Cubs 5th Outfielder Position Up For Grabs


When it comes to baseball and the positions within the game, there are a few basic rules that are followed.

For example, most major league squads like to have 5 outfielders at their disposal similar to how they keep 3 catchers on the 40 man roster. It’s just one of those things that is almost universally practiced and I for one don’t question it.

Regardless of positioning, the Cubs have found themselves in an unfamiliar situation in comparison to the 2012 season. Through the solid work of the front office, the team now has more solid out fielders than positions to fill.

Feb 23, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder

Dave Sappelt

(17) catches a fly ball during the second inning off the bat of Los Angeles Angels shortstop

Luis Rodriguez

(not pictured) at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Is it time for a sweepstakes? Maybe a drinking contest? Without having the final decision coming down to a petty pissing contest, the Cubs will do what any other professional sports team would do: chose the best man for the job based on performance, makeup and work ethic.

So far, it seems as though four men have already got their OF positions locked up. Alfonso Soriano, Scott Hairston, Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus are essentially no brainers for the Cubs’ big league squad which leaves one final position to be contested.

Two men are currently competing for that position: Dave Sappelt and Brian Bogusevic. For those of you who don’t recognize those names, don’t sweat. I’ve got your back.

Bugosevic is no stranger to major league play by any means. He’s spent 3 years playing for the Houston Astros. One year as a starter in RF and two as a utility bencher, which seems to be the perfect spot for him. He features effective defense with a mediocre .227/.310/.346 career triple slash line in 547 AB. Sure, he’s effective enough for a bench guy but there’s no missing his lack of power in these numbers. This goes without mentioning that he’s hit more homeruns with each season of experience he gains, but it has been under 10 total HR/season for the duration of his career.

Essentially, he’s a guy who could be “figuring it out”. Emphasis on “could”.

On to Sappelt now – he’s a former product of the Cincinnati Reds system and had spent the duration of his 2011 campaign with the team. He’s since served his time in AAA Iowa and was called up in September of 2012. If any of you remember watching his play, he showed flashes of brilliance at the plate while also turning up a little flat at times. This is pretty standard for players with minimal big league experience and he showed strong elements of all 5 tools with some room for refinement. It’s very clear that Sappelt’s ceiling is pretty high and could eventually develop in to a big league starter one day. At the young age of 26, he still has many years of potential to refine his craft.

So who takes the edge for the 5th OF position?

Right now, Bugosevic is doing a really good job at the plate for the Cubs’ spring training campaign, but small sample size leads me to believe his numbers are being inflated. Like…. big time inflated. He won’t be able to sustain his 1.000 OPS for long because his bat simply isn’t that strong. In fact, there are very few blessed people who have ever played baseball who could sustain such insane figures. I wouldn’t expect the bencher to do anything significant.

Sappelt represents a younger, strong upside option for the Cubs. He can produce power, play efficient defense and could be a contributing member of the team for many years to come. His raw tools are simply better than Bugo. Sure, his spring training isn’t exactly going perfectly, but it’s far from indicative of his potential.

Advantage Sappelt – but the story doesn’t end there.

Bugosevic bats left handed and the Cubs already have two lefties in the OF with Soriano and Schierholtz. Normally batting left isn’t a disadvantage, but the Cubs are somewhat saturated in that department, which is no shock considering Theo Epstein made his desire for lefties abundantly clear. Still, there is value in keeping that left handed bat on the bench…

The bottom line is that the safe bet on the 5th OF position goes to Sappelt. His youth, power, ceiling and developmental potential will benefit the Cubs in the long term more so than Bugosevic.