Earlier in the week, I talked about the addition of Dexter Fowler and how he impacts the outfield. When I started writing, it was my intention to project what the roster will look like on Opening Day. That didn’t happen (thanks, Obama). The problem with writing this article right now is that the roster is still very flexible. For example, the Cubs signed Shane Victorino to a minor league deal today. That being said, I’m going to do my best to give this a shot.
Let’s start with the rotation. There are three guys who are locked in and three more who will compete for a spot. The obvious locks are Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, and John Lackey. The others fighting hard are Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks (known to some as Kyle Kendrick), and Adam Warren.
Jed Hoyer said back when they acquired Warren that he was going to start the season in the pen but be stretched out to start. Right off the bat, I don’t think Warren is the rotation. Do arguments exist for him to be? Of course. Considering his struggles in New York when starting, I view him as an excellent long relief guy. To start the season anyway.
This leads me to the next possibility, Kyle Hendricks. Let it now be publicly known that if you think Hendricks sucks or is overrated, you are flat-out wrong. Among qualified starters, he ranked twenty-seventh in fWAR. That actually tied him with Shelby Miller, the man who drew Dansby Fricking Swanson in a trade. Hendricks has a stunning changeup that gets a lot of swings and misses, and he complements it with a good fastball. The key for Hendricks this year will be to get deeper into games.
And that brings us to the magnificent case of Jason Hammel. I can’t say much other than let him pitch and if he sucks, you can start Warren. But considering the first half of last year, Hammel’s at least earned the shot. That being said, the rotation for Opening Day of 2016 will be:
- Jake Arrieta
- Jon Lester
- John Lackey
- Kyle Hendricks
- Jason Hammel
In my first article for Cubs Insider, I did an in-depth bullpen breakdown. Very little has changed in that regard, except for the addition of Aaron Brooks, the Cubs’ return in the Chris Coghlan trade. Brooks sports a good changeup slider, but his fastball has been flat as of late and he will likely start the year in the minors. The biggest storyline for the bullpen will be Carl Edwards Jr. I think he should start in AAA, but he could be an impact arm in the very near future. We saw last year how good his curve is. He just needs to get that fastball down and he is going to be so GD good. At this point, I see the Cubs running with an 8-man pen to start. If there’s some sort of an injury, Rex Brothers gets the first call with Carl Edwards being a close second. Opening Day bullpen looks like this:
- Hector Rondon (closer)
- Pedro Strop (set-up)
- Justin Grimm
- Neil Ramirez
- Adam Warren
- Clayton Richard
- Travis Wood
- Trevor Cahill
It’s absolutely insane how good this infield can be. Anthony Rizzo is in the process of breaking out into superstar status. A lot of fantasy experts are drafting him in the first rounds of just behind Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera, or in some cases ahead of Cabrera. By the way, Joey Votto is the most underrated player in all of baseball.
Kris Bryant is Kris Bryant. It won’t be surprising if he regresses a little, but I really don’t think he will for some odd reason. Ben Zobrist is a fascinating piece to this team. I like him more than Castro (please don’t hate me) but he is aging. He could be the one problem if he falters at all, but he hasn’t shown anything to prove that he would be losing a step.
And then there’s Addison Russell. Oh Addison Russell, you beautiful beast. The defense is, uh, good. The bat is not as good as the glove, but if he can raise his average by, say, 20 points, he could be in the conversation as one of the top five shortstops in baseball. Yes. Already.
Let’s not forget the bench this infield will have either. Tommy La Stella could start at second for maybe 10 teams but the way this roster is playing out, there may not be room for him. Oh, and Javy Baez? He’s the backup to pretty much every position, first base included. Baez is why La Stella ended not making the cut for me. If he can play all four infield spots and is working on the outfield, there is no reason to have La Stella on the major league roster. Down in the minors you have Christian Villanueva, who is still trying to get a shot at third and may be screwed in that regard. Arismendy Alcantara is still in Iowa as well, and will be there for a loooooooong time.
The catcher scenario is really quite clear: Miguel Montero is the everyday starter with David Ross being Lester’s personal catcher every 5th day. Kyle Schwarber may get some starts in there also. The major league infield will look like this:
- Montero – C
- Rizzo – 1B
- Zobrist – 2B
- Bryant – 3B
- Russell – SS
I wrote a lot about the outfield situation the other day and it seems to me that the Cubs are going to go with the Schwarber/Soler platoon based on everything I’ve read from reporters. Schwarber’s bat is too damn good and it needs to be in the lineup every day. Fowler is the everyday CF and Jason Heyward is back in his natural position of right field. Opening day looks like that as well, though the bench situation is still in a holding pattern
There’s one more spot available. It seems to me that another infielder would be nice, but then you also have Shane Victorino and Matt Murton. This is all going to play out over camp, but I have an inclination that Shane Victorino takes the spot to start.
That puts the roster at 25. There is so much depth on this team that my projection probably will not be right. If someone gets hurt, the Cubs may have to bring up someone I didn’t even mention. And who knows, maybe Mike Olt gets hurt and they will have to call up Kris Bryant. Wait, that already happened.
Let me know what you think of the pen situation, as that certainly appears to be the most up-in-the-air. And for the man on Twitter who told me end my story with “The End,” I give you this: