The Cubs season is just getting started and there are a lot of question marks. The bullpen and offensive production have been suspect thus far but, for the most part, the starters have been solid. Though statistics for the outfielders aren’t impressive yet, this outfield is the deepest the Cubs have had for a long time.
Soriano is Soriano. He is batting in the 6th spot this year and will likely get more rest than ever. This means less chance for injury, fresher legs to steal a few bases and more R.B.I. chances. No one expects the Soriano from 2006 but he has a chance to get back up near .275 and increase power numbers from 2009. He isn’t going anywhere soon so we have to hold out hope for a bounce-back year. Fukedome always starts strong and falters as the year progresses. Two changes allow me to expect better numbers this year. Since arriving in Chicago, he has struggled with left handers. With capable right hander Xavier Nady on the bench, right field should be platooned in 2010. Also, with solid bench players, Fukedome can be outright benched later in the year if his numbers decline as they did in the past two years. As the new center fielder, Marlon Byrd has the best chance for success this year. He is solid defensively and should put up good R.B.I numbers hitting in the 5th spot. He may not get back to the career 20 home runs he hit last year but I expect him to at least match the 89 R.B.I.
Xavier Nady has been a starting outfielder most of his career and will make a good platoon partner for Fukedome once he is 100% healthy. He has good power and a solid average and could take over as the full time starter if Fukedome’s average dips later in the summer. The “X Factor” for 2010 is Tyler Colvin. He has the talent to be a full time player but isn’t making enough money to justify benching the current starters. Tyler is one of the few bright spots from the Cubs minor league system and he’ll get plenty of at bats this year as Lou Pinella will find creative reasons to get Soriano out of the lineup.
The year started with Soriano, Byrd and Fukedome starting in Atlanta. When the year concludes in Houston I believe Colvin, Byrd and Nady will be starting. I expect all 5 outfielders to make contributions throughout the year though. At least having a solid outfield rotation will help us avoid watching the sad bullpen this summer.