Sizing Up the Chicago Cubs Against the NL Central: Outfield
Saturday, I wrote an article comparing the Cubs infield to the rest of the NL Central. This article will compare the Cubbies' outfield against their divisional foes.
A little side note, I'm using the MLB.com team depth charts as my source as to who the starting outfielders will be.
Although there's a good chance Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome will platoon in center field, the Cubs.com depth chart has Fukudome listed ahead of Johnson as of March 29.
These rankings are solely my opinion and I more than welcome debates.
Cubs- Alfonso Soriano
Astros- Carlos Lee
Cardinals- Chris Duncan
Brewers- Ryan Braun
Reds- Chris Dickerson (in competition with Jerry Hairston)
Pirates- Nyjer Morgan
After the big three, there's a major drop off in the level of talent. The Reds and Pirates are hopeful their young left fielders blossom into stars.
- Lee, much like teammate Lance Berkman, is highly undervalued. A career .290 hitter, Lee has averaged 30 homeruns and 110 RBIs the past two seasons. Another overlooked aspect of Lee's game is his great eye, only striking out 49 times in over 430 at-bats.
- Despite suffering from the injury bug, Chris Duncan will start the season in left for Tony LaRussa. Duncan will be expected to step up and remain durable in 2009 to help support slugger Albert Pujols. With so much many quality players in their outfield, Duncan will need to perform at his highest potential.
- Talk about beginning your career with a bang, Ryan Braun has wasted no time in making an impact. Already compiling over 70 homers and 200 RBIs in his first two seasons, Braun has become a top-tier outfielder in the game. His WBC injury could become an issue throughout the season, but Braun is poised for another quality season. Look for Braun to work hard on his defense this season.
- Dusty Baker has one of his favorite utility players, Jerry Hairston, in competition with the Reds projected starting left fielder, Chris Dickerson. Last season, Dickerson was a pleasant surprise as a late-season call up, hitting .304 with six homers and five stolen bases in only 102 at-bats. The Reds believe they can compete this season, so don't look for Dusty to hesitate pulling Dickerson in favor on Hairston if the situation calls.
- A speedster, Nyjer Morgan has shown flashes of potential in Pittsburgh, stealing 9 in 160 at bats while hitting .294. Word out of Pirate camp is Morgan is struggling this spring and that free agent pickups Craig Monroe and Eric Hinske could take over leftfield if Morgan struggles. Be sure and monitor this situation in the upcoming weeks.
- A true five-tool player, Soriano has be the catalyst for the Cubs offense since signing with the ball club in 2007. Following Soriano's monster 2006 season with Washington where he compiled over 40 homers, doubles, and stolen bases. Needless to say, he has yet to reach that plateau in Wrigley. If his health can remain positive, Soriano is due for a breakout season in Cubbie blue.
My Ranks: Braun, Soriano, Lee, Duncan, Dickerson, Morgan
Cubs- Kosuke Fukudome
Astros- Michael Bourn
Cardinals- Rick Ankiel
Brewers- Mike Cameron
Reds- Willy Taveras
Pirates- Nate McLouth
Good blend of speed (Taveras, McLouth, Bourn) and pop (Cameron, Ankiel) in the group. The performance of this group will be major parts in the success of their respective ball clubs.
- Bourn hasn't solidified center field in Houston, quite yet. Darin Erstad poses a threat to Bourn's job if Bourn doesn't improve offensively. Regardless, his 40+ stolen base potential will keep him in the major leagues for the time being.
- From big league arm to big league stick, Ankiel blew away baseball fans last season with a big bat. A former starter for the Cardinals, Ankiel has become a feel-good story, smashing 25 home runs in 2008. Look for Ankiel to anchor the Cardinal outfield.
- You know what you're going to get with Cameron: 20+ homeruns, 70+ RBIs, over 20 stolen bases and a Gold Glove-caliber glove. Cameron will provide veteran leadership to the young Brewer outfield, and a steady bat in protection of Braun and Fielder.
- Speed, speed, and more speed, that's Willy Taveras. His goal for 2009 is to steal 100+ bases, but it remains to see if he'll even get on base 100 times in order for that to happen. Dusty loves Taveras, so look for him to get as much playing time as possible.
- An All-Star in 2008, Nate McLouth emerged as the new face of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization following the departure of Jason Bay. McLouth will have to top his 2008 performance to give the Pirates any chance of respectable play. Barring a major setback, McLouth should have a solid year.
- Which Fukudome will Cub Nation see this season? Only time will tell. Unfortunately for Kosuke, Reed Johnson has had a tremendous spring training and has become a fan favorite and clubhouse leader. Fukudome will need to have another fast start and maintain a high-level of play to keep his job in center. It remains to be seen if Lou decides to stick to his current platoon plan.
My Rank: McLouth, Cameron, Ankiel, Fukudome, Taveras, Bourn
Cubs- Milton Bradley
Astros- Hunter Pence
Cardinals- Ryan Ludwick
Brewers- Corey Hart
Reds- Jay Bruce
Pirates- Brandon Moss
All kinds of youthful potential in this group. Bruce, Hart, Pence, and Ludwick are all future superstars, while Milton Bradley elevated himself in 2008. This will be a fun group to follow in '09.
- A fan favorite, Hunter Pence has struggled to regain his rookie season batting average of .322. His power and run production went up his second season, slugging 25 homers and 83 RBIs, but his strikeouts increased and on base percentage declined significantly. This will be a crucial season for Pence, who has the opportunity to be an elite player.
- Arguably the most underrated player from 2008, Ludwick slugged 37 home runs and drove in 113 runs while providing much-needed protection for Pujols. There's a strong possibility for a letdown 2009 season, but count on over 30 homers and a steady glove in right.
- A legitimate 30/30 candidate, Hart has all the tools to have a breakout 2009 season. Hart will need to progress his talents to the next level in order for the Brewers to remain competitive. Of all the young Brewer players, Hart, along with Braun, have the most potential.
- Cincinnati has a new mayor, and his name is Jay Bruce. Not many players have as much upside as Bruce, who's poised to eclipse 30+ homers this season. Reds fans have high expectations for Bruce to help replace power numbers left behind by Griffey and Adam Dunn. It'll be fun to watch the development of Bruce this season.
- A product of the Red Sox system, Moss has a chance to become an everyday player for the Pirates young ball club. His numbers won't impress you, and it's uncertain to see how long he remains the starting right fielder for the Pirates. It appears that besides McLouth, the Pirates outfield is still up in the air.
- Coming up a monster year in Texas where he led the AL in on base percentage, Bradley brings a much-needed lefty bat to the middle of the Cubs lineup. Not only will Bradley provide pop, but he'll bring an attitude and toughness to an otherwise mild-mannered clubhouse. If he can avoid injury, Bradley should put up all-star numbers in his first year in Chicago.
My Ranks: Bradley, Bruce, Hart, Pence, Ludwick, Moss
Next time, I'll size up the Cubs starting rotation against the rest of the NL Central. Needless to say, the Cubs should have solid comparisons. See you next time. Thanks for reading!
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