Foresight is 2020: How will second base shake out for Cubs?
Hindsight is 20/20, they always say. But as the 2020 Cubs season gets underway, we don’t have the benefit of hindsight — foresight is the only option at the moment. So let’s play a game of 20 questions, tackling the most important topics surrounding this Cubs team entering the campaign.
Next up: How will second base shake out?
Heading into the 2020 season, the Cubs had two positions up for grabs: center field and second base.
While center field still seems like a two-horse race between Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr., second base has been more wide open. Entering spring, the Cubs had David Bote, Daniel Descalso, Robel García, Nico Hoerner and Hernán Pérez in the mix and then added Jason Kipnis early in camp.
Last season, the Cubs utilized eight different players at second base and the lack of consistency showed. The Cubs posted a .220/.301/.383 slash line from the second base spot, the third lowest batting average at the position in Major League Baseball last season.
“There’s no secret about it: There’s some competition going on in some areas and second base is definitely up for grabs for a lot of the guys,” manager David Ross said.
Kipnis signed a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league camp. He knew, even with his reputation, he wasn’t a lock for the Cubs’ second base job.
“I gotta earn a spot,” Kipnis said. “Nothing is given to me. It’s not my Cleveland team that I’ve been with that I’m under contract. This is an invite with a chance to play and I think I gotta seize that opportunity. It’s already a great club here, so I’m looking to kinda come in and help what they already got going.”
Kipnis, a career .261/.333/.417 hitter, figures to provide some improvement to the Cubs’ offensive numbers from second base. He’ll also add leadership and a strong pedigree at the position that could help younger guys like Hoerner and Bote in their development.
Cubs fans are hoping Hoerner could be the long-term answer at second. He’s played in two games at second base this spring after only one appearance there last season in the big leagues. Come summer, Hoerner could be taking a majority of the time in the position as the Cubs battle for the NL Central crown.
Bote can offer some flexibility on the roster and could fill in at second if needed. If Hoerner starts the season at Triple-A Iowa, Bote would be a natural back-up and platoon option to Kipnis at second and Kris Bryant at third base. He improved offensively in his first full season in the big leagues last year, slashing .257/.362/.422 with 11 home runs and 41 RBIs.
Descalso will factor into the second base mix, too. He has one guaranteed year left on his contract but struggled in his first season with the Cubs, slashing .173/.271/.250 with 2 home runs and 15 RBIs. He’ll need a bounceback season to usurp Kipnis, Bote and even Hoerner for playing time at second base.
If the Cubs opt for even more veteran presence, Pérez signed a minor league deal and is versatile enough to play anywhere on the diamond. He could fill in at second base and back up almost anyone else when needed. Pérez knows the NL Central, too, having spent the last five seasons in Milwaukee.
Kipnis should start as the Cubs’ everyday second baseman, but come August and September, will he still be the guy or will Hoerner take the job at some point this summer?
As we approach the start of the regular season, read more on our “Foresight is 2020” series:
–Will Nico Hoerner start the year in the majors?
–How does Jason Kipnis fit into the Cubs mix?
–How will second base shake out?
–Will Jeremy Jeffress regain his 2018 dominance?
–Will Craig Kimbrel bounce back with a normal offseason/spring training?
–Who will emerge in Cubs bullpen?
–Can Kyle Schwarber put it all together after a huge second half?
–What role will Steven Souza Jr. have?
-Will somebody grab the everyday center field role?
-Can Willson Contreras maintain his 2019?