The time has come to wrap up my previews for position players and, unfortunately for me, I saved the most boring preview for last. My questions for left field will be, “Will Nate Schierholtz do enough to force me to learn the correct spelling of his last name?” and “Will Scott Hairston do enough to make me forget his older brother Jerry and his replacement level offense and defense?” My projections for these two players are:
Preparing for this, I looked over every offensive statistic I could, trying to bring something positive out of the numbers. After all of my analysis, my conclusion is: Scott Hairston is going to hit a few home runs for the Cubs this year, strike out often, and walk very little. Nate Schierholtz will do about the same as Hairston, minus the homeruns.
Last season, neither of these guys had very good range in the outfield. Schierholtz earned a -4.5 UZR/150, while Hairston earned himself a -4.9 UZR/150. However, Schierholtz does have a much stronger arm than Hairston. Overall, this Cub fan will cringe each time the ball is hit to right field this season, hoping that base runners didn’t advance unnecessarily because the fielder couldn’t get to the ball.
In the end, Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz will do something for the Cubs and their fans this year that no statistic can measure. They will be the ugly girls in the outfield that make Jorge Soler and Albert Almora look like prom queens as rookies.
I could go to McDonald’s, order a cheeseburger, and wait for it to turn into a rib eye steak. The same goes for Alfonso Soriano waiting for the Cubs to be a contender. It is not going to happen during his time in Chicago, no matter how long he waits. Because of this, I see Soriano waiving his no-trade clause, going to New York, and Brett Jackson getting significant playing time.
If I had my way, the Yankees would be working something out as I write this to bring Alfonso Soriano to New York. The Cubs have really tried moving Soriano and he really likes Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. In my opinion, a thirty-seven year old baseball player would jump at an opportunity to play for one more championship.
I’m going to go way out on a limb on this one and assume that Soriano is gone before the beginning of the season. I’m going even further out on that limb and saying that Brett Jackson and his new swing get a majority of the playing time in left with Scott Hairston and Dave Sappelt getting the remainder. ZiPS is projecting that Brett Jackson is going to play in 147 games this year. That sounds like a lot to me, but if Jackson can produce, why not play him there?
This projection is my least confident one of the year. I’m going to assume that, with his revamped swing, Jackson’s production increases 25% and his strikeouts decrease 15%.
The future of the Cubs outfield lies in Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, and Matt Szczur. It would be nice to see Brett Jackson to make a case for a spot in the outfield as well. For that to happen, this new swing needs to be a great fix for Jackson’s strikeout rate. Since the Cubs’ season won’t be filled with lots of team wins, consistency from Brett Jackson could be considered the biggest win of the year.