Opening Day Roster Predictions
The Cubs made flurry of moves at the recent Winter Meetings, including signing Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey and trading Starlin Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren. The bulk of the roster is now set, and we can already take a look at the potential Opening Day roster and the battles for the few remaining slots on it.
If there are no further trades or signings, and barring any injuries (and there is sure to be one or two in spring training, there always are), the starting eight, against a right-handed pitcher (without Lester on the mound), should be:
C – Miguel Montero
1B – Anthony Rizzo
2B – Ben Zobrist
3B – Kris Bryant
SS – Addison Russel
LF – Kyle Schwarber
CF – Jason Heyward
RF – Jorge Soler
The bench would then be:
C – David Ross
IF – Javy Baez
IF – Tommy LaStella
OF – Chris Coghlan
The starting rotation, as of now, should be:
Jake Arietta (R)
Jon Lester (L)
John Lackey (R)
Jason Hammel (R)
Kyle Hendricks (R)
The first three are, of course, set, and I think Hammel and Hendricks have the inside track on the final two slots. Hammel is being paid $9 million this year and despite his late season injury problems and struggles, put up a 3.74 ERA in 170 IP in 2015. He has made over 20 starts 9 seasons in a row. Hendricks had a 3.95 ERA in 32 starts (180 IP) last year and is a dependable fifth starter.
Adam Warren has more upside than either, in my opinion, and clearly the Cubs thinking highly of him given the Castro trade. But neither Hammel nor Hendricks has much experience pitching out the bullpen, while Warren does. So I expect them all to be stretched out in Spring Training, but barring injury, Warren will start in the pen until an injury to one of the five starters, either Hendricks or Hammel struggle, or a mid-season trade opens up a slot. I am sure Trevor Cahill and Travis Wood will also be stretched out in Spring Training too, just as insurance, and perhaps Wood could be traded to a team that loses a starting pitcher to injury in Spring Training. He is still club-controlled for the next two seasons and could be attractive to someone.
The bullpen, as of now, is mostly set as well, with eight slots:
Hector Rondon (R)
Pedro Strop (R)
Justin Grimm (R)
Neil Ramirez (R)
Rex Brothers (L)
Trevor Cahill (R)
Adam Warren (R)
Travis Wood (L)
EDIT**I forgot Clayton Richard here in the orginal. If you add him in then that makes the likelihood of a trade even greater**
Rondon is the closer, with Strop and Grimm setting up like they did last year. Ramirez, of course, was lights out in 2014, but was injured for most of 2015. If he regains his old form, he should be once again ahead of Grimm and setting up with Strop. Brothers, acquired from Colorado in a trade for 18-year-old prospect Wander Cabrera, is now the key left-handed short reliever. He had a combined 2.82 ERA in 175 IP from 2011-2013, but then struggled badly in 2014 and began last season in the minors. He was called up in September and used as a LOOGY and had a 0.00 ERA in 7.2 IP across 14 games, which bodes well for him regaining form and contributing in that role this season. Then, as noted above, Warren, Cahill, and Wood are the three who have the potential to be stretched out—though each has proven that they can also pitch more often in high leverage situations.
Yoervis Medina (R) is out of options, and so may have the first chance to snag a spot if someone gets injured. Newly acquired Spencer Patton (R) (from the Rangers via trade), last season’s call-up Carl Edwards Jr. (R), Zac Rosscup (L), and recently-signed Andury Acevado (R), will be the AAA depth that can be called up if anything happens.
This projects an Opening Day roster of 12 position players and 13 pitchers, which I think is doable given the flexibility of many of the position players on the roster (Baez, Zobrist, Bryant, etc.). If, however, Maddon wants to reverse this and go with 13 position players and 12 pitchers, then there will be a trade of one of the pitchers, most likely Wood, in Spring Training, or perhaps one of those 8 relievers is injured in spring training and the Cubs simply start without him, delaying the roster decision until he recovers.
