Spring Training Battles: Center Field

The Cubs are a little over two weeks into spring training with about three weeks before Opening Day. It's time to check in on the yearly ritual of spring training battles. What's the fun of spring training without a little competition? The Cubs have a few spots up for grabs and today I'll take a look at the center field spot between Felix Pie and Sam Fuld.

The Cubs had the opportunity this offseason to shore up center field with a more reliable veteran, as a few stars hit the market including Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones
. The Cubs were obviously determined to give their youngsters a shot at the job, as they didn't even bother to call Hunter, which leads to the obvious conclusion that they probably didn't call any of the available center field free agents. We'll all soon find out if that confidence will be rewarded.

Felix Pie has been one of the Cubs top prospects and usually the Cubs top prospect ever since he joined the organization as a wide-eyed 17-year old out of the Dominican Republic. Pie has often been compared to the Cubs last great center field prospect, Corey Patterson, both being left-handed hitters with five-tool talent and questionable strike zone judgement. A tenous comparison, superficial at best, and, to be honest, a lazy comparison. While Corey Patterson struggled with each promotion in the minors and was truly rushed to the majors, Pie has taken each promotion in stride, often putting up better numbers than the previous stop.

Let's compare the two after the jump....

Corey Patterson

(Note: Minor league OBP is compiled with available data)

Age Level AB
19 Lo-A 475 20 25 85 .320 .354 .592 .946
20 AA 444 22 45 115 .261 .329 .491 .820
21 AAA 367 7 29 65 .253 .308 .387 .695
  TOTALS 1286 49 99 265 .281 .332 .498 .830






Felix Pie

Age Level AB
17 Rookie 218 4 21 47 .321 .381 .569 .950
17 SS A 8 0 1 1 .125 .222 .250 .472
18 Lo-A 505 4 41 98 .285 .339 .388 .727
19 Hi-A 412 8 38 113 .299 .358 .442 .800
20 AA 240 11 16 53 .304 .349 .554 .903
21 AAA 559 15 46 126 .283 .341 .451 .792
22 AAA 229 9 19 40 .362 .410 .563 .973
  TOTALS 2171 51 182 478 .300 .355 .469 .824









While they do share similar K/BB ratios (2.63 for Pie and 2.68 for Patterson) and career OPS numbers, Pie has almost twice as many minor league at-bats. More importantly, he's almost twice as good. Corey's numbers are inflated by his one good year in lo-A ball, while Pie has continually progressed. And what doesn't show in the numbers is the difference in personalities. While Corey has been marked with the "uncoachable" tag (maybe he's just stubborn or stupid), Pie is known for being eager to please and willing to adjust his game. Had the Cubs remained patient with Corey, they would have had a much better idea of exactly how poor a player he'd end up being.

Sam Fuld's minor league career hasn't been dogged with the same ridiculous comparisons as Pie, but he has struggled with injuries. The 10th round pick out of Stanford has had a tough time making it through a full season with hip, oblique and shoulder injuries, some attributed to his hard-nosed style of play. He's remained consistent with the bat though, putting up a line of 297/377/417 (794 OPS) as a minor leaguer. He certainly helped his cause by being named the AFL MVP with a line of 402/496/626 (1.118 OPS). But before you get too excited about that MVP award, remember he's in a class with Chip Cannon, Eric Duncan, Chris Shelton, Jason Dubois and Ken Harvey.

Defensively, both players are considered a plus and both probably have the arms and range to play any of the three outfield spots. Fuld has a reputation as a player that will run through a wall for you and he nearly did last September for the Cubs, with this highlight reel catch against the ivy. Pie showcased his arm in his very first game, gunning down Russ Branyan to preserve the tie, in a game the Cubs eventually lost. Either one will likely make the Cubs pitchers very happy.

PECOTA has Pie projected at 291/344/480 (824 OPS and 3.8 WARP) which would put his OPS fourth among NL center fielders last year, with at least 350 plate appearances. While that might be a bit kind, it is, at least, encouraging. Sam Fuld comes in at 265/334/369 (703 OPS and 2.5 WARP), which would put him in Juan Pierre territory.

So heading into camp, it looked like Pie was probably the favorite, based on both talent, past performance and future projections. But anybody can get hot in March, so how have they been doing so far? Well, Pie has staked his claim, hitting a robust 321/406/607 in about 32 plate appearances. Fuld has showed that top of the order patience that has been expected of him with 8 walks and a 455 OBP, but has had problems finding holes in the defense, hitting a paltry .143 in his 22 plate appearances. Manager Lou Piniella has already acknowledged that Pie has taken the early lead. But, as mentioned, anyone can get hot over a few weeks and Fuld could still catch fire.

It's my opinion though, that it's time to see what Pie can do in the majors. I understand the desire to supplement him with a right-handed hitting counterpart, as he's historically struggled versus lefties in his career. Beyond that, Piniella should pencil him in regularly at the 7 or 8 spot in the lineup and let his glove make up for the offensive learning curve that any 23-year old in the majors will have to go through.

