Theo Epstein talked about it during his end of season press conference and Jed Hoyer discussed it on an interview last week on ESPN 1000. The Cubs will continue to put a priority on player versatility.
Epstein thinks having interchangeable parts and redundancy in the position player group is a strength of the organization. And something the Cubs would like to preserve.
The Cubs will continue to move a lot of the players around the field defensively.
“I think [Kris] Bryant will still take reps in the outfield,” Hoyer said on the Carmen and Jurko Show. “Addison [Russell] is our shortstop but we will probably still let him get reps at second. We are willing to let these guys move around and try different things.”
“I mean Javy Baez might be one of our better outfielders. He’s phenomenal out there and we will probably give him some reps out there as well.”
“I think that Joe [Maddon] has shown he’s not afraid to move guys around. Our players really bought in to it. I don’t think there is a lot of risk.”
The depth of the position player group might not be the same by Spring Training if the front office trades for pitching. But as the roster is currently constructed, several players can play multiple positions and provide sufficient defense.
The production at the plate was not sustained from position to position by the players that moved around the field. Kris Bryant’s numbers are obviously skewed due to the small sample sizes at positions other than third base. And it was interesting to see Javier Baez actually hit better on the days he played third base than at short or second.
Kris Bryant played and started games at five different positions during his rookie season. Bryant lined up at third base 144 times, played one game at first base, eight in left field and seven games in both center and right field.
As a third baseman, Bryant hit .287/.381/.521 with a .902 OPS. Bryant was 0-for-2 at first base and on the days he played in the outfield, Bryant had only one extra basehit, a double. Bryant was 3-for-18 as a left fielder (.167/.250/.222) with a .472 OPS. In center, Bryant was 2-for-8 for a .650 OPS. Bryant went 3-for-19 in the seven games in played in right field with a .396 OPS.
Chris Coghlan also played five different positions during the season. A majority of Coghlan’s playing time was in left field (99 games). Coghlan played right field (21 games), first base (five games), second base (15 games) and third base (three games). Coghlan received 26 at bats as a pinch-hitter and of his six hits, one was a triple and one left the park (.231/.231/.423) for a .654 OPS.
Coghlan batted .262/.352/.459 as a left fielder with a .811 OPS. On the days he lined up in right field, Coghlan hit .242/.368/.435 with a .804 OPS. Coghlan was 0-for-4 with a walk in the five games he played at first base. Coghlan went 9-for-39 with a triple and two home runs (.231/.302/.436) with a .738 OPS at second base. And he was 0-for-4 with a walk in three games at third base.
Kyle Schwarber caught 21 games in the big leagues during the regular season and played a total of 45 games in the outfield, 41 in left and four in right. As a catcher, Schwarber batted .328/.414/.623 (20-for-61) with a 1.037 OPS. Schwarber hit .212/.346/.462 on days he played left field with a .808 OPS. In the four games as a right fielder, Schwarber was 1-for-6 with a walk.
Tommy La Stella played in only 33 games this season with just about equal time at third base (12 games), second base (14 games) and as a pinch-hitter (16 games). La Stella hit .273/.342/.424 with a .766 OPS as a second baseman. At third base, La Stella batted .150/.190/.250 with a .440 OPS. La Stella excelled as a pinch hitter. La Stella was 6-for-14 with two doubles, a walk and a strikeout (.429/.467/.572) with a 1.038 OPS.
Addison Russell is the Cubs starting shortstop moving forward. Russell played 61 games at short and hit .259/.315/.465 with a .780 OPS. In 86 games at second base, Russell batted .231/.299/.341 with a .640 OPS.
Javier Baez could end up seeing time in the outfield next season. After his call-up, Baez played in 28 games and saw action at second, third and shortstop. In 11 games as a third baseman, Baez went 11-for-27 with five doubles (.407/.429/.593) for a 1.021 OPS. At second base, Baez was 6-for-23 in 17 games (.261/.292/.391) with a .683 OPS. Baez lined up at shortstop for eight games and was 3-for-20 (.150/.227/.150) for a .377 OPS.
Starlin Castro turned his season around after the move from shortstop to second base. Castro had a .243/.278/.320 line with a .597 OPS at short. Castro batted .339/.358/.583 with a .941 OPS at second. And as a pinch-hitter, Castro was 4-for-13 (.308/.357/.308).
Joe Maddon likes to have lineup flexibility and he used the versatility to the team’s advantage over the last two-plus months of the season. It will be interesting to see how the players the front office adds this off-season compliment the young core of the team.