The Cubs then currently have several options for the 13th position player:
OF – Matt Szczur
IF/OF – Arismendy Alcantara
IF – Brendan Ryan
Ryan is said to be the player-to-be-named in the Starlin Castro trade, and would provide the Cubs with another infielder who can play SS. He can also play 2B, 3B, and has even had innings in the OF and at 1B. He would basically replace Jonathan Herrera on the roster—both hit about the same, but Ryan has much more experience at shortstop and has more flexibility to play around the field. Ryan would mean that Baez and Zobrist and perhaps even Bryant would end up playing more outfield. Szczur can play all three outfield spots and would give Maddon the ability to move Heyward to RF and sit Soler late in games by putting Szczur in CF (with Coghlan likely in LF for defense). Under this scenario, Zobrist and Baez would play more time in the IF. Alcantara, of course, has the versatility to play both IF and OF and would give the roster the most flexibility. But he is not as strong in the IF as Ryan would be (and has little experience at SS) or as strong in the OF as Szczur, so if the goal is to improve the roster’s defense he probably will not be the choice. Alcantara also has to prove he can hit again. After a fantastic 2014 season at Iowa, at just age 22, where he put up a 307/353/537 line, he struggled to start 2015 in the majors, going 2-26 at the plate before being demoted. He never recovered, hitting just 231/285/399 at Iowa and was not called up in September.
There is also the possibility, however, that the Cubs could make another key trade or free agent signing between now and Opening Day, bringing in perhaps a more experienced CFer to take this final 25-man slot.
The Cubs have sent LHRP C. J. Riefenhauser outright to Iowa.
Cubs MLB 40-man roster now stands at 37 (three slots open).
yow...the a.gordon/m.moustakas collision now makes the schwarb collision look minor in scope.
gordon broke his wrist, expected to miss 4+ weeks...and today moosetacos has been diagnosed with a torn ACL. fun times in KC.
dodgers calling up julio urias for tommorow's game. neat.
fernando-mania might have a new heir...dude is 19 (turns 20 in august) and he's got a legit argument for being MLB-ready.
Tony LaRussa, still an idiot
Happ was the #9 pick last year, and he moved from OF to 2B in the same offseason that Castro was traded.
Gleyber also in the picture at second.
Losing the right way
Be sure to read this fine article about Yosh and Nobe Kawano.
O&B: I think D. J. Wilson is a legit MLB prospect.
He is a hyperactive dynamo on the field, a protypical lead-off hitter who is looking to get on base any way he can, a triple machine (if there is such a thing) when he does make solid contact, a daring baserunner who goes berserk once he is on base, and a CF who plays a "no fear" crash & burn style of defense.
Guys like that sometimes get injured more-often than the average player, but if he can stay healthy and continue to progress, I believe he will be an MLB CF, or at worst a 4th OF.
The hot start was nice, but it won't always come easy. It's nice to see them have to work for it every once in a while.
Hey, AZ, are you as high on DJ Wilson as your pal John Arguello is?
Phil, I just wanted to say thank you for diligently tracking the Cubs prospects in extended spring training and sharing your knowledge with us. It's remarkable how you're able to keep box scores for multiple games at once. I, and I'm sure others here, appreciate the data and insight you provide for us.
Boy, that is a nifty K:BB ratio Hudson has going at almost 4:1!
I hope he continues improving.
And of course the Bucs won again playing AZ (not PHIL). They dont seem to have a problem yet with the bottom feeders.
They picked up 3 games this last week.
I'm looking forward to them coming to the Chi.
Don't mess with the SI jinx. Since the Javy/Cubs cover came out, he is 2-for-20 with no walks.
BRADSBEARD: If all three are assigned to Eugene, the Cubs can play Galindo, Paredes, and Paniagua at the same time by moving Paredes between SS-3B-DH, Galindo between 3B-1B-DH, and Paniagua between 1B-LF-DH.
The Cubs like to have their players (including their minor leaguers) learn to play more than one position even if they eventually are projected to settle at one spot, and I suspect that will be reflected at Eugene, with just about everybody who will be assigned there able to play at least two positions.