Pittsburgh Pirates v. Chicago Cubs – The Outfielders

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Oct 4, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco (25) reacts at second base after hitting a double against the Cincinnati Reds during the seventh inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Right Field – Gregory Polanco vs. Chris Coghlan

This is the position that could change come game time. Polanco is probably the favorite to start in right for the Pirates, but he’s slumped in September while Josh Harrison has heated up, so an argument can be made to play Harrison in right over Polanco. And Coghlan is probably the favorite to start in right for the Cubs, but depending on the way the Cubs choose to align their outfield, that could change. Bryant could play in left, which would shift Schwarber to right and relegate Coghlan to the bench. But for argument’s sake, we’re going to go with Polanco and Coghlan for the time being.

Polanco was coming off a poor start to his major league career last season and into the first half of this season, but he rebounded nicely in the summer months. He was worth 2.5 wins above replacement in 2015, and took hold of the leadoff role as the season progressed. Polanco is slowly adding power to his repertoire, and while it’s not fully there yet, he’s still a threat to hit one out at any time. And he can do so against elite pitching, as he did against Clayton Kershaw earlier this season to end Kershaw’s scoreless streak. He strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk a ton, but that will hopefully change a bit as he develops as a player. He stole 27 bases this season, good for second on the team behind Marte, and he’s certainly a threat to turn singles into doubles via the steal if he gets on. He has a cannon for an arm in right, and the Cubs need to be wary of that; his arm is arguably the best of any outfielder for either team. But he makes the occasional gaffe defensively when playing balls in right, and he makes some poor decisions on the bases as well. He has his weaknesses, and they could hurt the Pirates in a one game playoff.

Pirates’ fans know Chris Coghlan most notably for his slide that helped knock out Jung Ho Kang for the season. But if we evaluate him objectively, we see that Coghlan went from a journeyman to a starting left fielder this season. Coghlan adds power in the form of 16 home runs to a Cubs’ lineup that has power throughout, and his 11 steals this season show that he can take a base when needed. He’s an average to below average defensive player, but he has added eight assists from left field, so the Cubs’ do have players in the outfield that can gun guys out if that opportunity arises.

Coghlan is a good player in his own right, and has been a better run producer than Polanco this season. Polanco’s occasional mistakes defensively and on the bases make me nervous, even though his upside in any game is higher than that of Coghlan.

Verdict: Gregory Polanco (barely)

Next: Conclusion