With the Opening Day roster beginning to fall into place, many players are learning where they will open the 2013 campaign. On Friday, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum announced that Dave Sappelt would be the team’s fourth outfielder, ending weeks of speculation concerning the 24 year-old.
The 2008 9th-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds will likely play behind David DeJesus, the Cubs’ Opening Day center fielder, who hit .263 with eight home runs and 50 RBIs in 148 games last season. DeJesus is a career .281 hitters in 10 seasons, spent with Kansas City, Oakland and Chicago, and was the first signing of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer last winter.
Sappelt came to Chicago as part of the Sean Marshall trade, as a “player-to-be-named later”, and saw limited action for the Cubs in 2012. In just 26 games, he hit .275 with two home runs and eight RBIs. While in the minor league system of Cincinnati, Sappelt was highly regarded for his defensive prowess, and he entered this season knowing he had to improve offensively.
“It was my job to lose coming into Spring Training and I had to get back on track hitting-wise, and show them I could play center because it’s a big role that somebody is going to have to be able to fill,” Sappelt said.
Despite knowing this, Sappelt has hit just .182 in 19 Spring Training games, collecting just eight hits in 44 at-bats for Chicago. However, three of those eight hits have left the ballpark, and he has also collected eight RBIs.
In 2011 with Cincinnati, Sappelt turned heads when he hit .564 with 3 homers and 12 RBIs in 20 games, but has struggled offensively since then.
Sappelt manned the corner outfield spots for Chicago last season, and was stuck behind Brett Jackson in Triple-A Iowa. Jackson struggled after a midseason call-up last year in which he hit a disappointing .172 in 13 games. In 106 games at Iowa, Jackson struck out a staggering 158 times in 467 plate appearances, and has been told to focus on shortening his swing this spring.
Sappelt wil likely also see time in the corner slots for Dale Sveum, where he will play behind Alfonso Soriano, who had a career year last season, including 32 home runs and 108 RBIs, his highest totals in eight years, and Nate Schierholtz, who was signed this offseason.
Schierholtz, 29, is a left-handed bat who has spent his entire career with the Giants, and briefly the Phillies in 2012, accumulating a .270 average over six seasons. He gives Dale Sveum a platoon option with Scott Hairston, should Soriano’s lagging knee catches up to him in 2013.
Sappelt is just looking to contribute in any way possible with Chicago in 2013, and he isn’t picky where he’s penciled into the lineup card.
“I bounced around when I got here,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with it. The corners are easy. You can make a lot of good, cool plays. Center is kind of wide open, you can catch them standing up, and the corners you can dive, run into the wall.”