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
Pay the man his money...(MVP Talk)
Kris Bryant is going to own the Cubs himself in 6 years :)
Without doing any actual research because this is the Internets, I have a feeling Bryant will break every arbitration record there ever was unless TheJedi can literally use the Force to convince him and Boras to sign a multi-year deal.
Hammel was supposed to pitch Friday, Cubs said it'll be a bullpen day instead.
Tis either a valid excuse for Hammel's recent struggles or a PR game when they try to trade him this offseason. Or possibly both
#Cubs say Jason Hammel has been pitching through elbow tightness and could have started if the team was still playing meaningful games.
Finally made it to Pittsburgh, 6 hour drive can't wait to see the game ....WTF?!?!?
Being young does have its advantages. Not that it helps Addison Russell last season.
Keith Law chat
"Nick: Speaking of players you were wrong about, do you still like the Jason Heyward contract?
Klaw: Yes, actually."
I gives player a year to get acquainted w whole Cub thing,next year will be more telling.Love the d though.
Saw Tito's comment in the last thread. Thought it was a joke.
Bubble wrap the Cubs
that's not important.
the important thing is the cubs seem to have a new defensive whizz at 2nd base according to the stats...sample size warning and all that...but i have faith in him.
imagine him having to do this 20 times a season. 6.2 innings played, 20 assists, DEFENSE GOLD!
That little switcheroo with Zobrist and Rizzo cost me 2 points in the predictions game--damn it.
We'll always have 1985. Nothing else, but we'll always have that.
Nationals 2B Daniel Murphy likely to miss rest of regular season
RVIMPENY: It's raining today so the Cubs will probably play intrasquad game(s) tomorrow and/or Saturday, but it's pretty much a day-to-day proposition, and a lot of times it's decided at the last minute.
Best bet is to check in at Riverview in the morning and ask somebody what's going on that day.
Thanks Phil, I had the Salt River chart, but based on that, it looks like they hardly play and was not on the Surprise on 9/28...I assume they do not really want fans there anyway? Do you know if they play today, Friday or Sat? Sorry to be a pain, but I am only here until Sunday.
John Arguello at Cubs Den with observations & photos from Tuesday's Cubs instructs intrasquad game:
Guess which one is Vogelberg