Cubs: Jake Marisnick profiles as an elite defensive weapon
By Jake Misener
Given the amount of uncertainty surrounding the Chicago Cubs, there’s really very little in terms of position battles this spring. Really, it comes down to second base, where Nico Hoerner looks like the front runner to grab the everyday job.
In the outfield, Chicago is set to roll with a combination of Jason Heyward, Ian Happ and newcomer Joc Pederson, who has been arguably the best offensive player in all of baseball so far this spring. The longtime Dodgers outfielder will, for the first time in his career, get the opportunity to play against left-handed pitching on a regular basis.
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That promise helped the Cubs land the slugger – but it has also led to questions when it comes to speedy fourth outfielder Jake Marisnick. Chicago brought in the former third-round pick. Both he and the organization are hoping he can take a big step in his career in 2021 after showing plenty of promise during the pandemic-shortened campaign last summer.
With the Mets, Marisnick put up career-best numbers, batting .333/.353/.606 in 34 plate appearances. Now, those numbers really jump off the page when put side-by-side of his career marks. Not counting 2020, the 29-year-old has only managed an on-base percentage north of .300 one time and he’s never hit .250 in a single season.
Defense is where Marisnick has made his mark in the big leagues. In 2019 as a member of the Houston Astros, he ranked in the 94th percentile in OAA. From 2016 to 2019, he ranked in the 95th percentile annually in sprint speed – so it makes sense the Cubs have been cautious as he works back from leg injuries that he battled last season.
"“Calf feels good. It feels good,” Marisnick told MLB.com this weekend. “It was just a precaution, make sure everything was 100 percent before I get out there. The work to get back has been good. I felt good when I was running the bases today.”"
Cubs: Jake Marisnick is the perfect fourth outfielder
Marisnick is a guy who can spell one of your starters every so often, but he’s not an everyday outfielder. Simply put, he just doesn’t bring enough value offensively to pencil him into the lineup card with any sort of real regularity. That being said, he can change a game with his glove and his legs, something few Cubs players have been able to do in recent years.
With a pitching staff that will rely heavily on its defense, Marisnick is a perfect fit for the Cubs’ roster. A defense-first presence, he can easily come in late in a ballgame or even pinch run, something that could be more important in 2021 with pitchers batting for themselves in the National League. Whatever chances he’s given, he’s ready to make the most of them.
"“He’s a guy that still has not reached his full potential in his eyes,” David Ross said. “And I think he’s continued to work towards that. He’s a guy that knows his role, can bring elite defense.”"