Chicago Cubs: Are Zobrist, Heyward playing themselves out of innings?

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 10: Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 10: Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist /

I know. I know. It’s only spring training. The Chicago Cubs are getting ready for the season, not auditioning. But could Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward be playing themselves out of innings?

The way that this Chicago Cubs roster is set up now, it’s hard to get excited about the teams spring training. I mean, I’m excited. But I live for the Cubs and anything that has to do with them. But the average fan is ready for spring to be over with so we can get to baseball. And while the numbers don’t seem to matter all that much, that’s not entirely true.

For the Cubs’ Ian Happ, he earned the job through impressing in camp. The other side of that is that Albert Almora did not. So while many of us were giving the job to Almora, Happ apparently loves to hit in the spring. So with that being said, could Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward be playing themselves out of innings and at-bats?

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Heyward still copacetic?

The organization has stayed pretty hush about Heyward and his contract. If they’re upset about it, it doesn’t show. But entering the third year of an eight-year, $184 million contract, there are plenty of questions to be had.

First, how much is Gold Glove defense worth? Heyward can still pick it and flick it with the best of them in right field. But for the cost of doing it while only hitting .259? It doesn’t seem worth it.

And while he went to work on his swing last season and did make some improvements, he still came up short of what the Cubs hoped to get with him. With Chili Davis as part of the team, the hope was that Heyward would turn things around from the philosophical side and not change the swing. Well, that is only half right.

In 15 games this spring, Heyward has a slash line of .216/.293/.378. In 237 at-bats he has three doubles, one home run and three driven in. While these numbers are simply Heyward “putting in some work,” it’s not good. While we looked at Mike Freeman and his spring, we noted it was against the level of Double-A pitching. Let’s go, Heyward.

Zobrist fading fast

And then we have super-sub, Zobrist. He suffered from a stiff back early in the spring, which may or may not be affecting him. Zobrist says no, which doesn’t bode well for him. In nine games, Zobrist has slashed .208/.269/333 in 24 at-bats. He has just one home run as well with two RBI.

These were the guys that were supposed to get things done for the Cubs on multiple levels. But it’s looking like the young guys might be taking their place.

Next: Almora hurting his chances with poor spring

Kyle Schwarber is having a fantastic spring, and so is Happ. Even Peter Bourjous is having a solid spring, which might be why he’s in the conversation to stick around after camp. And Javier Baez is playing well, not striking out as much–and he walked. For real, a straight up walk. But these guys are earning their playing time, while Zobrist and Heyward might be watching their’s slip away.

For Heyward, he’s still young. He can get behind this issue and fix it. I do not doubt that. But Zobrist? He’s pushing 37, and time might be running out on him. Whatever Joe Maddon decides to do with these guys, I get. Use them for defense. Pinch-hitting, whatever the case. But it’s hard to deny that it’s the younger guys starting to push them out. But wasn’t that what we wanted to happen?