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.
Arizona Phil 3 min 39 sec ago (view)
Someone to keep an eye on in 2021 is RHRP (ex-1B) Jerrick Suiter.
He was selected by the Cubs from the Pirates in the AAA Phase of the 2019 Rule 5 Draft and the Cubs immediately converted him from a mediocre AA first-baseman to a full-time pitcher, having seen him throw garbage innings in blow-outs for the Pirates AA Altoona affiliate in 2019.
Dolorous Jon Lester 6 hours 7 min ago (view)
Good to see Roederer and Velasquez providing some production. From what I've followed they haven't been up to much. Granted this season isn't great for development
Arizona Phil 10 hours 10 min ago (view)
The Cubs have added OF Brennen Davis to their AZIL Active List roster.
crunch 11 hours 33 min ago (view)
"He's a strong kid and shows a lot of HR power in BP and it's just a matter of making it game-usable."
reggie golden flashblacks...if BP was a game he'd be an all-star.
Arizona Phil 12 hours 27 min ago (view)
Unfortunately for the Cubs, all of their Top 10 position-player prospects (M. Amaya, Davis, Hearn, Howard, Made, C. Morel, R. Morel, Quintero, Roederer, and Strumpf -- listed alphabetically) are two or more years away from the big leagues, in most cases more like three or four or even five years away.
Arizona Phil 12 hours 42 min ago (view)
TIM: One of the things people wonder about when they see a young shortstop for the first time is does he have the arm and range necessary to play SS or would his tools maybe be better suited for 2B, 3B or OF. So far at Instructs Kevin Made has shown all of the attributes of a SS, and he is an advanced hitter (for his age) as well.
Arizona Phil 13 hours 21 min ago (view)
AZBOBBOP: Ethan Hearn showed off his plus-arm by back-picking a runner off 1st base last week. You don't see catchers with the confidence to attempt pick-offs much out here.
He's a strong kid and shows a lot of HR power in BP and it's just a matter of making it game-usable. His hitting (contact and barreling) has improved at instructs, and that's one of the things he needed to improve.
His receiving should improve with experience as well.
azbobbop 1 day 2 hours ago (view)
Phil, saw Ethan Hearn with a couple of hits today. How has he been trending?
tim815 1 day 18 hours ago (view)
That Kevin Made is already representing offensively seems, on the 1 to 10 scale with 10 being fantastic news, in the 17 or 18 range.
Nwogu in the 9 to 11 span.
Arizona Phil 2 days 11 hours ago (view)
For those of you wondering about catcher Ronnier Quintero (the Cubs #1 IFA signing in the 2019-20 ISP), he participates fully in pre-game and Camp Day work-outs and he catches bullpens, and while he has been the bullpen catcher at every AZIL game he has not yet played in a game.
As a catcher he has a lot to learn, and the Cubs would prefer that Quintero mainly concentrates on receiving and learning how to work with pitchers right now. He can learn about hitting and baserunning later.
Arizona Phil 2 days 12 hours ago (view)
In adition to the 22 pitchers originally on the Cubs AZIL Active List roster plus RHP Manuel Rodriguez (right biceps strain last March) and LHP Brad Wieck (wearing a brace on his left knee) who are on the Cubs MLB 60-day IL and are rehabbing at AZIL, the Cubs have added four additional pitchers to their AZIL Active List roster:
RHP Josh Burgmann
RHP Chris Clarke
LHP D. J. Herz
RHP Michael McAvene
Charlie 3 days 9 hours ago (view)
This is weird. He seemed well liked and shifting him to another role would've made just as much sense.
bradsbeard 3 days 14 hours ago (view)
I'd say the only guys who struggled all season were Baez and Bryant. Willson struggled for a lot of August but was one of the few who hit in September. Most of the team hit well in 2019 (including Baez and Bryant before injuries derailed them). I don't know if there's any reason to blame Ipoce in particular for the September slump.
crunch 4 days 3 hours ago (view)
iapoce expected to stay. i'm surprised. i know it's a weird/short season, but it was a season-long slump for a lot of guys and answers weren't showing up.
crunch 4 days 4 hours ago (view)
i eagerly await the espn 10 part mini-series "Rafael Palmeiro, More Like Rafael Baseballmerio" covering those 28 legendary games.
Dolorous Jon Lester 4 days 4 hours ago (view)
In fairness those 28 games he played at 1B were breathtaking that year