> The Cubs bring back four outfielders from last year’s squad that saw extensive playing time. The fifth outfielder spot is still up for grabs and it looks like it will be a tossup between two or three players, unless Mike Quade keeps six outfielders.
It’d be very easy to say that Alfonso Soriano hasn’t lived up to the eight-year $136 million contract he signed in November of 2006. And those people would be right. It seems like he has had more struggles and more injuries than humanly possible. But unfortunately for Cubs fans, he is still around for three more years. If he is not injured and not struggling at the plate, he has the opportunity to be one of the most feared hitters in the game. Now fielding, that’s another issue…The crazy part about Soriano is no matter how many home runs he hits, he struggles to put up big RBI numbers. In fact in all his seasons in the majors, he has gone over 100 RBI just once, in 2005. Not even when he hit a career-high 46 home runs did he get to 100 runs batted in. He has come close numerous times, but hasn’t been able to get over the hump.
Unlike Soriano, who has not played up to his contract, Marlon Byrd, last year’s big signee, arguably did more than that last year in his first season as a Cub. While his power numbers dropped slightly, his average rose 10 points. In fact, really the only big difference was the drop in power numbers. Byrd, however, is not looked upon to be one of the teams’ big boppers and that will continue so even more this season with Carlos Pena’s arrival. What will be interesting to see is if he can build on a year that saw him earn his first All-Star nod. How will working with Victor Conte effect him?
Kosuke Fukudome enters the fourth and final year of yet another ridiculous contract GM Jim Hendry has handed out. He has had an up-and-down three years so far and that is what has bothered Cubs fans. With such a big contract (4 yrs/$48 mil.) and a great track record in Japan, Fukudome’s game suits a player well for a lead-off spot, but his .193 average in that spot has caused managers to flip flop him around. While he had the most home runs he has had a major leaguer (13), his hit, RBI and walk totals were the lowest of his career. And while he doesn’t strike out TOO much, he has yet to have a season where he has walked more than he has struck out.
Fukudome better watch out tho, because if he even starts to struggle, he will lose his starting spot to youngster Tyler Colvin, who can play both corner outfield spots, as well as first base. Colvin had a heck of a rookie season last year, slugging 20 home runs and having a .500 slugging percentage in 358 at-bats. If he doesn’t steal the job this year, it is easy to see Colvin grabbing the right field job for the foreseeable future and being a fixture in the Cubs lineup for years to come. He will also most likely serve as a backup to Carlos Pena at first, a position Colvin played in college at Clemson.
Reed Johnson, a former Cub and Fernando Perez, a player who came over in the Matt Garza trade, will compete for the fifth outfielder spot. This would essentially be Perez’s rookie season, as he only played in 41 games with the Rays. Quade has said that Perez is the fastest player in camp. Johnson played for the Cubs in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He was with the Dodgers last year, where he saw action in 102 games. While never a power hitter, he brings stability to the lineup and the locker room.