Halfway through the 2015 season and the Cubs remain right in the playoff hunt with a one game lead over the New York Mets for the second Wild Card spot in the National League.
So at the All Star break, let’s take a few minutes to reflect on what we’ve seen so far and what we can expect from the Cubs in the second half.
Let’s start today with the outfield.
Who We’ve Seen So Far:
What We’ve Seen So Far:
Dexter Fowler’s tenure with the Cubs started off pretty strong with a solid first 22 games and a line of .278/.343/.400. Since then, however, things have not worked out as well for Fowler and his .214/.295/.357 line. Additionally, his BABIP is at .283 right now, if it can start creeping closer to his career line of .341, we could expect some more productivity from him. On the bright side, Fowler’s defense, which was anticipated to be less than stellar, has looked pretty good.
Chris Coghlan lost his MLB-longest games played streak on Sunday but still had plenty to be happy about from his first half. Coghlan started off fairly cold, mostly thanks to a frustratingly low BABIP. But things began stabilizing for Coghlan in June as he raised his batting average from .223 to .245 and on-base percentage from .294 to .343.
Jorge Soler did not quite reach the breakout that was initially anticipated for him. He came into the half with a .260/.314/.388 and only four home runs. Of concern for Soler comes his 76 strikeouts and rather high BABIP of .376. But what you can’t deny is how hard Soler hits the ball. According to baseballsavant.com, when he hits the ball, Soler averages an exit velocity of 93.54 miles per hour, which is good for fifth in baseball (of batters with a minimum of 100 at-bats). The point here is that although his average on balls in play may seem high, he may just be one of those guys who can keep it up there because of how hard he hits the ball.
Chris Denorfia keeps looking like a good pickup. His role was initially supposed to be a platoon role with Chris Coghlan in Left Field, however, with Jorge Soler’s injury that kept him out almost the entire month of June, Denorfia saw plenty of time in Right. After struggling to get healthy at the start of the season, Denorfia has settled into his various roles on the club and comes into the break with a .304/.342/.384 line, which we’ll definitely take for a fourth outfielder.
Matt Szczur, Junior Lake and Mike Baxter all got some time in the outfield and all were adequate in their limited duty. In his looks, Junior Lake showed a more patient approach, but it still wasn’t enough to save him from a .224/.274/.345 line with 20 strikeouts in only 56 at-bats.
What To Expect in the Second Half:
I would imagine that the Cubs are going to attempt to make some sort of move to acquire another outfield bat. Not really sure who that would end up being, but names like Gerardo Parra or David Murphy have been floated around.
Depending on how those moves shake out, and if Javier Baez can get back to the bigs, we may also see some more time from Kris Bryant in the outfield. Come mid-August, I would imagine that Kyle Schwarber will also be back and make a case for some outfield time when he’s not behind the plate.
In terms of the guys we know a little better, expect to see Jorge Soler attempt to get his plate discipline back and continue to hit the ball really freaking hard. Hopefully, the Coghlan/Denorfia platoon will be able to exploit the good splits those two have. And Dexter Fowler should be able to rebound enough to emerge from his prolonged slump to get on base more and continue to set the table for Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.
Next Up: Infield.
Photo courtesy of Gregory Bull/AP Photo