Albert Almora had a great year defensively in 2018, but center field may actually be the weakest position for the Chicago Cubs, according to one measure.
Center field doesn’t seem like it’s been a weakness for the Chicago Cubs in recent years. Former first-rounder Albert Almora dazzled with his defense at the position in 2018, posting a solid 1.1 defensive WAR according to Baseball Reference.
But as a recent MLB Trade Rumors article points out, center field is actually Chicago’s weakest position in terms of bWAR. Cubs center fielders were worth 1.1 WAR in 2018.
Chicago is by no means the worst in the league at the position—they rank 15th. But it’s clearly their least valuable position when looking at the combination of hitting and fielding.
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Not the strongest platoon
Center field was mostly a platoon position for the Cubs in 2018. While Almora was great defensively and also had a good year at the plate, he didn’t hit enough to produce much at the plate.
Ian Happ also spent some time in center as well as left and right field and in the infield, but he struggled offensively to the tune of a .233 batting average. Jason Heyward played some center as well and was excellent defensively but still didn’t live up to expectations at the plate.
So when you think about total value, it’s not as surprising that center field is the Cubs’ worst position. They haven’t had one steady player starting there every day, and those who have played in center haven’t gained much of a foothold offensively.
Is help on the way?
So, do the Cubs need to do something to address this issue? Not necessarily. It could work itself out in 2019.
Almora’s great year in 2018 showed he could have the potential to break out and possibly take on a more regular role in center. If that happens, he’ll have many more opportunities to hit and thus increase his value.
Even if that doesn’t happen, though, it’s still not a major area of concern. Although it’s the Cubs’ least productive position, it’s still average in the grand scheme of the league.
The Cubs probably won’t address center field this offseason. If they did decide to, though, they might want to pick up a veteran center fielder to address a stated need of leadership.
The center field deficiency isn’t a big issue right now. It’s likely to work itself out, and a more immediate issue that needs to be addressed is the need for relief pitching. But it’s still good to keep in mind that a player like Almora might benefit from some more opportunities at the plate.