Over the years, it was always fun to count the number of Cubs third basemen between Ron Santo and Aramis Ramirez.
That was how unstable the position was for the team between 1974 and 2003.
The Cubs have been going through something similar in right field since Sammy Sosa skipped out on the team at the end of the 2004 season and was traded before spring training began in 2005.
Since ‘05, the opening-day right fielders have been Jeromy Burnitz, Jacque Jones (2006-07), Kosuke Fukudome (2008-11) and David DeJesus (2012).
DeJesus shifts this year to center field, where he also saw significant time last year. In 2012 alone, these players also saw time in right field: Bryan LaHair, Dave Sappelt, Reed Johnson, Jeff Baker and Joe Mather.
The Cubs are hoping that in the not-too-distant future, Jorge Soler will provide stability, not to mention power, in right field for years to come.
Until Soler gets here, they’ll try something different: two guys in right. No, not at the same time, but the Cubs look to have a true platoon with the left-handed hitting Nate Schierholtz and right-handed Scott Hairston, both of whom were signed this winter as free agents.
They look to be a perfect platoon pair.
Against right-handed pitching last year, Schierholtz put up a line of .287/.360/.466 for an OPS of .826.
Against lefties, Hairston went .286/.317/.550 for an OPS of .867.
Overall, Hairston had a line of .263/.299/.504 with 20 homers and 57 RBI for the Mets. As his on-base percentage suggests, he drew only 19 walks in 398 plate appearances.
Schierholtz went .257/.321/.407 with 6 homers and 21 RBI for the Phillies and Giants. Baseball Prospectus calls him a “placeholder for a rebuilding team.” That sounds about right, as the Cubs eagerly await Soler’s arrival.
As for Hairston, he has strong Chicago roots. His dad, Jerry Hairston, played for the White Sox while Jerry Hairston Jr. was with the Cubs in 2005-06. Grandfather Sam Hairston appeared in four games for the White Sox in 1951.
Scott Hairston will wear Sosa’s old No. 21.
“I used to love coming to Wrigley Field and the history, especially in the late ‘90s when Sammy was doing his thing,” he told reporters in Mesa, Ariz, at the start of spring training. “I sat in the bleachers a few times when he was hitting all his home runs. That was a good time to be in Chicago.”
Hairston and Schierholtz figure to be serviceable for the Cubs until Soler arrives. The Cubs signed the now-21-year-old Soler, a native of Cuba, to a nine-year major-league contract last June.
In 34 games between Mesa (Rookie) and Class A Peoria last summer, he hit a combined 5 homers and drove in 25 in 34 games. Soler is likely to bypass Kane County, the Cubs’ new Class A affiliate, so the Cubs can test him against tougher pitching at Class A Daytona this year.
Baseball America ranks Soler the Cubs’ No. 3 prospect and writes that, “The ball explodes off Soler’s bat, and his well above-average power can make any ballpark looks small … He has a feel for hitting, too, as he uses a game plan, recognizes pitches well and can make two-strike adjustments.”
Whatever happens, the Cubs do not seem inclined to rush Soler, as he gets used to professional baseball and life in the United States.
“Guys like him, they haven’t played that much baseball,” manager Dale Sveum told reporters in Mesa. “They’ve done a lot of things, obviously, and we all know about the tools. But fast track? There’s no reason to do that. He still has to play and learn so much and face better pitchers on a consistent basis, older pitchers who can do things. That experience factor comes in handy.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.