One trait Chicago Cubs’ management looks for in players is versatility. Many of their recent acquisitions are asked to play other positions. Zagunis is no exception.
It may have been on odd selection at the time, but Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Hoyer like the potential. Sure, they drafted catcher Kyle Schwarber in the first now of 2014 draft, but depth is valued. In the third round, Mark Zagunis, a catcher from Virginia Tech, was selected. Soon, Zagunis transitioned to the outfield. And not looked back.
Overall, Zagunis rates at a 55/80 accounting to scouts. Known for being aggressive at the plate, he rates at 65/80 for hit bat, though will not hit for great power. But, he is also playing in a position that is the deepest of all in the Chicago Cubs system. That may impact his placement with the team.
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There is no question that Zagunis’ eye at the plate is clear. His highest value comes in the terms of on-base percentage. A two-time Atlantic Coast Conference All-Conference player, and ACC All-Tournament player, he led VT in batting average, stolen bases, and runs twice. In three season in the minors, he boasts a career .401 on-base percentage and a 1:1.18 walks to strikeout ratio. His best marks came in 2016 when playing for Double-A Tennessee. In 52 games, Zagunis finished with a .302/.408/.435 split and scoring 30 runs.
In addition to his hitting prowess, Zagunis possesses surprising athleticism. Especially considering he is switching from catcher to outfield. And, while he has played all three outfield positions, he logged over 1046 innings in right field. Thus far, he has committed only 7 errors and has a range factor of 1.99. This compares well with Jason Heyward, Albert Almora, and Kris Bryant.
In the latter part of 2016, Zagunis made the transition to Triple-A Iowa but didn’t finish the season due to a toe injury. Still, his offensive and defensive numbers were consistent.
The Chicago Cubs are a deep team and deepest in the outfield. There are six current Cubs that could start every day in the outfield and perform well: Almora, Kris Bryant, Heyward, Jon Jay, Kyle Schwarber, and Ben Zobrist. Furthermore, Willson Contreras and Matt Szczur are fully capable of filling in off the bench. Add in Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ, and you have a massive road block. Even so, Zagunis’s consistent on-base ability may well move him to the front of the line.
The potential is there for him to be a .290/.385/.440 hitter in the Majors. If he hits 15 or more home runs, that is an added bonus. If that is the case, he is worthy of a starting spot. In 2017, look for him to be the next Contreras and step up when called. No matter if it’s at catcher, left field, or right field—Zagunis is ready.