but the Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto ignored the pain of an injury to man the spot he earned via the fan vote.
LaHair ended up grounding out to short as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of the All-Star Game on the first pitch he saw. The quick at-bat even prevented game announcers from telling the full story of how he went from a journeyman minor-league slugger to All-Star in 2012.
Once the game ended, LaHair’s story went south, although, some would say the happy-go-lucky tale was already starting to turn sour.
A natural first baseman, LaHair’s play in right field was far from smooth. He did his best to get the job done but clearly showed his deficiencies.
His biggest issue, though, was at the plate. He led the Cubs offense early in the season during his first 150 at-bats, but his next 150 proved to be a struggle.
In April and July he had nearly the same amount of plate appearances. In 70 April plate appearances he batted .390 with five home runs and 14 RBIs while posting a whopping 1.251 OPS. In 69 July plate appearances he batted .194 with one home run, three RBIs and a .517 OPS.
Right field didn’t seem to suit LaHair in more ways than one and the Cubs ultimately called up Brett Jackson in early August. Jackson took over in center field while David DeJesus moved back over to right where he finished off the season.
DeJesus finished the year with 85 starts in right field to lead the club. The veteran finished strong with a .360 on-base percentage in August while hitting five home runs in a 16-game stretch from Aug. 15-Sept. 1. He also had 14 extra-base hits over his last 37 home games with an at-bat.
Barring an offseason trade, DeJesus will return as a starter in the Cubs outfield next season. The question is whether he will be aimed toward right field or center field. He will be in the final year of his two-year $10 million contract, but the Cubs do hold a $6.5 million option for 2014 or could use a $1.5 million buyout.
Dave Sappelt, currently projected as the Cubs fourth outfielder next season, could also end up with time in right field. He ended up getting 15 starts there down the stretch this past season. Sappelt figures to be used all over the outfield, though, since he is expected to take over the Reed Johnson role.
It also isn’t out of the question that in a quest for more run production, the Cubs could add a reasonably priced right fielder to the roster. Cubs right fielders combined to finish 13th in the NL with 84 runs scored, and were dead last in home runs with 11. They were also next-to-last in RBI (53) and OPS (.688).
MONDAY: Bench. TUESDAY: Manager/coaches. WEDNESDAY: Front office.