Over the past few years, right field has been one of the worst offensive positions for the Chicago Cubs and has been a major weakness. With Jorge Soler set to take the reins this year, that may be subject to change. Let’s take a look at right field and what to expect during Spring Training.
Fans got a taste of what Jorge Soler could do when he was called up on August 27 and stayed with the team for the remainder of the season. In 89 at bats, he hit .292/.330/.573 with eight doubles, a triple, five home runs, 20 RBI and a stolen base proving that he’s ready to show what he can do at the Major League level.
It needs to be pointed out though that Soler has just 640 at bats professionally and despite his solid stats over his career he is still fairly raw. Some ups and downs are going to happen and it’s how Soler handles adversity that will determine what kind of player he will become. That adversity could come in a form of injury, which has affected him some already.
Soler suffered two separate hamstring injuries last year and a shin fracture the year before. Regular rest may be necessary to keep Soler, who has never played more than 86 games in a full season, on the field. If the Cubs can keep him healthy, scouting reports have suggested that Soler has the ability to be a 20-plus home run hitter who makes hard, consistent contact. If those reports turn out to be correct, it’s interesting to think that Soler and Kris Bryant could be battling for Rookie of the Year honors this year.
To spell Soler is likely going to be a combination of Chris Coghlan, Chris Denorfia, Arismendy Alcantara, Mike Olt and Ryan Sweeney, depending on the matchups for that day.
With Coghlan and Denorfia set to platoon in left, whoever is not starting may be the first choice to give Soler a rest. Sweeney may also log some time in right as he is a career .285 hitter against right-handed pitching and may be the Cubs best right fielder defensively. It is not known yet how much outfield Alcantara will play as the Cubs expected super utility player, but it will be something to watch during spring. With his speed, power and switch hitting combination, it would not be surprising to see him log some time at all three outfield positions during the year.
Of all the choices, Olt may make the most sense to plug into the lineup in Soler’s absence because of his right-handed power bat, but it’s still yet to be determined what exact role the front office wants Olt to play for the coming season.
On the outside looking in and likely the first call-ups in case of injury will be Junior Lake, Matt Szczur and non-roster invitee Mike Baxter.
Lake’s combination of power, speed and ability to play all three outfield positions could be most valuable in case of injury, but only if he has learned better plate discipline and cuts down on the strikeouts. Szczur can give the team a nice speed element as well as provide strong defense, but he likely needs some more seasoning before his next chance in the majors. Baxter is a long shot to make the roster or even as a call-up, but could prove to be a nice veteran presence on an Iowa roster full of emerging hitters.
If Soler continues to hit like he has at every stop in his career so far, Cubs fans are in for a real treat this season.
Jorge Soler held his own in the cleanup spot during the last month of the season and that’s likely where he’ll find himself to start this year. However, his past injuries are somewhat of a concern and it will be interesting to watch how the club plans to keep him fresh without losing a lot of offense on a team that doesn’t have much to begin with.
2015 Cubs Spring Training Previews
- Starting Pitchers
- Relief Pitchers
- First Base
- Second Base
- Third Base
- Left Field
- Center Field