The 2014 season for the Chicago Cubs has been filled with a lot of change. Change in personnel. Change in culture. Change in expectation. As we reach the end of this chapter in Cubs baseball, many questions have answers, or at least hints to what the answers are. One of the questions still being posed is which veterans will help fill the 2015 roster.
Chris Coghlan needs to be one of the answers.
The former 2009 NL Rookie of the Year isn’t necessarily what you would call a ‘seasoned’ veteran. But he’s been around a few years, and can speak to what it’s like to manage expectations and overcome adversity.
After winning the NL ROY, the decline for Coghlan was relatively swift. One injury after another kept him off the field, and it became difficult for him to gain his confidence back with sporadic playing time. The Miami Marlins eventually decided to non-tender him. Quickly after doing so, they regretted the decision and hoped to find a way to get him back.
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The Cubs, not shy about so-called ‘reclamation’ players signed him in January of this year.
He didn’t make the team out of camp, and started the year in Triple-A Iowa. On May 4, he finally made his way into Chicago as this time he was the beneficiary of injuries, not the victim.
Coghlan’s start with the Cubs was very unassuming, dare I say disappointing. But the outfield group as a whole was struggling to produce for the Cubs, so Coghlan remained in the shuffle with several other players, including Junior Lake, Justin Ruggiano, and Ryan Sweeney.
As late as June 26, Coghlan was hitting below .200 (.193), and questions were starting to arise if any of the outfielders, including himself, deserved to be there. Starting around July, he heard the questions, and responded.
Since July 1, Coghlan has been one of the team’s best hitters (.314 AVG, 6 HR, 35 RBI, 24 2B, 3 3B). He’s played a very consistent left field, making some fantastic plays, as well as being in the top five in the league in fewest errors in LF (4-3rd), double-plays turned from LF (2-2nd), and assists from LF (5-3rd).
He’s seen a majority of his time at the top of the order, even though he doesn’t fit the prototypical mold for a lead-off hitter. But the biggest key has been his health. He’s played in 122 games this season. The most since his rookie year when he played in 128. Once he started seeing regular playing time, Coghlan exploded, very much looking like that player that won the NL ROY in 2009.
Entering next season, there’s no question the Cubs have young talent abound, but they’ll still need a few key veteran guys to fill in the gaps. Coghlan has proven to be a complete player this season, and isn’t that far removed from his rookie season. But he has gained a wealth of experience in what he’s been through, and what he’s overcome to get back to this sort of output.
The Cubs would be smart to keep him as part of the plans for next season.