ESPN ranks Cubs outfield among baseball’s elite

SchwarberHR(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

With a bevy of young superstars and a strong group of valuable backups to spell the starters or play the matchups, the Cubs outfield looks like one of the game’s best on paper. Buster Olney and ESPN agree, as they placed the Cubs second overall in their outfield team unit rankings, revealed Thursday. Here’s some of what they had to say:

The Cubs felt sure enough about Jason Heyward — particularly his defense — to agree to spend $184 million to sign him, and they’re confident left fielder Kyle Schwarber will continue to be a high-impact hitter, with his short swing, power and intense approach.

They’re not quite sure what to make of Jorge Soler, which is why they’ve been reluctant to move him to date for less than what could turn out to be equal value. After playing well in a small sample in 2014, Soler struggled in 2015, especially in chilly conditions and on defense. Chris Coghlan provides depth in the outfield, and starting second baseman Ben Zobrist could always move out there as well.

As of right now, it appears Schwarber, Heyward and Soler will go left to right across the outfield, as well as make some noise in the top half of the batting order. Schwarber debuted as a rookie in 2015 and proved to be a big bat, hitting 16 homers in 232 at-bats. Newcomer Heyward is one of the game’s best defensive outfielders, and though he has made his living in right field for the majority of his six-year MLB career, his athleticism could make for a seamless transition to center. Soler is a bit more of a wild card, but the 23-year-old has never given anyone a reason to think his raw power won’t translate into game action.

Of course, the knock on the group is defense, especially in the corners. But the hard working Schwarber informed the media Wednesday that he has spent a lot of time working on his outfield defense this offseason. And Soler demonstrated that runners should think twice before trying to take an extra base on his arm in right.

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