Finally, the long-awaited position player roundup. Now we can start writing about things like why Baylor bunts so much.
The fact that every first baseman on the market has been mentioned as a possible Cub says something about the success of the Matt Stairs/Ron Coomer/Julio Zuleta troika. They’ve hit a combined .250 with a 745 OPS – hardly what you want to get out of a power position. With Fred McGriff on the way, things should improve here, but up to this point the first basemen get a C-minus.
Recently, I’ve seen a few online columnists I read talk about how Eric Young isn’t a very good player. Usually, it revolves around how his stats aren’t the type of numbers you want your leadoff hitter to put up. It seems to me that, aside from not walking 100 times a year, he’s doing everything you could ask. His on-base percentage is .333 – not in the top ten in the league, to be sure, but among the leaders as far as leadoff hitters are concerned. He’s stolen 21 bases, and his steal percentage is 65%, right around the break-even point. On a team that scores as little as the Cubs do, it would be nice to get your leadoff man onbase a bit more (and into scoring position without giving up an out by bunting), but I’ll take what he’s giving the team. Grade: B
Third base has been a disaster since Bill Mueller went down in May. Ron Coomer, Miguel Cairo, and Augie Ojeda have filled in, less than admirably. About the only good thing that happened was that the Cubs didn’t sign Vinny Castilla (of course, look how he’s doing for Houston). Here’s hoping Mueller comes back and plays as well as he did at the beginning of the year. Grade: INCOMPLETE
Chip Caray has taken to calling Ricky Gutierrez “the Secret Weapon.” While I wouldn’t go that far, I do think he’s an underrated player. He will hit just about anywhere in the lineup, has a bit of power, and (this year at least) has been close to automatic with runners in scoring position (he’s got an 830 OPS in those situations). He could walk more, but the NL is short on shortstop talent right now, and beside Rich Aurilia and Jimmy Rollins, Gutierrez is the best out there. Grade: B+
As far as the outfield goes, it’s a mess. Rondell White is putting up really good numbers when he’s healthy, which appears to be about never. As a result, left and center have seen a revolving door of AAAA players like Todd Dunwoody, not-ready-for-prime-time-players like Sarge Jr., and retreads like Delino DeShields. I was amazed (in a good way) when the Cubs cut Damon Buford loose, but I wish they could have done it with someone in mind to take his place. The Franchise is not ready to play center every day, and it’s unfair to stick him out their occasionally, watch him put up an 0-for-4, and then bench him for not performing. Better to send him to Iowa to play every day and learn the strike zone, like they did with Rosie Brown. So now we get Michael Tucker, who at least didn’t cost anything to acquire. Who knows, maybe he’ll start hitting….
As far as right field goes, I could (and will someday) write a whole column about how Sammy Sosa has changed his career by becoming more selective at the plate, but for now, let’s just say that whatever it was the Cubs ended up paying him, it’s looking like a really good investment right about now. Outfield grades: D-plus, C-minus, A.