The recent signing of Emilio Bonifacio by the Chicago Cubs had the fan base wondering how much of a contribution he could make on this team. It’s certainly likely that he will make the team and the more and more manager Rick Renteria is seeing of him, the more likely it is that he could actually start for the Cubs.
The two likely spots that Bonifacio could start for the Cubs would be third base and second base. If he started at third base, that would likely mean that prospect Mike Olt had a lousy spring as the club wants to see what they can get from him, so it’s his job to lose in spring training. At second base, Bonifacio would be starting over the incumbent Darwin Barney who had well-documented struggles at the plate last season, but has shown some flashes of power so far this spring.
Another option for the leadoff spot that has been talked about by the Cubs is shortstop Starlin Castro. While he does put the bat on the ball often, he doesn’t see nearly enough pitches to be an above average leadoff hitter. Bonifacio doesn’t usually hit for a high average, but in one of the only seasons that he was an everyday player, he batted .296.
Mainly, Bonifacio would make sense in the leadoff spot because of his speed and ability to steal bases. In 2012, he played in just 64 games, but had 30 steals. He has eclipsed the 20 steal mark twice, and stole 30 and 40 bases in two other separate seasons. The Cubs, who don’t steal a whole lot of bases, could use an elite base stealer at the top of the order.
The spot that makes more sense for Castro is the No. 2 hole. He has a little bit of power upside, in addition to some speed and his proficiency with putting the bat on the ball figures well into hit-and-run situations with Bonifacio. If Bonifacio and Castro can be productive this way at the top of the lineup, then it puts runners on base for the middle of the order, which includes Anthony Rizzo and Nate Schierholtz.
This spring will decide some things for the Cubs moving forward and whether or not Bonifacio will start and/or leadoff is one of the more intriguing. With his elite base stealing ability, the club should seriously consider it, no matter what position he will be playing.