The Vs. Series moves to the outfield today as we match up leftfielders from our shared city teams. I think this is the first platoon situation we’ve run into during this series. Let’s start today’s match ups in Chicago.
One of the Chicago White Sox big off-season signings was a leftfielder. Melky Cabrera was signed to a three year $42 million dollar contract to be their everyday leftfielder. The White Sox will be Cabrera’s 6th major league team. He started with the New York Yankees, then went to the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants before spending the last two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. Cabrera is a career .286 hitter and hit .301 with the Blue Jays last season. Never a big home run hitter, but Cabrera did hit 16 home runs for Toronto last season. That was his 2nd highest season total after the 18 he hit in 2011 with the Royals. Cabrera had 13 assists in 133 games in leftfield last season while committing only 2 errors and posting a fielding percentage of .992; just a little above his career fielding percentage of .989. Cabrera was a well received signing by experts and White Sox fans; so will see if it pay off.
For the Cubs it looks like they’re going with a platoon of Chris’ in leftfield. Either Coghlan or Denorfia should be in leftfield. Coghlan the former 2009 Rookie of the Year with the then Florida Marlins should get the majority of at bats since he’s the left-handed hitting part of the platoon. After some injuries and other struggles Coghlan had a bounce back season for the Cubs in 2014 hitting .283 in 125 games. Coghlan did tie his career high in home runs with 9 while adding 28 doubles and 5 triples in 2014. Denorfia has a reputation for hitting left-handed pitching and that’s what the Cubs will ask him to do. Denorfia had a down year hitting .230 with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners last season. His career batting average is .272 and the Cubs are hoping for a season closer to that number from Denorfia. The Cubs aren’t going to get a lot of power out of leftfield as Denorfia has only reached double-digit home runs once in his career; he hit 10 home runs in 2013 with the Padres. It’s two solid major league players splitting time; so this looks like it should work out for the Cubs.
Comparing the position between both of the Chicago teams I think you have to take Melky Cabrera over the platoon of Chris Coghlan and Chris Denorfia.
The New York Mets made what I believe was the first free agent signing of the baseball off-season when they inked Michael Cuddyer to a two year $21 million dollar deal. Cuddyer is penciled in as the everyday leftfielder for the Mets. Cuddyer was limited to 49 games with the Colorado Rockies last season due to injury, but he still posted a .332 batting average. Remember Cuddyer is coming off of winning the National League batting title in 2013 with an average of .331. Cuddyer is a career .279 hitter and the Mets will see if being moved out of playing home games at Coors Field will bring his average back to that level. Cuddyer has only played nine career games in leftfield, but has 907 career games in the outfield where he has a fielding percentage of .986. I’m guessing the Mets didn’t sign Cuddyer for his defense, but hopefully for a bat that can help David Wright out in the line up.
Brett Gardner is the New York Yankees everyday leftfielder. Gardner is coming off of a down year where his batting average fell to .256 a little below his career batting average of .265, but down 17 points from his 2014 average of .273. Gardner did post a career high in home runs last season with 17 and is still a threat on the base paths. Gardner stole 21 bases in 26 attempts last season and led the American League with 49 steals in 2011 and has a career total of 182 steals. Gardner is an above average fielder posting a .992 fielding percentage last season making just two errors in leftfield in 2014. Gardner did just have three assists last season; so that either means he has a great arm and teams don’t run on him or he has a weak arm and doesn’t throw anyone out. A bounce back year out of Garner is a key for the Yankees to compete in an AL East that looks like it might be up for grabs.
This is a tough choice here. Cuddyer has had the better numbers the last few seasons, but that was in Colorado. Gardner is five years younger and has more experience in leftfield. A tough decision here, but I think I’m taking Brett Gardner.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the centerfield position for these four teams.
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