Coming Up Next: The Starting Rotation


I can't believe someone other than me is awake this late.

Paul Sully in the Trib says ditto (without any stats)


First of all, nice post.

To quote from "Sunset Boulevard," yes, it's time for Pie's close-up.

Just stick him in the 8 spot and let him play a season. What's the point of making him untouchable for years, if they weren't going to give him a full shot to prove himself?

Why flames in the logo?

All good battles need flames...

just having some fun...as I explained in another comment, wanted to do something "Wrestlemania" style.

Heh, I thought it had more of a Daily Show / Colbert Report vibe. I expect to see a graphic of an eagle shedding a single glistening tear the day Murton gets traded.

The Cubs are on Fire?

The old format at mvn is better. I know there isn't a lot of action right now. Keep up the good work.

Hmm... isn't this at least your second comment bashing the new site, without any substance?

And action? How are the "format" and the "action" related to each other?

Still trying to figure out how all these new writers were able to steal the identities of the old mvn writers, and write in the same ways, with the same content, but be some much different.

Actually he's right on both points.

There haven't been any 300 reply posts and this embedded comment layout is no good.

switch to flat view...

 you'll get 300 comments, the next time we leave a post up for longer than a day or the day the Cubs trade for Carl Crawford.

aww give the guy a break. if evan wants to comment here on the new site, even he is welcome i think...

I liked the old MVN format too, but give the guys at TCR a chance making the switch on their own isn't easy and I am sure what you see here is a work-in-progress and anly going to get better. Plus I am here to pick up the juice on the Cubs first the format comes in a distant second.

You guys are nuts! And entirely un-constructive. What exactly do you like better about MVN's style? The 3-inch wide content columns? The ridiculously large article titles? The completely bland and generic black/gray/white color scheme?

I love the new site. It actually feels like, *gasp*, a Cubs blog!

Play Pie, with the addition of FBomb and Soto having a pulse they can carry him for awhile if needed.

Pie should be given the chance to be the starting CF on an everyday basis for at least through the AS Break. If he is struggling then, we might need to go get a CFer. I say might, because if he is playing excellent defense and SS, RF and C steps up and successfully answering many of the questions and concerns about them, then we could live with Pie out there even with him struggling with the bat. But we couldn't live with it if those other positions struggle also.

He'll continue to struggle at the plate until he shortens his swing, which he doesn't appear to be doing at all.

By month two, he'll be booed by the drunks and we'll all be trying to find someone for CF so we can send him back to AAA to work on his hitting mechanics.


I guess if fans & the club can tolerate this guy hitting .230/5-10 HR, he'll give them A+ defense all year.

He'll continue to struggle at the plate until he shortens his swing, which he doesn't appear to be doing at all

You don't know what you're talking about.

It's early, but he's taking some walks and driving some balls to left-center. Two good signs.

Completely unrelated, but are you the same "Timmer" that is wrote an article for Wrigley Season Ticket 2008?

Well... when you put it that way.

His problem isn't a long loopy swing -- that's only noticeable when he gets fooled on a pitch, yes, usually a slider. Most players look bad in some way when fooled. Nobody complains about the long loopy swing when he crushes the ball. His minor league stats speak for themselves and show he deserves a shot. Besides, as another poster said, what's the point of holding back on trading him if we don't use him.

"The Cubs were obviously determined to give their youngsters a shot at the job, as they didn't even bother to call Hunter, which leads to the obvious conclusion that they probably didn't call any of the available center field free agents."

I thought unless we hear directly from Hendry, we can't assume Hendry wasn't involved with every known possible free agent or traded player...:)

keep pie in center threw all star break see what hes doing/
trade a middle infielder (cedeno) to giants for r. davis

I'm wondering at what offensive level Pie can contribute that will ensure his stay in CF for the season. What would be the bare minimum acceptable here? If he cuts down his s/o ratio and raised his ops to the league average for CF's, would that be considered successful for a full 1st season in the majors? Lou didn't show much confidence in him when he came back at the end of last year, what kind of committment will he demonstrate this season?

If it were me his numbers would be less important than his approach. If he struggles, let's see how he adjusts. One of these days he'll be forced to shorten up or fail.

If he doesn't struggle, then we can all look the other way and let him swing however he wants.

Well, that's easy. Here's what Cubs CF's put up last year when we won the Division title:

.254 .305 .404 .710

Those numbers are clearly achievable by Pie this year if he's allowed to play regularly.

The same goes for Soto at catcher and Theriot at SS. Here are the numbers they need to beat to be better than the Cubs' cumulatives from last year:

C .239 .304 .369 .673
SS .254 .309 .331 .640

Ironically, the player least likely to beat last year's numbers is Fukudome in RF.

