Last year brought a lot of wholesale changes to the second base position for the Chicago Cubs. First, the club signed veteran utility man Ben Zobrist to a four-year, $56 million deal during the Winter Meetings and shipped Starlin Castro to the Yankees. Zobrist, one of the most patient hitters in baseball really lengthened the lineup and helped the position post an overall mark of .288/.383/.458 with 31 doubles, four triples, 21 home runs, 90 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
One of the biggest benefits to signing with the Cubs for the Illinois native Zobrist was the chance to stay in one position and not move around as much as he had in the past. His 119 games at the keystone was the first time he topped 100 games at one position since 2013. The stability helped Zobrist post solid numbers batting .272/.391/.441 with 22 doubles, three triples, 13 home runs, 60 RBI and five stolen bases at second base. Zobrist had an amazing May where he posted a magnificent 1.137 OPS which likely helped him earn his third All-Star nomination where he started at second base with the rest of the Cubs infield.
Zobrist wasn’t without his struggles though as in June and July he batted a meager .216. He redeemed himself in the playoffs batting .357 in The World Series complete with the go ahead hit in Game 7 to earn himself MVP honors in the Fall Classic.
Javier Baez finally put it all together last season doing his best Zobrist impression playing five different positions. At second base he was most comfortable as evidenced by the .315/.349/.485 batting line with five doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 28 RBI and seven stolen bases in 59 games. He was outstanding in the playoffs batting a combined .342 in the first two series, earning himself co-MVP with Jon Lester in the NLCS.
In addition to his improvement at the plate, Baez was dazzling in the field. It seemed like night after night he was making highlight reel plays and quickly earned himself rave reviews for his talents at tagging base runners. His UZR rating of 16.3 at second would have been tops in the majors with more time and likely secured him the starting gig in the playoffs where pitching and defense are key.
The front office has already made it clear they’d like Baez back in his utility role, but how the outfield shakes out might dictate Zobrist’s role going forward and may help slide Baez into regular at-bats at second base.
Tommy La Stella and Munenori Kawasaki also logged some time at second base combining for 19 games. In 23 at bats, La Stella notched eight hits with four going for extra bases. Kawasaki also acquitted himself well with four walks and five hits in 16 at bats. Both were left off the postseason roster, but La Stella’s left handed bat and on base skills make him a good bet to steal one of the last bench spots on next year’s team if he still wants to play baseball. Kawasaki could also be a good fit if the Cubs decide to bring him back.
Cubs 2016 Position Reviews
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