He’s not a prospect and he’s not someone that many projected to be a part of the long-term Chicago Cubs rebuild. However, with the prospects now arriving with the call-ups of Arismendy Alcantara and more importantly, Javier Baez, there’s one Cub who shouldn’t be forgotten as the team moves forward, and that’s Chris Coghlan. The outfielder has blossomed into a reliable part of the lineup and when you look deeper at what he’s done, he’s actually having one of his best Major League seasons.
Coghlan entered Wednesday night’s game at Colorado with a .292 batting average, six homers and 20 RBIs in 231 plate appearances. He singled, doubled and tripled Wednesday and had his average up to .302 at one point. Given the state of the Cubs’ offense for much of the season, .302 on this team is somewhat like hitting .330 on more productive teams. Of the regulars, Coghlan has the second highest OPS on the team (.846), a number that rivals his career high (.850), set in his rookie season of 2009 with the then Florida Marlins.
Coghlan played five years for the Marlins, appearing in 393 games and hitting a respectable .270 with 21 homers in 1,582 plate appearances. Nothing great, but most figured he’d be a nice holdover for the Cubs until all the talented prospects were called up, and Coghlan could go off to find greener pastures for himself. Coghlan is eligible for arbitration after this season, but even if the sides have differing opinions on a salary in 2015, the difference and the amount should be so great that the Cubs can’t find a way to keep Coghlan around. According to Baseball Reference, Coghlan made $503,500 with the Marlins in 2013 before signing in Chicago as a free agent.
At 29 years old, Coghlan probably has a couple of his best years in him, which would bridge the gap from the time when the prospects are simply called up to the time that they are putting up excellent numbers and are true big-leaguers. His .371 on-base percentage in 2014 (entering Wednesday) is one most managers would gladly take near the top of their lineup, and if he’s batting elsewhere, it’s comforting for the Cubs to know he’s only hit into three double plays all season, or once every 24 games.
Once all the youngsters throughout the Cubs’ organization are ready, Coghlan might not be an everyday player. But his work in 2014 shows he could be quite valuable, and probably pretty inexpensive, as a fourth outfielder that can bring some quality to the lineup. For all the talk of Alcantara, Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell, guys like Coghlan could be the glue of a team going forward that should being to show significant improvement in 2015.