2014 will be an extremely important year for the Chicago Cubs outfielders. There seemed to be a revolving door in the outfield last season, shuffling in and out players. Last year the Cubs couldn’t find an everyday lineup for the outfield, but they hope to have corrected that issue this year. With some of the top prospects progressing in the minors, this season has to be productive for each outfielder if they want to remain a Cub.
Projected 2014 Starting Outfield: LF Junior Lake, CF Ryan Sweeney, RF Nate Schierholtz
2013 Season in Review:
Junior Lake: Lake made his way to the major leagues last year, and performed well. Although his batting was inconsistent at some points, he finished with a .284 average with a .332 on base percentage. He only played 64 games at the major league level last year because he was called up midseason. However, that meant he had a chance to get a sneak peak of the demands of playing in the big leagues. During last season he showed flashes of being the spark that the Cubs desperately needed.
Ryan Sweeney: Sweeney got off to a hot start in 2013. In his first 44 games, he hit .295 and had an on base percentage of .342. It seemed as though the Cubs may have found another player that they could flip at the trade deadline for some young prospects, but Sweeney fractured his rib and had to sit out the majority of the rest of the season. After returning, he hit a meager .225 in 26 games. It was obvious that Sweeney was not playing as confidently as he had at the beginning of the season, and he hopes to rebound this upcoming year.
Nate Schierholtz: Schierholtz was one of the few bright spots for the Cubs last season. After agreeing to a one year 2.5 million dollar deal, Schierholtz performed better than most people thought he would. Brought in to platoon in the outfield, his performance led him to start 117 games for the Cubs. He led the team in batting average (.251), but was very consistent during the whole season. He proved that he could hit the ball out of the park smashing 21 home runs, and his great play made him a very desirable trade option. The Cubs decided not to trade Schierholtz, and he was resigned this offseason to a one year 5 million dollar deal.
Junior Lake: Lake will have a very similar year he had in 2013. Since this will be his first full year in the majors, Lake will certainly experience struggles as he learns how to play a full year in the big leagues. I expect Lake to get off to hot start, but his numbers will steadily decrease as the season wears on. The most important thing for Lake this year is to learn how to become an everyday player over the course of the 162 game season.
Ryan Sweeney: The most important thing for Sweeney is staying healthy. If Sweeney can play almost everyday in centerfield he could be a big surprise this season. Providing an anchor out in centerfield will give the Cubs a lot of confidence during the season. This season he will most likely bat around the 6 spot in the lineup, so if he can put up numbers similar to his stats before he got hurt last year, he will make the bottom of the lineup something to not look over.
Nate Schierholtz: After cashing in this offseason, high expectations fall on Schierholtz. He will most likely be the everyday starter in right field, and he hopes to have a repeat of last season. Schierholtz will probably hit in the 5 spot maybe even the cleanup spot depending how he is performing. Once thought of as a bench player could become the starting right fielder for years to come if he plays well this year.
Albert Almora: At the young age of 19, Almora has caught the attention of many Cubs fans. He battled through several injuries last season, including a broken hand. However, when he played he dominated pitchers. Playing for A Kane County he hit .329 and had an on base percentage of .376. Almora is still a few years away from reaching the major leagues, but he has a tremendous upside. As long as he can stay healthy and mature in the minor leagues, Almora will be a common sight in the outfield.
Jorge Soler: Soler, similar to Almora, had an injury filled 2013 campaign. He fractured a bone in his shin last season, so he only played in 55 games for the Daytona Cubs. Soler played pretty well last season hitting .281, but had an on base percentage of .343 after taking 21 walks. In order to be a difference maker at the major league level, he needs to keep his walk totals up, and cut down on his strike outs. Soler will most likely make his way to the North Side sometime in 2015.
Although the Cubs do not have the most talented outfield in the bigs, they have the potential to surprise a lot of people. With two major prospects over a year away from reaching the major league level, the starters need to step up and perform well this year.