Chicago Cubs 2023 spring training preview: infield

Chicago Cubs 2023 Spring Training Preview: Infield originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

If there is one area of ​​the diamond where the Chicago Cubs will look markedly different this season, it will be their infield, as they could potentially have five starting players, including a catcher, that are different from what they regularly released last season. .

The Cubs poured money into several areas during the off-season, culminating in a seven-year contract they signed with shortstop Dansby Swanson. His arrival will mean that Nico Horner will move to second base, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes fans can expect.

As part of our NBC Sports Chicago Spring Training Preview Series, we’ll take a look at the changes the Cubs have made and what fans can expect at each position this season.

Note. We decided to combine the catcher’s position with the “infield” story for reasons of proximity.

Catcher –

After a harrowing “whether he quit or not” season involving Wilson Contreras, the team finally said goodbye to him at the conclusion of the 2022 campaign, when he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Instead, the Cubs will rely on a two-headed monster at the plate, keeping Ian Gomez and signing Tucker Barnhart to a two-year deal.

Needless to say, the team won’t be expecting Contreras-level performance this season. Barnhart hit one home run and had 16 RBIs in 94 games with the Detroit Tigers last season, batting .221. He is the first glove catcher to help the team’s pitching staff, but don’t expect a ton of offensive output.
Gomez had a little more popularity, with eight home runs in 86 games with the Cubs last season, but it’s unclear how many runs he’ll get as the team adopts a more defensive-minded mentality when building the roster.

The Cubs did sign Luis Torrens to a minor league contract to add some depth to the system, but the real wild card in all of this is Miguel Amaya, a former top prospect who has had a string of injuries over the past two years, including undergoing Tommy John surgery. and suffered a Lisfranc fracture before an Arizona Fall League game last season.

However, he is a damn good striker and the team is hoping he will play in the minor leagues this season so there is still a chance he can live up to the high expectations that were placed on him when he was a top player. 100 prospects in baseball.

First base –

The Cubs didn’t exactly win gold in their first attempts to replace first baseman Anthony Rizzo, so they’ve given up on the first draft entirely and are hoping for a more successful record this season.

The season will start in a platoon, with Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini joining the team on short-term contracts.

Hosmer hit eight home runs and had 44 RBIs in 104 games last season and also hit .268 stoppages in Boston and San Diego. The southpaw had reverse splits last season, batting .324 against his fellow lefties, so expect to see him get plenty of hitting chances against a southpaw serve.

Mancini is certainly a big power threat, hitting 18 home runs in 143 games last season, but the Cubs will need him to improve the rough finish in 2022 as he hit just .176 with 49 strikeouts in 165 games. bats for the Houston Astros.

Of course, Cubs fans only care about the next big thing at first base as Matt Mervis starts the season in the minor leagues. He hit 36 ​​home runs and had 119 RBI last season at three different underage levels, and if he can keep hitting the same pace, there’s no doubt he’ll be knocking on the door for a major league role in some that moment in the near future.

Second base –

With the addition of Swanson to the roster, the Cubs will turn to Horner at second base, giving them one of the best defensive middle infields in the sport.
Horner isn’t lazy either, his penchant for contact punches and decent pop music make him an intriguing candidate for the lead role in the lineup.

The really interesting question is who will back him in a second, and the Cubs have a bunch of internal candidates. Nick Madrigal is one such option as he batted .249 in 59 games last season, but they would need to up his performance levels if he wanted regular playing time.

The Cubs acquired Miles Mastrobuoni from the Tampa Bay Rays during the off-season and he could potentially be tapped as a stand-in, as was David Bot, who is not technically on the 40-man roster but received an invitation to spring training.

Finally, Christopher Morel can move around the diamond, especially if he can hit like he did last season, hitting 16 home runs and driving 47 RBIs while stealing 10 stolen bases in 379 at-bats.

Short stop –

Swanson was part of a highly publicized class of free agent shortstops, and the Cubs brought him in to help add power, speed, and defense to their roster. He hit 25 home runs and drove 96 RBI last season with the Atlanta Braves, and even though his RBI totals could drop if the Cubs struggle to get runners on base, his home run strength should remain unchanged at Wrigley Field.

Swanson also stole 18 bases, hitting .329 percent on base, making him an interesting option in second or third on the lineup.

In all likelihood, Horner will just back up Swanson at shortstop if he needs a breather, but he’s played in 322 games over the past two seasons, so those breaks are pretty rare.

Third base –

The only infield position that still has a lot of questions to answer is third base, where there is currently no definitive starting lineup.

Patrick Wisdom is certainly an option with one of the best home runs on the team, but defensive issues could put the Cubs in a different direction, especially if he can’t cut his strikeouts down a bit with 336. whiffs in the last two seasons.

Morel will also likely get a lot of time at third base, but the Cubs will also explore a few other options, with Madrigal practicing at third base in spring training. Zach McKinstry is a strong guard in this position, but his measly .206-per-155 average last season is a tough pill to swallow, especially given his relative lack of strength at the plate.

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