The Cubs have a new manager, Joe Maddon, and he is already making an impact on the Cubs roster. Yesterday, he spoke with top prospect Kris Bryant about learning to play the outfield in spring training, and possibly in AAA. Maddon likes to have as much flexibility in his lineups as he can, and having Bryant play the outfield gives him even more flexibility come Opening Day, or whenever they decide to call up Bryant.
Here is more from Bruce Levine from CBS Chicago:
Bryant had a meeting with management and new manager Joe Maddon on Monday. He was asked to keep an open mind about learning a second defensive position in the outfield. This type of thinking has been a part of the Theo Epstein management philosophy and Maddon's as well.
"By moving players around, you can take the pressure off of their bat," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I think Joe uses that as a mental edge with the players as well."
Bryant has been dominant in his minor-league experience on offense but has some things to accomplish on defense.
Allowing Bryant to learn to play the outfield allows Maddon to juggle his lineup on a day to day basis, once he is called up, which should be sometime in late April. Maddon can put Bryant in left field when they are facing a left handed pitcher, allowing him to play Mike Olt at third base and Arismendy Alcantara, who is a switch hitter, either at second base, third base or center field to spell Dexter Fowler. Alcantara hit better vs left handed pitchers last season than right handed pitchers, but is a better hitter than he showed last season.
This move impacts Alcantara the most, as Maddon will probably use him as his NL version of Ben Zobrist, using him all over the field, at second, third and several outfield positions. Alcantara has the power and speed to put up double digit home runs and stolen bases in 2015, but will have to reduce the strikeout rate, which exceeded 30% last season.
This decision also will impact the fantasy value of Bryant, as the Cubs will allow him to play left field at times should he have trouble handling the hot corner defensively, or to allow him to focus on his bat should he be in the middle of a slump. Many scouts have offered that a switch to the outfield could be a possibility in the future for Bryant, but I didn't think it would be this soon. He has more fantasy value at third base than in the outfield, but the fact that he could have dual eligibility is a plus for fantasy owners.
This decision also allows Maddon to see who is best option at third base is to open the season. The list of prospective third baseman include Alcantara, Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella. Depending on whether Javier Baez begins the season in Chicago or Iowa, I think two of these three will start the season in the Cubs Opening Day lineup. I could see Baez beginning the season in AAA to work on his swing, with Alcantara at second and either Olt or La Stella at third.
Jason Hunt profiled Bryant earlier this morning, and he offers his opinion on how valuable Bryant will be in redraft leagues for his fantasy owners this season.