As Spring Training is well under way, let's take a look at one of the Cubs' key position battles between outfielders Kosuke Fukudome and Reed Johnson.
While it is likely that the two will platoon during the season, one will undoubtedly end up with more playing time than the other. Others such as Joey Gathright could contribute in center, but the majority of the playing time will go to either Fukudome or Johnson. Which player deserves it?
Let's find out.
Reed Johnson (2008: .303, 6 HR, 50 RBI, 52 R, .358 OBP)
Upside: Johnson has significant experience in center field, playing in center 78 times in 2008. Furthermore, Johnson had 8 fewer RBI than Fukudome in 168 fewer at-bats. Johnson's career .284 is also strong.
Defensively, Johnson is outstanding and can be counted on daily to make an impact in center field. In fact, Johnson has only commited three errors in the past three years (335 games).
Downside: Johnson is not a true everyday player and it is uncertain whether he can maintain his 2008 numbers if he plays daily.
Kosuke Fukudome (2008: .257, 10 HR, 58 RBI, 79 R, .359 OBP)
Upside: Fukudome has shown enormous potential not only during his career in Japan, but also during the first half of 2008. Fukudome's ability to work the count and draw walks is exceptional, as is his fielding. If Fukudome can post numbers similar to or better than his first half numbers from 2008, he will be a shoe-in for the everyday role.
Downside: Fukudome was selected as a National League All-Star, but his numbers tailed off dramatically in the second half of the year. After the break, Fukudome only hit .217 with a .314 OBP. (.273 BA, .383 OBP before the break).
His durability and consistency is questionable and Fukudome struggles against right-handed pitching which is surprising considering he bats left-handed.
The Bottom Line: Although Fukudome has the ability to hit consistently and with above-average power, his second half numbers make him a risk and unreliable.
Reed Johnson, on the other hand, has proved to be consistent day in and day out, doing whatever it takes to win (he has been among the top five in hit-by-pitches in the last three seasons).
Ultimately, Johnson is the more reliable and productive player and although Fukudome has great potential, but his inconsistency makes him a liability.
Agree? Disagree? Let the debate begin.