Right field has been somewhat of an issue for a long time for the Chicago Cubs. Not since 2007 has the position seen any consistent production, but that was all set to change when the Cubs forked over $184 million for eight years to Jason Heyward. Instead, Heyward had the worst offensive season of his career and seven total players combined to bat .236/.313/.354 with 32 doubles, one triple, 14 home runs, 71 RBI and 11 stolen bases.
To say Jason Heyward’s first season in a Cubs uniform was a disaster at the plate is an understatement. In 131 total games at the position he batted a weak .219/.298/.308 with 22 doubles, six home runs, 39 RBI and nine stolen bases. Fans were told to be patient all year for the veteran to get going, but the day never came. With the exception of a .722 OPS in June, he never posted an OPS above .617 in any other month.
In the playoffs he managed a measly five hits in 48 at bats with just one RBI. On the bright side for Heyward, he managed to earn his fourth Gold Glove and didn’t let his offensive problems affect his defense. He’s owed a lot of money and will line up in right field again next year, because he can’t possibly get any worse.
So how bad was Heyward? The six other players who manned right field managed to almost equal his production in half the at bats combined for a .276/.348/.457 line with 10 doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 32 RBI and three steals.
Leading that group was Ben Zobrist who made 18 starts as Heyward’s struggles carried on. In 72 at-bats, he batted .264/.361/.486 with four doubles, four home runs and 12 RBI. Other than second base, right field has been the utility man’s other primary position and he has been well above average defensively, but stumbled to just below average last year. Next year, Zorilla could find some starts in right if Heyward is in center or needs a breather.
Another possibility for at bats in right next year is Kris Bryant who started 11 games in the other corner outfield spot this past season. He batted .255/.283/.471 with two doubles, three home runs and seven RBI. He dipped to just below average defensively, but has been an above average outfielder in his career so far despite limited at bats. He should steal some starts should the team face a tough left hander, as Heyward as struggled with them at times in his career.
The final 20 starts in right field were split up between Matt Szczur, Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan and Albert Almora Jr.
Szczur led the group with nine starts and batted an impressive .297 while playing outstanding defense. With Almora Jr. expected to be given the fourth outfielder job, it’s hard to see how Szczur fits on the team moving forward. Soler is another player who could not be long for the roster as a potential trade chip. Injuries have been a problem for him and robbed him of a lot of development time last year. He had just four hits in 20 at bats in right, but did manage to strike a two-run homer. Coghlan also figures to be a goner as he filed for free agency and will likely bolt to a team with more playing time. The team will miss his clutch bat though as he managed to stroke five RBI in 11 at bats in right. Almora Jr. was similarly brilliant batting .500 and driving in four runs in just 8 at bats.
Cubs 2016 Position Reviews
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