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).