The Cubs are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Reds on Sunday. However, despite the loss, the Cubs offense produced 12 runs, an encouraging sign for a group that has gone silent at times this season. That said, the Cubs have been carried by Kris Bryant's MVP-caliber season and Nico Hoerner. However, there are a few names that have emerged in the absence of Joc Pederson.
As it stands, Matt Duffy and Jake Marisnick have been pleasant surprises for the Cubs in 2021. Duffy is putting together a quietly good season, working incredible at-bats and bringing contact hitting to the Cubs' power-heavy lineup. Marisnick has also quietly done much of the same.
That said, when Pederson returns, someone will be the odd man out. Who that will be remains to be seen... let's take a look at some of the possibilities.
Let's nip this in the butt right away. If Nico Hoerner is sent back to the minors in any capacity, the fan base should riot. Hoerner has been carrying the offense along with MVP candidate Kris Bryant. Yes, Nico has only played in 11 games in 2021 so far, but he is undoubtedly worth keeping around. He looks like the hitter the Cubs wanted when they drafted him in the first round back in 2018.
This season so far, Hoerner has a .389/.500/.566 slash line. His impressive 1.056 OPS is insane, only trailing Kris Bryant's elite 1.114 OPS on the team. Sure, it has only been 11 games, but Nico Hoerner is looking like the player Cubs fans hoped he would be.
Hoerner also has seven RBI's, eight walks, three stolen bases, and six doubles on 14 hits. Hoerner hasn't hit his first home run of the season, and first home run since 2019, but he has contributed so much in other areas, giving this Cubs offense that contact hitter that it has longed for since Ben Zobrist and Dexter Fowler exited the lineup.
Hoerner isn't going back. If Jed Hoyer doesn't want Cubs fans rioting with pitchforks and torches, Nico stays on the big league roster.
We mentioned Matt Duffy in the opening of this article. He is quietly putting together an incredible season for the Cubs in a reserve role. In Duffy's last seven games, he is slashing .316/.480/.368. He has been taking his walks while still hitting for high average. Even over his last 15 games, Duffy is slashing an impressive .306/.432/.333. David Ross really trusts Matt Duffy, as he brings a similar approach/skill set as Nico Hoerner.
Players like Duffy really balance out this Cubs lineup. Historically, a lineup loaded with Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Ian Happ, and others had too many power guys. Now, sprinkle in Nico Hoerner and Matt Duffy among the Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, and Happs of the world and you have a much more balanced lineup. The Cubs as a team are still among the worst in the league for batting average, but keeping guys like Duffy and Hoerner around should help that average rise.
Like Hoerner, Duffy isn't going anywhere. He is proving that he is very important in balancing a power-heavy Cubs lineup. He stays.
Unfortunately for Eric Sogard, he appears to be the odd man out. With David Bote under contract well beyond 2021, and him being younger than Sogard, the 34-year-old Sogard is on the chopping block. That said, seeing Sogard become a DFA victim isn't as easy as many people think.
Sogard's overall statistics don't blow the doors off of anyone. He is slashing .261/.300/.326, fairly average for most major leaguers. He has 12 hits, eight runs scored, four RBI's, and three walks in 27 games this season. However, it really feels like Sogard has made his money thus far as a pinch-hitter.
According to Baseball Savant, when Sogard bats ninth (assuming that majority of the time its as a pinch-hitter) he is batting .375 in 17 plate appearances. He has more hits (six), runs scored (five), and extra base-hits (two) in the nine-spot than any other spot in the lineup. His lone double and triple came from that spot, as well as two of his four RBI's. Sogard is finding ways to be valuable off the bench for the Cubs.
In all, Sogard unfortunately feels like the odd man out when Joc Pederson returns from the IL. Nico Hoerner, Matt Duffy, and Jake Marisnick, who shouldn't even be considered as an option to demote, are all playing too well to warrant losing a roster spot. Although Sogard has been really good as a pinch-hitting, defensive replacement for the Cubs, he is the least important of the group.
When its a tough decision to decide who loses a roster spot, you're in a great position as a team. It means you have a lot of guys who are producing at high levels and contributing to your lineup. In the Cubs case, they will likely have a tough decision when Pederson returns. The move should be Sogard, but the Cubs will be sending a player down or DFA'ing someone who is playing a major role on the current roster.
What's On Tap Next?
The Cubs play host to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night, starting a three-game series with the reigning World Series champions. The Cubs are looking to rebound after a disappointing series loss in Cincinnati this past weekend.
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