With pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa in less than two weeks and the first full squad workout in just 17 days, one of the areas the Cubs have to address this spring is the team’s outfield defense.
One of the front office’s goals for the off-season was to improve the defense in the outfield. The Cubs signed arguably the best defensive right fielder in baseball. As Spring Training is set to begin, Jason Heyward is the Cubs’ starting centerfielder and will be flanked by Kyle Schwarber in left and Jorge Soler in right.
The Cubs feel Heyward can provide above average defense in center. And both Schwarber and Soler have worked on their defense this off-season.
If the season started tomorrow, Chris Coghlan would be the fourth outfielder and Matt Szczur would likely be the team’s fifth outfielder and defensive replacement late in games for center field.
The Cubs have talked about players moving around the field a lot this year, which would figure to put Ben Zobrist in the mix for a late-game defensive replacement in left and right field.
Javier Baez is going to see time in the outfield this spring as well, especially in center field. The Cubs feel he can handle center defensively. If he can, Baez will give Joe Maddon another option off the bench.
A.J. Cassavell took a look at six players that will impact their new teams and in turn their division the most during the upcoming season based on their projected WAR.
In the AL East it will be Aroldis Chapman. Neil Walker moving from the Pirates to the Mets will have the biggest effect on the NL East. And Mike Napoli signing with the Indians impacts the AL Central, Wade Miley being added to the Mariners rotation in the AL West and Johnny Cueto’s presence in the Giants rotation will affect the NL West race.
As for the National League Central, the Cubs signing Jason Heyward has the biggest impact on the projected win-loss records for the upcoming season. Steamer has the Cubs winning 94 games, 10 more than the second place Cardinals. And Heyward’s updated projected WAR is 5.1.
Steamer projects Jason Heyward to hit .284/.362/.449/.810 with 33 doubles, three triples and 18 home runs.
The Cubs have not decided where INF/OF Chesny Young will begin the upcoming season. The Cubs believe Young “has the ability to be an everyday player.” And the Carolina League batting champ will either begin the year back with Myrtle Beach or with Double-A Tennessee.
Young started last season with Low-A South Bend. After hitting .315/.385/.380 with five doubles and a triple for a .765 OPS in 28 games, Young was promoted to High-A Myrtle Beach. And he excelled with the Pelicans batting .321/.394/.388 with 18 doubles, three triples and a home run for a .782 OPS. Young had more walks (45) than strikeouts (44) in just over 400 at bats.
In 130 combined regular season games, the super utility man hit .320/.392/.386 with 23 doubles, four triples and a home run for a .778 OPS. Young walked 57 times with 51 strikeouts in 510 at bats. Young played second base, shortstop, third base, first base, left and right field last season.
The Cubs would like to see Young drive the ball more consistently. Jaron Madison feels he can increase his power in terms of doubles without trying to hit home runs. The Cubs know he’s not a power hitter or built to be one.
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to the Tribune, with winning off-season nearly complete, now the Cubs have to execute on the field.
• Comparing story of former Super Bowl hero and fellow former football-baseball star Jeff Samardzija offers compelling case for college football coaches to offer players shot at both sports according to Jon Paul Morosi.
• Joel Sherman reported on the Cespedes gamble and the biggest MLB position-change risks. The Cubs are moving arguably the best defensive right fielder in the game to center field. Sherman asked if Jason Heyward’s defense slips, does his value fall. And Starlin Castro’s defense at second base ranked 31 out of 45 players with at least 250 innings at second base. The Yankees believe he will improve at his new position while backing up third base.
• The players are now 3-0 in arbitration cases. RHP Jesse Chavez beat his new team the Blue Jays and will receive $4 million instead of the $3.6 million Toronto wanted to pay him. LHP Drew Smyly (Rays) and RHP J.J. Hoover (Reds) won their arbitration cases.
• Jay Jaffe built an All-Free-Agent Team with the best of the remaining players still unemployed with Spring Training quickly approaching … C Wil Nieves, 1B Justin Morneau, 2B Juan Uribe, 3B David Freese, SS Ian Desmond, LF David Murphy, CF Dexter Fowler, RF Marlon Byrd, DH Pedro Alvarez, RHP Yovani Gallardo and Closer RHP Tyler Clippard.
• The Yankees have not signed a Major League free agent yet this off-season. And it appears Brian Cashman and company will sit out this winter. The Yankees are the only team that hasn’t signed a Major League player this winter. According to Jeff Passan, the Bronx Bombers may wait out the next two off-seasons because many within the industry think they will sign Bryce Harper when he hits free agency … and the price tag for Harper by then could reach $500 million.
This Day in Cubstory
1983 – Cubs traded Butch Benton to the Expos for Jerry Manuel
1983 – Scott Feldman, born
1981 – Seth McClung, born
1979 – Jon Leicester, born
1950 – Burt Hooton, born
1937 – Juan Pizarro, born
1926 – Dummy Lynch, born
1921 – Cubs released Claude Hendrix
1899 – Earl Whitehill, born
1876 – Pat Moran, born