Spring Training Surprise Candidate: Joe Mather

Joe Mather seemed like an afterthought this spring, someone who might be AAA depth in case one of the outfielders or 1B Bryan LaHair gets hurt before the Cubs are ready to bring up their top prospects.

But so far, the 29 year old former Cardinals prospect is turning some heads.  He stole 2 bases in 2 tries on Monday and played a solid RF.  Sveum seems to have noticed,

Joe Mather can run, play the corners, can play the outfield, can hit a home run. … Having two corner infielders that hit left-handed, he's obviously in the mix.

That mix includes Tony Campana and Dave Sappelt for what figures to be the 5th and final spot in the OF.  Despite his display of speed, Mather brings a unique quality among Cubs outfielders, some power off the bench.  Mather is a surprisingly good athlete for someone his size (6'4", 215). Once just a raw player with tools, he now has a solid approach at the plate.  He'll draw the occasional walk but probably won't hit for much average.

Mather really emerged in 2007 when he hit 30 HRs in the Cardinals system, the next year he made his MLB debut and hit .241/.306/.474 with 8 HRs in 147 PAs.  He had an excellent ISO% of .233.  In some ways, he's like Tyler Colvin in that he can bring athleticism and power off the bench, but probably won't hit enough to play full-time.

On a team that lacks much power outside of Alfonso Soriano, Bryan LaHair, and possibly Ian Stewart, Mather has a chance to provide some added punch.  He has an uphill climb though in that his competition, Campana and Sappelt, are already on the 40 man roster, but Mather seems to have caught manager Dale Sveum's eye early in spring training.  It'll be interesting to see if he continues to play well and forces the Cubs to make a decision between 3 players with different strengths:  speed (Campana), pure hitting abilty (Sappelt) and power (Mather).


Filed under: Spring Training

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  • Good article John, every year there is one guy who comes out of nowhere and this year it's Joe Mather. It's early, but who knows? It's always nice to have someone rise up who you did not count on at all.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Thanks. The more I learn about him, the more I think he's kind of the replacement for Colvin, older and without any upside left, but with a bit better OBP skills. In a weird way, I think Theo/Jed are adding while replacing guys they lose or have been lost pretty cheaply. Sappelt for Guyer, Mather for Colvin, Cardenas for LeMahieu. They're not exact clones, but they're reasonable facsimiles

  • There may be extra playing time available in the outfield this year for bench players and minor leaguers, as our outfield is looking old.
    Soriano is an injury risk due to age if nothing else, and even when healthy his usage rate has declined. Sori was durable last year and played in 147 games, but he only had 508 at-bats. By comparison, in 2008 Sori only played in 109 games but had almost the identical number of at-bats (503).
    Like Soriano, Reed Johnson is also 36 and is injury prone. Marlon Byrd is 35 and trying to play center field, a physically taxing position, so even if he stays off the DL (and on the Cubs) he'll likely need a nap now and then.
    Playing time could be up for grabs!

  • In reply to baseballet:

    I think we may well see a lot of bench players get more time out there. Sveum seems to like those guys. They can add a different dimension whether it's throwing in a Campana or a Mather or maybe a Clevenger or a Cardenas (although Sveum was praising DeWitt).

  • Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio gave a compelling interview this morning on the Mully & Hanley show on 670 AM "The Score". Recommended listening. He talked about Marmol's cut fastball causing his shoulders to rise too high during his delivery, which was messing up his mechanics on his other pitches. He also addressed working with several of the pitchers on their grips. Lots of good scouting stuff that the SABR side of things wouldn't notice or address. My favorite line of the morning was when he said (I'm paraphrasing) "We're going to pitch inside, and I don't care if the batter gets hit. I want to put the fear of God in him."

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I'd post a link but it hasn't been archived just yet. Here's their website, the interview was during the 8 O'Clock hour this morning.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I'll keep an eye out for it Eddie, but please post when you have the chance.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Here's the interview: http://tinyurl.com/8x6p42l

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Love it! This is going to be an aggressive team. Pitching inside is a lost art. The moment the pitcher has you thinking about anything else except hitting the ball, he's won half the battle.

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    Great article, per usual. Just check your right-hand vs. left-handedness.

    Thanks for continuing the great work!!

    ps, I would imagine he's battling Jeff Baker, as well, no? He's already started one ST game in RF. Also, if both Cardenas and DeWitt make strides, that could further hurt Mather's chances

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Yikes, either Sveum got it mixed up or I did on that quote.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And thanks, both for the kind words and the heads-up!

    Mather actually was a 3rd baseman at one point, but not sure he can play it now. I'd guess no.

    I think Baker is a lock if he's still here. The Cubs need his RH bat to spell Ian Stewart occasionally. I also think that if Baker has another good year, he'll get traded to a contender at some point, so that spot will open up before the season is over.

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    I think Sveum was suggesting that since both Ian Stewart and Bryan LaHair bat left-handed, then Mather (being RH) is still in the mix. Lots of possibilities on the bench. I didn't know Mather was so versatile. That helps his chances quite a bit, I'd imagine

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    His versatility offensively and defensively is a plus. It's his edge over Campana, but Campana has that one outstanding tool and that probably will be enough to get him on the roster as the 5th OFer.

  • John,

    Does Mather have options left? I can envision a call up (with B-jax) when Byrd & sori are dealt. How is he for pinch hitting and do you know why the cards give up on him?

  • In reply to socalcub:

    He's on a minor league deal so the Cubs can send him down without fear of losing him. In fact, he's already technically "down", he has to work his way up to the MLB roster.

    I think he's a nice option to have at Iowa or possibly on the bench. I'm guessing the Cards gave up on him because he ran out of options there and they needed roster space. With the Cubs he'll be on a minor deal so that won't be a concern.

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