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....
(Note: Minor league OBP is compiled with available data)
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
"MLB announces #Cubs Minor League RHP Tanner Griggs receives 50-game suspension without pay after testing positive for amphetamine"
2014 12th rounder...
it's hard to know who to blame...on one hand he's a baseball player, on the other he sells cars in the offseason...either job leads to amphetamine abuse. =p
Thanks PHIL! I thought only the Cubs had control until the last day of the MLB 2015 Season.
that's awesome...makes me look forward to hearing theo talk some more about how the team needs to be creative with finances because money is tight.
See What The Cubs Are Building This Off-Season For Wrigley Plaza, Clubhouse
CUBBIES-4-EVER: It's not unusual for a PTBNL to be chosen after the Rule 5 Draft from the list of Rule 5 eligible players who were not selected. That way, a club gets a player they like (perhaps somebody like OF Jeffrey Baez) without the cumbersome Rule 5 roster restrictions that go with a Rule 5 Draft pick.
Clayton Richard is absolutely, positively NOT a free-agent. He is under club control through the 2016 season.
Haren was 4-2 with a 4.01 ERA with the Cubs. Seems like he worked out just as expected.
Did they ever say or who the PTBNL or cash decision on Rodney was or who was the PTBNL in the Austin Jackson deal was yet? Neither was worth whatever they gave up. Cahill and Richard were the only two good "deadline" deals they made. Hunter (given Lake was the odd man out by far and taking up a roster spot) and Haren weren't worth it.
MLB.com says he is, cubs.com site says he's a Cub, great cooperation between the 2 sites, weird
The drafting of Shea at #1 was a sign of things to come -- an undersized white linebacker who's not particularly fast; lets make him an NFL defensive end! Just idiotic. When the best thing you can say about your #1 pick is that he has a "high motor", that's a problem...that's what you should say about late-round picks.
Not AZ PHIL but after being DFA'd by the Cubs (after they got him from the Pirates in the "I get a chance in the Majors clause"), the Cubs re-signed him for the remainder of the season. I do not believe service time is an issue for him, so he is eligible to opt for Major League Free Agency - which he is doing and the Cubs or someone else will sign him to an MLB deal. AZ PHIL please correct this if you see fit - but that is the most current info that I'm aware of.
To also be fair to Emery, wtf do you draft Shea McLellin as a #1, Jonathan Bostic in the same draft, let Peppers go in lieu of signing Jared Shit-Head, Brandon Hardin, Evan Rodriguez, Isiah Frey, on and on...
I will give him credit for Kyle Long - who is like my favorite player (what does THAT say about the team - but he did throw in the 90's as a former pitcher), and Jeffrey.
Geo Soto leaves the WSux and signs with the Angels who lost Chris Ianetta to the Mariners.
Freed... The Angels also promoted Bobby Scales from director of player development to special assistant
AZ PHIL- Is Clayton Richard a free agent or not? One site I see he is, on another no. MLB has him listed as a free agent, Cot's contracts says he is a FA, baseball-reference says he's not, but Cubs have him on active roster. I know that he is just short of MLB 6 years service by just like 15 days, but that doesn't always matter.
Except that he gave up Russell and McKinney for a half-season of Hammel...
Beane cam at least point and laugh at Hammel.