Much of the early roster talk here in February has centered around the starting rotation. The recent talk unfortunately has been related to injury, specifically Matt Garza and Scott Baker. But overall, the wonderings involved how the rotation would shake out considering the depth at the position. The openings up for competition will be limited to the fourth and fifth slots of the starting staff, pending Garza’s health status by Opening Day.
With Cactus Leage games now in full swing, it is a good time to start looking at the other position openings that manager Dale Sveum and staff will need to shake out come April. Today we take a look at the outfield, an area which figures to have the least question marks as things currently stand. The only real question, in fact, is whether or not the Cubs would carry a fifth outfielder on the roster come Opening Day. Barring a trade of Alfonso Soriano or David DeJesus, the starting outfield jobs are pretty much set from 2012, with new comers Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston providing platoon action in right field.
Feb 23, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Brett Jackson (7) gestures that the tag was on his head on a play at the plate that he was called out on by umpire Jim Wolf (28) during the second inning at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Once factor that will determine whether or not the Cubs carry a fifth outfielder is how many arms will be on the pitching staff. If the Cubs carry 13 pitchers to start the season. The other variable is how many infielders will be kept on the roster. Like the outfield, the starting spots are pretty much set, barring injury. The Cubs may need to carry a sixth infielder over a fifth outfielder.
Brett Jackson and his reinvented swing mechanics would figure to be the first choice should the Cubs carry five outfielders. Jackson has gotten off to a good start this Spring while providing a solid glove on defense. It also does not hurt that he got a cup of coffee at the end of last season, which would put him ahead of prospects like Jorge Soler and Matt Szczur, with both youngsters needing more time in the minors anyway. One reason to hold Jackson back would be that keeping him in the minors would allow him to get regular at bats, when having him tag along with the Major League squad in April would figure to have him spending some, if not a lot, of time on the bench as a sub.
Dave Sappelt could be a dark horse option as the fifth outfielder. He would the Cubs depth chart a different look than Jackson in that Sappelt brings to the table a right handed stick. The Cubs have traditionally lacked left handed hitting, but the current projected roster would already feature several left handed options in the form of DeJesus, Schierholtz, Luis Valbuena, and Ian Stewart, with Anthony Rizzo already being a fixture at first base.
Bottom line, keep your eye on Jackson and Sappelt to see who will make build the case to be included in the outfield mix come April 1st.