There are no shortage of issues for the Chicago Cubs heading into the 2013 season, but one of the biggest question marks for this team is how their outfield will shape up in the new year.
At this point, we don’t even know which of the Cubs’ outfielders will be around. Alfonso Soriano and/or David DeJesus could be traded, and Nate Schierholtz still has yet to see his deal become official.
Let’s just assume that the personnel remains the same heading into April, and both Soriano and DeJesus will be on the roster. That would obviously fill two-thirds of the outfield, with right field still to be settled, since the Cubs apparently want to play DeJesus in center full time.
Schierholtz is not a full-time player. He could be very effective in a platoon role where he gets to hit primarily off of right-handed pitching. But he lacks the offensive punch to be a full-time guy out in right field. If the Cubs are looking for a regular at that spot, they may already have one on their roster in Dave Sappelt .
Sappelt was acquired in the deal that sent Sean Marshall to the Cincinnati Reds, which is looking more and more like a steal for the Cubs. Sappelt saw some brief playing time with the Cubs towards the end of last season. He made 78 plate appearances, posting a .275 average, .351 on-base percentage, as well as a few swipes.
But it’s what Sappelt has been doing in the Venezuelan Winter League that has folks really excited about what he could become. He has been on an absolute tear, hitting over .500 with seven multi-hit games in the past couple of weeks. Say what you want about his competition down there, that’s absurd.
Dating back to his days as a prospect with the Reds, his swing has always been something of a concern. But he continues to straighten that out, and the results are obviously clear. If he can piece together a performance that even comes close to resembling what he’s doing in Venezuela, the Cubs could be forced to hand him a starting gig.
At the very least, we could see some sort of platoon situation between Sappelt and Schierholtz. But between his improving swing, good speed, and solid defense, count me among the folks that would like to see Sappelt get a serious look at spring training in March.