The Cubs scout hitters as well as any team in baseball. They have a strong lineup from 1-6 and they have plenty more talent in the minor leagues. While we can never be sure how any individual hitter will adapt to the DH role, the Cubs have a nice-sized pool to choose from, though knowing Joe Maddon, he will probably use the spot to give his hitters a day off in the field while still keeping their potent bat in the lineup
I am for the DH although I know not everyone here agrees with me on that. We have our share of traditionalists as well as those who like to see the more nuanced strategy (and having Joe Maddon may give the Cubs an advantage there). Some even still enjoy watching “good” hitters like Jason Hammel and Travis Wood hit.
In defense of the DH, it allows another bat to get in the lineup. That’s one more job for a major league hitter. And while I enjoy seeing Travis Wood go for the fences from time to time, it isn’t enough to make up for having to watch the Jon Lesters and Matt Garzas of the world — or all the sacrifice bunt attempts.. Overall it is almost an automatic out, an unnecessary hole in the lineup.
And I’m not going to lie here — I like that the Cubs have a surplus of hitters and I think they stand to benefit more than most teams. Here is a list of players who stand to benefit.
He is the first name that comes to mind because of his struggles in the field last year. His UZR 150 of -12.7 tags him as a well below average defender — and the worst on the 2015 Cubs.
Soler is said to have shed some extra weight and has more of the lean build we saw in the minors, which should help regain some burst and agility out there, but it isn’t going to do anything for his reads and routes. Soler will try to address that by doing extra outfield work in the offseason.
He is never going to get near Jason Heyward’s level but he does have some athleticism, average speed, and a well above average arm. We’ve seen outfielders like Alfonso Soriano improve late in their career, so it is not unheard of that Soler can improve when we consider he is still just 23.
Schwarber gets unfairly criticized for his defense because he played poorly in the NLCS losses. The truth is that Schwarber held his own pretty well in LF and was at least adequate most of the year. He is a good enough athlete to be average out there and with his bat, that would be a huge asset, but even if Schwarber plays well enough to be a full time outfielder, he is a big bodied kid who can use an occasional rest from the field.
Coghlan improved in the field and outplayed both Cubs corner outfielders on defense. If he plays, it is likely he would play one of the corners and Soler or Schwarber will move to the DH role, though you could make the argument that a veteran who has had to come off the bench may be better equipped to handle the atypical DH environment in which you are essentially pinch-hitting 4 + times per game.
Almora is one of the best OF defenders in the minors so he is not going to DH. Rather, that would open up a spot for Almora to move to CF, bump Heyward to right and a corner OFer to DH.
Vogelbach is completely blocked right now. His only chance to make it as a Cub would be as a DH. He has the hit tool and the raw power to make an impact on offense and having him DH would maximize that because you don’t get penalized for his defense.
It’s hard to think of a better minor league candidate for this role. Candelario is a switch hitter who can give you consistent good ABs…and he can flat out hit. He can DH full time while also being the primary backup at 1B and 3B, where he can be an average defender.
Happ is athletic and can play multiple positions, so he would likely pay somewhere in the field. His best position is corner OFer and would probably be good enough to bump Schwarber or Soler.
Like Almora, Candelario, and Vogelbach, McKinney is another player getting close but without a clear path to a starting role. McKinney’s best spot is at LF.
I don’t think he’ll miss stepping into the batters box.
The Cubs Defense
Particularly if Almora moves to CF, Heyward goes to RF, and Soler shifts to the DH role. It also gives the Cubs extra opportunities to put Javier Baez in the field. He’d be an upgrade at multiple positions while allowing the Cubs to rest Addison Russell or Ben Zobrist without much, if any, of a defensive dropoff.
All of the starters
It’s easy to envision the Cubs rotating some players in the DH role to give them a partial day off. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Jorge Soler can all see a lot of time no matter who the full time DH is. Aging veterans such as Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero could benefit as well.
The NL Teams in interleague play
NL teams are often at a disadvantage when it comes to interleague play on the road because their benches are built for versatility and defense rather than a place to stash the kind of sluggers the AL teams are able to keep on the roster.
The Front Office
If the Cubs are looking to move surplus hitting for pitching, it certainly doesn’t hurt that there are 15 more hitting jobs suddenly available.
The Starting Pitchers
Having a DH means they may not have to be removed prematurely if they are tied or trailing a close game.
The longer the starters stay in, the fresher your bullpen tends to stay.
As far as managing the game goes, I think Joe Maddon will be fine either way but I think his strengths are in setting up match-ups and keeping players fresh. Not having to make extra moves because of having to account for the pitcher helps him do that and allows him to use his bullpen more efficiently. It would also allow him to keep his bench bats in rhythm. Tommy La Stella, Javier Baez, and the aforementioned Coghlan can get some ABs in and keep them from getting rusty should they be needed to pinch-hit at some point.
I get the argument against the DH and there is a part of me that will always like the NL style of play, but for me the pros outweigh the cons. It is gaining some momentum, but still may not happen by 2017 as The Sporting News reported.
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