After putting up the worst season of his career in 2019, Chicago Cubs utility man Daniel Descalso seeks redemption in 2020.
One could easily forget that Daniel Descalso was a member of the 2019 Chicago Cubs. Descalso (33) was signed to a two-year, $5 million deal before the 2019 season. At first, it seemed like a decent fit, a versatile veteran utility man who had solid on-base numbers the previous three seasons.
His first year as a Cub ended up being a disaster, slashing .173/.271/.250 with a .521 OPS in 82 games. His fWAR on the season was -0.8. The beginning of the season was actually pretty good for him when he slashed .263/.349/.408 in his first 24 games. As for the remaining 58? .098/.208/.120 with nine total hits, four RBI and only one XBH and 36 strikeouts. Yikes.
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So the questions for him right now include will the Cubs make use of him in 2020? As well as can he bounce back in 2020? He is set to make $2.5 million next season but that does not necessarily mean he will be around or he will be a major part of this roster.
Evaluating who Daniel Descalso is
One of the biggest factors that have to be discussed regarding the fall of Descalso’s 2019 season was his injured ankle. After spraining it and missing a decent amount of time he was simply not the same guy. One could see just watching him play he did not look right and he was trying to play through it. He even admitted he was playing through it as reported by Des Moines Register’s Tommy Birch.
There is no doubt this was a major contributor to his season completely going off the rails. It was May 4th when he hurt his ankle, and it is worth noting he did not go on the IL for several months as it was bothering him. That is a while to play through an injury. From March/April to the end of May, his flyball percentage dropped from 40% to 25.7% and his groundball percentage increased from 40% to 51.4%. Hard to drive the ball on a bad ankle.
Now was Descalso going to end the year with a slash around .263/.349/.408? Debatable. The on-base certainly could have stayed around that mark. In 2018 he recorded a .353 OBP and .349 OBP in 2016 with a cumulative .344 OBP from 2016-2018. Drawing walks is something he had really improved on the past several years. While he did put up a career-high .436 slugging in 2018 and has a cumulative .418 slugging from 2016-2018, Descalso is a career .320 slugger so the jury is out on that. The average would likely dip being a .235 career-hitter and having batted over .260 once since 2012.
Regardless a healthy Descalso would at least be better than .173/.271/.250.
So what should the Cubs do?
Based on the data and circumstances we have looked at, it is reasonable to believe Descalso can bounce back if healthy. I mean…it is hard to top last season in terms of bad. Though even if he does improve, is it enough to be worth it for him to take up a roster spot? Right now, while projections are not exactly the word of God, he is projected to slash .223/.320/.385 in 2020 according to baseball-reference. Outside of the OBP possibly being higher it is hard to imagine to see much more than that.
Even if he is still on the roster come opening day, he is the 25th man essentially. Descalso can bring a good clubhouse presence and versatility in the field, which is nice, but the Cubs need production off their bench at the plate big time in 2020. We know Descalso’s ceiling as a hitter is a low-average, solid OBP guy who is not known for power or run production, and that is if he does indeed bounce back which is not 100% certain.
In the end, the Cubs need to do everything in their power to improve the depth and not let Descalso block a potential spot just because he is owed $2.5 million. They have to be serious about getting reliable contributors. Plain and simple. If he does stick around and can contribute off the bench every now and then, cool, but regardless do not expect him to get a whole lot of playing time in 2020.
Hopefully, for his sake he does bounce back regardless of what team he is on as he seems like a good guy. He is very easy to root for. Yet the Cubs have to make decisions on what is best for the team and right now and it might just be best for both sides to move on. If Descalso lands elsewhere and gets playing time it can help him a great deal, he will not get that in Chicago.