RF .293 .375 .419 .794

If he defense is Gold Glove caliber, I'll settle for an average year of the 8-time GG, former Oriole Paul Blair:
.250/.302/.382, 11 HR, 14 SB

I'd be thrilled with an average year of 7-time GG Devon White,
.263/.319/.419, 17 HR, 29 SB

Or that of the "Secretary of Defense," 8-time GG Garry Maddox:
.285/.320/.413, 11 HR, 23 SB

And wow, could he really have an average Andy Van Slyke (5-time GG) year?
.274/.349/.443, 13 HR, 19 SB

Sure, I cheated and did not include Barry Bonds, Larry Walker, or Andruw Jones. I don't think Pie will ever reach Jones' level. But if his 2008-2011 seasons are of the lines above in the #7 lineup spot, it would be difficult to call him a bust.

Actually if you look at the first full year of guys like Bonds, Walker, and Jones, their numbers were below average so cut Pie some slack. Every kid needs time to grow. Not everyone hits like Pujols their first year in the league.

Hah... that logo is deliciously over-the-top. I love it.

Aw thanks...I was going for something as close to Wrestlemania as I could come up with...

If I had pictures of Pie and Fuld staring at each other, I would have used them. 

I've only seen two games so far on TV, and that swing still looks loopy to me - is the club actively working to shorten it this Spring?

"Well, Pie has staked his claim, hitting a robust 321/406/607 in about 32 plate appearances. "

Looks like our man Dusty will be providing entertainment for the entire season:


He's the gift that keeps on giving.

love the first line...

There's a War Brewin in Cincinnati. On one side: the Dustyites. On the other side: common sense.

that whole article is chock full of awesomeness actually...I could quote from it all day.


According to ESPN 1000 reports out of Boston that Bosox are not interested in deal and are in no hurry to move Crisp.

Although, Beckett left yesterdays game with back spasms.

yeah Cubnut posted a link from a Boston newspaper yesterday that said the same thing. It was too good to be true.

In other news man walks on the moon.

I am the master of the 3/44

I'm fine with Pie in CF, especially since we don't have the depth to acquire both Crisp and Roberts at this time.

I am worried about batting Pie 8th, as he won't see anything good to hit and his plate discipline is really suspect to begin with. I realize that if he does get on, the pitcher can bunt him over to utilize his speed, but I'd rather see him hit 7th so that he can have some success and gain confidence.

My final offer for Roberts: Gallagher, Cedeno, Patterson and Veal.

The lineup is more 'balanced' with Pie at 7th, especially if Marshall gets back into the rotation.

I think the Orioles would be crazy not to take that offer, that's 3 players who are potentially better than Roberts.

Depends, was the article any good?

I agree with most, let Pie start the season starting in CF and give him a couple of months of everyday play. This should give us a good glimpse as to what type of MLB player we have on our hands. If he proves to be a solid option in CF awesome and if he doesn't, make a deal for a franchise type of CF'er we have always wanted (Carl Crawford, PLEASE!!!) or an experienced fill in to take us through the regualar season and into the playoffs. (Kenny Lofton, Marlon Byrd, Rajai Davis) But I'm truly optimistic on Pie's abilities and think he will develop nicely over the first couple of months. The great thing about this situation is we have good enough pieces around Pie we don't need him to be great like we needed Corey Patterson. The cubs will be successful in 08 regardless of whether Pie develops or not.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

No, that wasn't me.

BP's team health report on the Cubs:


Not sure how they come up with their rankings, but if it is based on lost $, it's flawed.

Rob, etc. --

Now that we have the subject lines and the new threaded organization of comments, is there a reason we need different comment sections for each story? That is, couldn't we do with one master comment section for all stories, and let the subject lines and threads work their magic and organize things? It would make the comments more cohesive and easy to use, and we would all be virtually present in one comment "room" at all times.

Yeah, I could just close the comments and add a message board instead. But I think your in the minority on that one. I mean, have you looked at Orioles Hangout and NSBB? Brutal to follow a conversation in my opinion...



I did want to add that I should have closed the comments on the poll, we certainly didn't need two threads on the same topic.

Oh but then we wouldn't be able to tell which post was hot enough to get 300 comments.

Logo needs more fire, imo.

I like the new site. When TCR switched from allbaseball to MVN, there were real problems. Nested comments are nothing.

needs more lens flair, too...buncha f'n amateurs up in here.

Nested comments are like OBP. It takes time for the old boys to accept it. Next thing you know, some of you will want to get rid of the playoffs and the forward pass.

I would like to see Pie get a healthy chance to show if he's ready. No matter how much money we can throw around, there's nothing like getting production out of a cheap young player. It's the reason I like Theriot. He's a good utility infielder.

Also, I like the new TCR.

"It's the reason I like Theriot. He's a good utility infielder."

But he is now the starting SS.

Pie's surgery:

assuming the testis is viable...

To prevent subsequent torsion, fix viable gonads to the scrotal wall with 3-4 nonabsorbable sutures. Perform both exploration and anchoring of the contralateral testis through the same incision.


in case it's not viable:

Patients requiring an orchiectomy because of a nonviable testis may benefit from the placement of a testicular prosthesis.


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  • as a fan, he only "owes" us the game on the field and not getting in the way of others on his team being ready to play (imo).

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  • What a loss to baseball, which I'm sure pales in comparison to the personal loss to his loved ones.

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