The 2022 Chicago Cubs aren’t yet a finished product, but after making a few moves in the early part of free agency, they have evidenced their intentions of competing.
Clint Frazier gets $1.5M plus $1M incentives on Cubs MLB deal
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 1, 2021
They non-tendered, then re-signed outfielder Michael Hermosillo.
Additionally, the protected outfield prospect Nelson Velazquez from being taken in the Rule 5 Draft by adding him to the 40-man roster.
How does the Cubs’ outfield project for 2022 considering the pre-lockout additions?
The Cubs Have Some Interesting Outfield Pieces
Happ hit a career-high 25 home runs in 2021, but it wasn’t as rosy as it sounds.
Happ slashed .183/.296/.330 with nine home runs and a .626 OPS during the first half, when the Cubs struggled the most.
He recovered nicely after the break, with a .268/.350/.536 line, 16 homers, and a .886 OPS, much more in line with his talent level.
Ortega was a nice find, with a .291/.360/.463 line with 11 home runs in 330 plate appearances, most of them in the second half.
He was also acceptable with the glove, but clearly stretched in center.
Heyward continues to disappoint: he is now 32, and while he is a top defensive outfielder, he is coming off a .214/.280/.347 season.
Frazier is coming off a disastrous season with the New York Yankees that cost him his job.
He hit .186/.317/.317 and had to fight blurry vision, headaches, and dizziness.
However, he will reportedly be 100 percent by spring training, and his offensive upside is obvious, evidenced by his .267/.394/.511 line and eight home runs in 39 games and 160 plate appearances in 2020.
When at his best, Frazier can work walks and has excellent bat speed that may lead to 30-homer seasons with at least an OBP in the .340-.350 range for the team that has the patience to stick with him through potential struggles.
With the Cubs, he will at least get the opportunity to get regular or semi-regular at-bats.
Ramirez hit .268/.305/.398 with a .703 OPS with the Cleveland Indians in 2021, but those mediocre numbers came with some very good underlying metrics.
Raw, But Talented Reserves
Per Statcast, Ramirez was in the 85th percentile in average exit velocity, and in the 94th percentile in max exit velocity.
He also finished in the 81st percentile in hard-hit rate, which is the percentage of balls hit at over 95 mph.
In other words, Ramirez has power, but his 53.1 percent groundball rate prevented any success.
A swing change can unlock a world of success for him.
Velazquez is very talented, but not ready for the majors despite lighting the Arizona Fall League on fire.
Since Ortega was extremely bad against lefties (.421 OPS compared to .900 against righties), he will sit against southpaws.
When there is a lefty on the mound, Happ will probably play center, with Heyward and Frazier on the corners.
Against righties, Ortega could be the starter in center field, with Happ and Heyward or Frazier (whoever performs better) on the corners and Ramirez ready to back up right and left field.
Frazier is a starting OF. Also, you cannot block the impact prospects coming up through the system. The next core, you cannot block Davis or Velazquez who could join the Cubs in 2022. Ramirez & Herm if given the chance may prove valuable. Ortega hit 291 w/ a 360 OBP in 296 ABs.
— Hot Stove Cubbies (@HotStoveCubbies) December 2, 2021
Hermosillo has a lot of power, and Velazquez could eventually force his way up, but that should be the alignment unless the Cubs can bring a Michael Conforto-type to upgrade over Heyward.