Friday, March 29, 2013
Cubs season preview: Outfield
By Jesse Rogers
Nate Schierholtz likely will the bulk of the playing time in right field this season.
The Chicago Cubs outfield is where things could come up short for the team this season. There is some hope out there but even if Alfonso Soriano, David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz reasonably max out, they don't compare to other outfields around the league. Only Soriano provides any power.
The good news is all three had relatively good springs at the plate and in the field. DeJesus, especially, was locked in from Day 1 until the very end. And his switch to center was a smooth transition. Schierholtz has deceptive gap power which will be needed at Wrigley Field. And Soriano hasn't lost bat speed nor strength being a year older.
Backups and/or platoon players Scott Hairston and Dave Sappelt do provide some pop from the right side but mostly if a left-hander is pitching.
Soriano's defense last season gives hope that the starting trio can at least hold its own if not overwhelm the opposition tracking down balls. Schierholtz will need to learn how to play right in Wrigley, it's the trickiest of the three positions. And DeJesus will need to cover for Soriano who's knees can always slow him down.
3 KEYS TO SUCCESS
Schierholtz is a key because of where he bats in the lineup. He'll occupy the No. 5 hole most of the time which means hitting behind the likes of Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Soriano. That means plenty of RBI opportunities and for a guy who has never been a full-time starter it's a huge spot for him.
DeJesus may not have had a bad at-bat all spring. He was on everything. But that's the spring, and the regular season is another story. If his on-base percentage can creep closer to .360 -- last year it was .350 -- then he'll be extremely valuable hitting in front of the big three. Between leading off and now playing center field DeJesus is important, at least until prospect Brett Jackson takes over.
Soriano's health is a key since his bat will be so important in the middle of the lineup. If he can repeat his 2012 of 32 home runs and 108 RBIs as well as decent outfield play, then the Cubs might actually be getting value near the end of his contract. Even if he dips some from those numbers he'll still be a key to the offense.