2022 Starting Outfield Projections
LF: Ian Happ
CF: Rafael Ortega
RF: Jason Heyward
The Cubs outfield for the 2022 season will look a lot different from 2021.
The mix of Kris Bryant, Happ, Heyward, Jake Marisnick, and Joc Pederson patrolled the outfield for the start of 2021. No one thought that the roster would change so much by the end of the season.
The post-trade deadline trio of Ian Happ, Rafael Ortega and Jason Heyward will remain virtually the same. With the addition of Clint Frazier, those guys will, hopefully, see a few more days off.
Switch-hitting Ian Happ is someone to keep an eye on this next season. His Left/Right Batting splits show a heavy favor for right handed pitching, at over 20% higher at each stat. Happ had a quiet 2021. Batting .226, and knocking in 66 runs, was nothing special. However, the consistency of playing 148 games this past year was something the Cubs really needed from a player like Happ. He was able to play all three outfield positions, starting 65 in Left, 56 in Center, and 16 in Right. In addition to that he played 10 games in the infield. The versatility that he brings to the team at the plate and in the field, is something the Cubs will need moving forward.
Rafael Ortega really flashed at times in center field. The 30-year-old batted .291, and had 12 stolen bases. While leading off 49 of his 103 games, he was productive enough to earn that every day spot. His splits really grabbed my attention. He played better on the road, and 114% better against right handed pitching. Ortega is going to have to improve against lefties, if Manager David Ross is to keep him at the leadoff spot. Ortega really shines in the field, only having 2 errors last season in 154 chances. He averaged a .987 fielding average across the outfield.
Rounding out the fielders is Jason Heyward. Heyward had, statistically, his worst season at the plate. Batting just .214, and an OPS of .627, he is looking to rebound in 2022. With a career .259 average, and a career .750 OPS, he is looking to produce numbers that are reminiscent of his first few years in the league. As one of the veteran leaders on this team, his experience is more than just numbers. He has the ability to talk to the younger players, and share words of wisdom. Whether or not he is producing at the plate, we know that he will be consistent in the field. As a 5-time Gold Glove winner, he has been very productive in the outfield.
The Cubs should be in good hands in the outfield this season. Happ and Ortega batting near the top of the order, setting up Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel for plenty of run support for the starting pitchers.
How do you see the season playing out for these three?