With second and third base largely unsettled, left field is a position currently on hold of sorts. There are decent options to fill it, but none are set in stone and is ripe for a player to take the reins going forward.
Right now, the plan is for Chris Coghlan and Chris Denorfia to share left field. Coghlan had a career renaissance when he was brought up in May and played in 125 games. His most since he won Rookie of the Year in 2009. He batted .283/.352/.452 with 28 doubles, nine home runs, 41 RBI and seven stolen bases and was the Cubs hottest hitter in July posting a 1.049 OPS. He’s a career .294 hitter against righties and will likely hit either second or sixth.
Chris Denorfia, who the club signed as a free agent in the off-season, will likely be the team’s fourth outfielder and will be the right-handed member of the left field platoon thanks to his .292 average against left handers. Denorfia will have to prove he can still be effective though as he struggled to a .230/.284/.318 line with 12 doubles, three home runs, 21 RBI and nine stolen bases last year.
Other players vying for left field at-bats will be a collection of names like Arismendy Alcantara, Ryan Sweeney, Junior Lake and Matt Szczur. The only outfield position Alcantara played last year was center, but with the switch hitter set to play a super utility role will likely get some time there depending on how the platoon situation works out. His tantalizing combination of speed and power would look nice in the two-hole, providing he can make consistent contact.
Ryan Sweeney is owed $1.5 million and barring a trade will likely make the Opening Day roster as the team’s fifth OF. He is been fairly injury prone in his time with the Cubs, but as a career .276 hitter could take over in the platoon if Coghlan can’t regain his magic from last year. He’s able to play all three outfield spots and as a veteran player can help mentor some of the young players.
The front office has said that they expect Mike Olt to see time in the infield and outfield corners. For example, if Soler is being rested, Olt can play and keep a right handed power bat in the lineup.
Junior Lake and Matt Szczur need strong springs to beat out the veterans and both had some success on the big league level.
Lake has shown good power with 26 doubles and 15 home runs in 544 at bats over his career. He’s been a good fielder in left and is well above average. He’s been awful with his plate discipline with a .284 OBP and 27 walks to go with 178 strikeouts so far in his career.
Szczur held his own when promoted last year to take the place of the injured Sweeney and would give the team a speed element they lack as he has never stolen less than 22 bases in a season. If both don’t make it, they will likely serve as starters in the outfield at Iowa.
Non-roster invitees Adron Chambers and Mike Baxter are long shots and are more likely to spend time in Iowa. Chambers is a former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand, who never got a real shot at the Major League level owning just 88 at bats. He’s similar to Szczur as a guy with speed, but has a bit more power. Baxter has bounced around more than Chambers, but has gotten more Major League experience as he has a career .225/.331/.342 line in 360 at bats. He can back up at first base as well and will be good depth in the corners if needed.
Kris Bryant has an outside chance to play left field this season if he proves that he’s too much of a butcher at third base. He’s probably the reason the team is content with a platoon in left field at the moment in case the spot is needed for their top prospect. For more information on Bryant, check out the third base preview.
With Joe Maddon known to be the kind of manager who uses his entire bench and likes to play the matchups, left field is going to be a very busy position this year. Chris Coghlan and Chris Denorfia will likely get first dibs, but it will not be surprising to see it as a revolving door position.