State of the Cubs: Where roster stands at third base 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: Third base
1. Patrick Wisdom
2. Nico Hoerner
3. David Bote
4. Sergio Alcántara
Third base was arguably the most crowded position on the Cubs roster in 2021. Kris Bryant was the Opening Day starter but by late April, Matt Duffy had made his presence known and carved out a solid role for himself at the hot corner. Bote began the year as the starting second baseman but also saw time at third.
A pair of injuries wound up costing Duffy and Bote time on the shelf, opening the door for Wisdom in late May. The slugger took the job and ran with it, finishing 4th in National League Rookie of the Year voting and smacking 28 homers in only 375 plate appearances.
Heading into 2022, Bryant and Duffy are free agents and Bote will miss at least the first month of the season with a shoulder injury. That leaves Wisdom as the last man standing at the position with Hoerner and Alcántara options as depth.
Wisdom is a late bloomer, breaking out during his age 29 season. His power certainly looks legitimate but he struck out 40.8% of the time in 2021 and that has been a major area of focus for him and the organization.
He impressed defensively last season, flashing solid athleticism at multiple positions (he also played first base and both corner outfield spots) and making some highlight-reel plays even when essentially serving as the shortstop when the Cubs deployed a shift. Wisdom tallied 4 Defensive Runs Saved in 2021 at third base and notched 2.3 WAR by FanGraphs version of the statistic.
Bote injured his shoulder on May 29 and missed almost two months. He also suffered a freak injury on the South Side in late August, rolling his ankle on a batting practice ball. That cost him another couple of weeks and the shoulder ultimately required surgery in November.
Bote is on a team-friendly contract and has proven to be a reliable role player who can start at times or come off the bench. He doesn’t provide a major departure from Wisdom’s skillset, as both are low-average right-handed hitters with pop.
Hoerner played only 1/3 of an inning at third base in 2021 but he made 6 starts at the position in 2020. With the signing of Andrelton Simmons, the 2018 1st-round pick is now primed for more of a utility role with the 2022 Cubs and Hoerner could certainly find himself at the hot corner until Bote returns.
With a full offseason to gameplan and review film, the book will be out on Wisdom and the league will undoubtedly adjust to his strengths and weaknesses. But that happened in the middle of last year as well and he has shown an ability to make adjustments in return as the season wore on.
It’s still unknown what type of career he will have, but he doesn’t hit free agency until after the 2026 season and figures to be in the heart of the Cubs order to start the 2022 campaign.
When he returns, Bote will also see time at second base while Hoerner and Alcántara have mostly received playing time in the middle infield. It would not be a shock to see the Cubs add a bench bat who can play third base, serving as a potential injury replacement or allowing manager David Ross the option to mix-and-match lineups. Duffy could be a fit to return, as his high-contact offensive profile and veteran leadership would be assets on the 2022 roster.
In the minors, Chase Strumpf and Christopher Morel are the prospects closest to knocking at the door. Morel transitioned into playing more in the outfield in 2021 and Strumpf can also play second base.
Strumpf — the Cubs’ 2nd round pick in 2019 — reached Double-A last year, slashing .211/.335/.380 (.715 OPS) with 15 doubles and 7 homers in 62 games.
The Cubs may add more depth at third base before Opening Day but Wisdom has earned an opportunity to show what he can do over the course of a full season.