With many positions having solidified starters for the Chicago Cubs, first base is one of the few that has a question mark floating over it. With the Cubs’ biggest offseason acquisitions being potential first basemen, there becomes a competition for who gets the starting job there. Well, it is not as easy as one might think.
The highlighted signings the Cubs had this winter for first basemen would be Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer. It is expected that Hosmer will be the starter on March 30th, but there is no guarantee that he consistently starts throughout the year. The only reason the 33-year-old is essentially an Opening Day lock is because of the Seiya Suzuki injury, which will most likely push Trey Mancini to right field for the time being. Once Suzuki can return to the lineup, things will get interesting.
Hosmer has had a less-than-impressive Spring Training, batting at a .226 avg with seven hits in thirty-one at-bats. Of course, these numbers will essentially mean nothing once the regular season begins, but if these numbers continue to appear during that time, Hosmer’s role could significantly change throughout the season. It helps him that he has four gold gloves in his trophy case, but Mancini and Mervis are stellar defensive players. Hosmer and Mervis had .99% fielding percentages, and Mancini finished with a 1.00%. So, defensive abilities will not be the deciding factor, but rather how they can perform at the plate.
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As for Trey Mancini, his spring has been the exact opposite. Mancini has had an explosive month at the plate with a .400 batting average, a 1.047 OPS, and leading the Cubs with 14 hits. While his hitting has been spectacular, his adaptability to play multiple positions on the field is why he is as valuable as he is. As stated earlier, Seiya Suzuki’s injury frees up right field, and that is where Mancini has been seeing a majority of his playing time this spring. By taking David Ross’s hint, Mancini will undoubtedly be the right-field starter at the beginning of the year, and rightfully so.
That concludes the portion regarding the offseason acquisitions and their fight for first base. To add even more drama, Cubs stellar prospect Matt Mervis is expected to be on the Opening Day roster, and yes, he can play first base. Mervis has incredibly high expectations as one of the four big Cubs prospects to play in the big leagues this year. While there is not a huge sample size of Spring Training statistics to look at due to his participation on Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, it goes without question that he will be a huge bat for the Cubs moving forward. He is not in the fight for the starting job at first base because of his adjustment to the Major Leagues. It could be argued that he should start at first base on Opening Day, and Suzuki’s injury might increase that possibility, but it remains unlikely. There is a stronger argument for him starting at third base, but adding Mervis to the depth chart at first base makes it all more interesting for the future.
Three incredible talents, one position, and one not-so-easy choice for David Ross. Hosmer, Mancini, and Mervis will all be in a 162-game competition for playing time, and all have the resume to back themselves up. It will be interesting to see how the Opening Day lineup compares to the lineup on June 1st, especially at first base.