For the Cubs to be successful, they’ll need more production from depth guys.
It is kind of hard to complain about a Chicago Cubs team that entered Saturday with a 13-4 record and a firm hold on first place. The starting pitching has been good and the lineup has scored runs in a timely manner while having very professional at bats. There is one concern right now that is a bit more noticeable now that nagging injuries are starting to happen, and that’s productive roster depth.
Right now the everyday position players are for the most part doing their part to help the team win. Even with Kris Bryant struggling and suffering a minor hand injury. Bench/platoon guys have had a rougher go at it so far. These might not be everyday players, but they do have to come in and fill in or pinch hit in big spots as we saw Friday night when Josh Phegley came in and faced Josh Hader in the eighth inning.
So where exactly are all of the issues on the roster? Here is a look at the key depth players so far and what their production has looked like. It is a hard solution especially in a weird 60-game season but identifying the goods and bads can help see the issues.
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Chicago Cubs: Offensive production on the bench has overall been lacking.
Going into Saturday morning there are seven guys who had less than 50 at-bats so far: Victor Caratini, Nico Hoerner, David Bote, Jason Kipnis, Albert Almora, Steven Souza Jr. and Josh Phegley.
Kipnis has been an incredible pick up with a .364/.462/.864 slash and five RBI in his first eight games. Caratini has played catcher, DH and a little first base and has slashed .293/.341/.341 in 13 games.
Hoerner started off well but has had a rougher go at it lately, hitting .091/.259/.136 in his last seven games, but he is still growing as a 23 year old rookie. Here is how the rest of these guys have looked so far.
David Bote: .219/.324/.438 with two homers, eight RBI and 114 wRC+ in 11 games
Bote has hit the ball hard and come up with some big hits, but the consistency has not really been there. When he is hot he has proved to be a solid bench player and has played good defense.
Steven Souza: .133/.235/.200 with two RBI and 45 wRC+ in six games
He was a productive power/on-base hitter a few years back with the Rays and Diamondbacks before suffering a serious ACL, LCL and PCL injury in 2018. The sample size for him has not big but so far not much offense coming from him and not having played a full season in several years could be a reason. Hopefully he can find some of that power again.
Albert Almora: .143/.333/.143 with 58 wRC+ in 14 games
Most of his time so far in 2020 has been late-inning defense. This is pretty much where his value is these days as he has really struggled at the plate going back to late 2018. He has two hits (both singles) in 14 at bats. At this point we cannot expect Almora to get much starting time or at-bats outside pinch hits and an very occasional start (if there are no outfield injuries).
Josh Phegley: .000/.222/.000 in five games
The team’s third string catcher is known for his defense and not his bat. He is a career .226/.269/.380 hitter and will not be turning into Ted Williams any time soon. Probably should not be getting any big at bats late in games going forward and be used strictly to fill in behind the dish.
Looking for more production will be pretty important going forward. Do not expect huge moves being made this year, but there are inexpensive guys out there available for trade or signing. If Yasiel Puig is healthy…just saying. The organization could also call upon guys like Ian Miller to give the bench some speed to help produce runs just to name someone. Hopefully other guys on the current roster can at least improve and be decently productive.