A misplay by Trey Mancini in right field Sunday cost the Cubs two runs. A similar misplay by Miles Mastrobuoni during the opening series against the Brewers also led to two runs, which was the difference in that game.
Neither Mancini nor Mastrobuoni is really a right fielder. Mancini did play there fairly often in his early years with the Orioles, but before this year hadn’t played there in more than a handful of games since 2019. Mastrobuoni played some right field in the Rays minor leagues, but before this year had played exactly three games in right field in the major leagues, starting one of them.
Which, to me, raises the question: Why don’t the Cubs have more real outfielders on this team? The team has Gold Glove defense in left field (Ian Happ) and center field (Cody Bellinger). And in right field... a collection of misfits.
This situation arose because the Cubs’ actual right fielder, Seiya Suzuki, suffered an oblique injury during Spring Training and is currently on a rehab assignment. It’s possible he could be back as early as this weekend when the Cubs begin a road trip in Los Angeles, but remember that Suzuki missed all of Spring Training and perhaps he needs more than just a week’s worth of games to get ready. Even so, it will be nice to have him back in right field.
Still, this raises a question for me. Jed Hoyer said the team is emphasizing defense this year. So why are there two players on the roster who can basically hit but not play defense? I’m talking about Edwin Rios and Luis Torrens, both of whom can hit reasonably well but don’t have positions. Neither has played much. Rios is 1-for-8 in three games; the one hit was his two-run homer Sunday. Torrens is 2-for-7, both singles. Between having these two, a misfit outfielder in Mastrobuoni and another square peg in a proverbial round hole (Nick Madrigal, in my view not really suited to third base), the Cubs roster is a mess. For example, if Cody Bellinger needs a day off or is injured (hope not!), who plays center field?
Part of this problem will be solved when Suzuki returns. At that point, I’d think either Rios or Torrens will go. Rios has options remaining, so it’s likely going to be him. That still doesn’t solve the issue of not having a true backup outfielder.
So what would I do? I think I’d send either Mastrobuoni or Madrigal, both of whom have options left, to Triple-A Iowa and recall Christopher Morel. Morel can play any of the outfield positions, plus most of the infield, and honestly I think the team could use his enthusiasm, which always feels infectious.
Or call up Nelson Velázquez, who I thought should have been the Suzuki sub anyway. He’s batting .364/.432/.697 (12-for-33) at Iowa with two doubles and three home runs.
The Cubs are 4-4 in the early going, which isn’t bad, but a couple of the losses could have potentially turned into wins with better defense. The team has too many players who either a) don’t play good defense, are b) miscast out of position or c) both.
Fix it, Jed.