Despite being multiple weeks into Spring Training, the outfield situation for the Chicago Cubs remains a mystery.
Justin Ruggiano and Nate Schierholtz have the potential to form a dynamic platoon in right field, while Ruggiano may also be platooned with Ryan Sweeney in center field. Sweeney, Ruggiano and Junior Lake all have the ability to play center, so will manager Rick Renteria pick one starter, or will the Cubs play matchups all season long?
While the starting center fielder is unknown at this point, the one aspect of the outfield that can be assumed is that the Cubs will give Lake every day at-bats in order to find out exactly what kind of a player he can become. Lake is full of talent and tools, but he is also raw and can be reckless at times. Lake may blossom into a player who looks like a watered down version of Alfonso Soriano, or he may hack his way back to the minor leagues before the All-Star break arrives.
In addition to the four outfielders who will receive the majority of playing time in 2014, super-utility man Emilio Bonifacio will also be added to the outfield mix. As a switch hitter who has experience playing left, center and right field, Bonifacio can be used in a variety of different ways. He also provides the Cubs with an element of speed that hasn’t been seen on the North Side in years, so Renteria will likely get Bonifacio as much playing time as he can.
How exactly the Cubs deploy their outfielders in 2014 will be one of the more interesting storylines of the season. In all actuality, manager Rick Renteria himself does not know precisely how he will position his players. Renteria will have the luxury of either playing the platoon matchups, or playing the hot hand on any given day. This flexibility should give the Cubs a unique advantage, and will keep players fresh and fighting for playing time throughout the course of a grueling 162-game season. While fans may have no idea who is playing when they come to the ballpark, the Cubs should be able to deploy a productive outfield throughout the 2014 season, no matter what names are written on the lineup card.