by Matt Whitener
The National League Central is a division that is in transition. Not only is it coming into a new five-team alignment in 2013, but on each team there is an element of change at hand. Here is a candidate in each team’s organization that will push for a new, or increased, role in the upcoming year:
Brett Jackson, CF: It feels like he’s been the club’s centerfielder of the future forever, and it has to get to that time eventually where the Cubs must at least find out. He struggled in 120 at-bats with the big club last year, hitting only .175 with 59 strikeouts, but the path is still his to walk to the job eventually. At Triple-A Iowa, he had 49 extra base hits, reaching double digits in doubles, triples, and home runs. That’s the type of versatility that plays, and the veteran mixture of David DeJesus, Nate Schierholtz, and Scott Hairston will be hard-pressed to hold him off from another extended look if he has either a strong spring or a solid start back in Iowa.
Devin Mesoraco, C: Ryan Hanigan has been really good behind the dish, quietly leading the National League in percentage of potential base stealers thrown out at 48% last year. In addition, he hit a solid .274 with a .365 OBP. The 24 year-old Mesoraco, who entered the year as a top ten prospect in all of baseball on many lists, struggled in his first year up and couldn’t pull the job away. He managed only a .640 OPS in his rookie campaign, but the talent is still there. If he shows any adjustments at the plate, and begins to realize that potential that heralded him last spring, there could be at the very least a time share behind the plate.
|Tabata is the underdog for a starting job in '13|
Picture courtesy of US Presswire
Jose Tabata, OF: He’s gone from a contract extension recipient in 2011 to being a rotational candidate two years later. The combination of a slow 2012 start, the promise shown by Starling Marte, and the trade for Travis Snider has left him as the potential odd man out of the every day lineup. However, he is just a few seasons removed from his 19 steal/.299 average campaign of 2010 and he also hit .333 in the last month of 2012. There’s a chance for him to take the right field spot back completely for himself.
St. Louis Cardinals
Matt Carpenter, IF/OF: He thrived as the Cardinals utility man a year ago, driving in 46 runs and posting an .828 OPS, while playing four different positions. His bat has earned him a shot to compete for the second base job full-time this spring, despite only getting two starts at the position as a rookie. Daniel Descalso is the incumbent everyday second baseman, but he doesn't offer much offensively. If Carpenter can show his work over the winter to adapt to the position has paid off, the Cardinals will not hesitate to give him a shot at second in the same fashion as then-outfielder Skip Schumaker was converted to position coming into the 2009 season.
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