Chicago Cubs news: First base situation shaping up for 2023
With more and more roster cuts coming about as the season begins in ten days, the Chicago Cubs are still evaluating exactly who will play where for most games. It isn’t as easy for first base as it is for other positions, with the front office having three viable candidates to hand the keys to. Where Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer were thought to battle for most games in the field, that problem has unfortunately been temporarily eased due to Seiya Suzuki’s injury.
I’m not surprised by the resurgent spring that Mancini has had thus far. After looking at the 2nd half he had with Houston, many claimed that Mancini was on a downward trajectory, as if nobody had ever had a down season. He leads all Cubs this Spring with 13 hits, including two home runs and a 1.051 OPS, equating to a .406 batting average in 32 ABs. Glancing over his stats from last season, his spring training looks similar to his best month of last season, which came in May, where in 102 ABs, he recorded a .363/.449/.461 line, including a 167 wRC+, a .417 BABIP, two home runs, and ten runs driven in. If he can continue at this level during the regular season, the Cubs will be forced to place him into an everyday role.
Hosmer, considered the Opening Day first baseman, is off to a rough start with a .226 batting average in 31 ABs and 4 RBIs in Spring Training. Hosmer has always been thought of as at least a slightly above-average hitter, and Steamer projects him for a 110 wRC+ in 2023, or 10% better than league-average. The longest shot, which we need to pay close attention to, is what will happen with Matt Mervis.
In Spring Training, Mervis has hit just .227 after an elite year at the plate between High-A, Double-A, And Triple-A, where he slashed a combined .309/.389/.606/, evening getting up to a 152 wRC+ in Iowa, the highest level of the minors before major league baseball. Mervis recently finished up with Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic and was sent back to Spring Training to get more ABs, hopefully. He is being considered part of the plan and given ample opportunity to showcase his capabilities.
Things don’t get much easier if you want to look at defensive stats. Mancini, Hosmer, and Mervis had good numbers in their seasons last year. Here’s a quick recap defensively:
Trey Mancini in 2022 (1B): 284 putouts, 14 assists, 0 errors, 1.000 fielding percentage.
Eric Hosmer in 2022 (1B): 690 putouts, 77 assists, 6 erros, .99 FPCT
Matt Mervis in 2022 (1B): 839 putouts, 74 assists, 8 errors, .99 FPCT.
Essentially, any of the three can be counted on defensively. Though fielding percentage doesn’t account for the more elite statistics we sometimes look for, such as runs prevented and outs above average, it’s a safe way to evaluate a player based on what they can bring to the table.
For now, it appears Mancini will be getting the nod for the lion’s share of work in right field, at least until Suzuki returns from injury, while Hosmer, with decent splits against lefties, will be penciled in for first base. The Cubs, at least, will have the luxury of evaluating all three of Mervis (most likely in Iowa), Hosmer, and Mancini over the first month of the season before Suzuki’s return.