State of the Cubs: Where roster stands in center field in 2022 and beyond
With the lockout over and Spring Training kicking into gear, the focus shifts to the Cubs’ roster. Jed Hoyer, Carter Hawkins and the rest of the front office still have some holes to fill before the first regular season game on April 7.
We break down the organizational depth chart at each position post-lockout and what to expect in 2022 and beyond.
Next up: Center Field
1. Rafael Ortega
2. Michael Hermosillo
3. Jason Heyward
One of the surprise stories of 2021 was the rise and success of Rafael Ortega. The Venezuelan thrived for the Cubs in the leadoff role, hitting .304 with an .870 OPS in 330 plate appearances across 103 games. It was Ortega’s first extended stay in the big leagues in his career, amassing those numbers in his age-30 season.
A large part of that success was Ortega’s ability to hit right-handed pitching with a .321 average. The issue Ortega had was his difficulties against left-handed pitching, where he slashed .128/.293/.128.
The Cubs, though, could platoon the position to success. Michael Hermosillo showed flashes of his ability, hitting .286 against lefties. He has a career .790 OPS in the minor leagues and hit .307 against left-handed pitching in the minors in 2021. Hermosillo’s 2021 was cut short with injuries, but was a solid defensive center fielder in his short time in the big leagues.
Heyward was taking drills in center field in Spring Training and could fill in at center.
“I’ve already told the outfielders from Day 1 in camp, I think flexibility is important,” manager David Ross said.
With the reported signing of Seiya Suzuki — who projects to play right field for the Cubs — Heyward is open to shifting to center field, where he made 74 starts in 2019.
“I was prepared to do that coming into this season not knowing if we would sign somebody or not,” the 32-year-old veteran said. “The fact that we brought in a right fielder, it’s nice. I’ve had some situations where I’ve moved to center field and I feel like it’s been unfair to the guy coming in next to me where it’s been a catcher sometimes and it’s his first time being in the outfield.
“So it’s just nice to have another outfielder coming in and we can work on our communication and get everybody on the same page.”
Top prospect Brennen Davis has played the majority of his minor league career in center and the Cubs hope he eventually is the everyday centerfielder at Wrigley for years to come.
A platoon system in center could be beneficial to the Cubs, especially if Ortega can continue his success against righties and Hermosillo’s minor league success against lefties can translate in the big leagues. Davis could eventually be the Cubs centerfielder this season, but it’s also possible that he could start in the corner outfield positions when he arrives to the big leagues.