If I were to write a movie script for the Cubs 2011 season, I’d call it “The Leadoff Hitter.” The Cubs don’t have one right now. But imagine… what if a young player who had been largely forgotten in the minors comes into spring training and steals a job? What if this young player just happens to hit left handed, have a decent on base percentage, and over one hundred minor league stolen bases? What if, with this unheralded rookie at the top of the order, the Cubs won 144 games and…hey, we can dream can’t we?
Unfortunately, I’m not writing a baseball movie script right now. But if you ignore the 144 games part and suspend your natural skepticism for just a moment, the rest of that scenario isn’t impossible. The Cubs do need a lead off hitter, and with a patient batter with some speed up top they could have the kind of improved offense they need to make a strong run at the division title. What’s more, the Cubs not only have one unheralded prospect coming into spring training who could fit that description, they have two.
James Adduci is the less likely of the two to break camp with the Cubs, largely because he plays in the outfield. There is only one outfield slot open, and from all accounts it is up to Perez to lose it. Adduci is no where near the top of the depth chart, even though he can play all three outfield positions. At the plate he looks like an on base / speed guy who doesn’t walk too much and has little power. Unfortunately for a guy who relies on getting on base, his walk numbers are too low and his strike outs too high. If that could be corrected, though, we could be looking at a .370+ OBP guy with 30+ steals a year. Of course, then the Cubs would have to find room for him in a very crowded outfield, and that isn’t likely.
Adduci could be the first guy out of the minors in case of an outfield injury if Perez makes the 25 man roster and Reed Johnson leaves the organization. He could get a chance to take and hold on to some playing time, but he definitely faces an up hill battle.
Matt Camp has it a little easier. Camp doesn’t have as high a career OBP as Adduci and his stolen base numbers have dropped off in recent seasons, but his strikeout to walk ratio is much higher, and he does have a slightly better batting average. Defensively, Camp primarily plays at second, third and short. He didn’t do a great job any of those positions last season, but his versatility would be an asset.
That is, it would be if he weren’t a left handed, lesser hitting version of Darwin Barney. Barney almost certainly will have a job with the Cubs next season, and I would not bet against him taking the starting second base job outright. That probably leaves Camp in a similar position to Adduci, working hard in Iowa and waiting for an opportunity to come along.
While both of these two have a shot to come out of nowhere and surprise us all in the spring, I have to admit that neither is likely to. Still, wouldn’t it make a great movie if one of them did?