Who will make the Cubs' Opening Day roster?

March 16th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- The internal discussions on the second floor of the Cubs' complex will start to gain momentum in the days ahead. There are only two weeks left for Chicago to put the finishing touches on its Opening Day roster.

The Cubs still have to pick a fifth starter, fill out the final vacancies in the bullpen and determine which puzzle pieces best fit the bench. Right fielder (left oblique) and starter (right shoulder) are expected to miss the opener, opening the door for a group of players to make their case for inclusion.

"I've said this before," Cubs manager David Ross said recently. "We all put so much emphasis -- players especially, and I was in the same boat -- on making the Opening Day roster. But there's a lot of guys in camp that won't be on the Opening Day roster that are going to help us this year and help us win ballgames."

With that in mind, here is our third breakdown of how things could look for the Cubs at the end of Spring Training.

Catcher (2): ,
Nothing has changed here, as veterans Barnhart and Gomes are locked in as the Cubs' catching tandem. So far, Chicago's pitchers have raved across the board about working with the duo, who could wind up sharing the playing time fairly evenly.

First base (2): ,
The lefty-swinging Hosmer projects to get the bulk of the at-bats at first base. Mancini would be the secondary option, but the Cubs also have alternatives for first base in Patrick Wisdom and Edwin Ríos. They are all candidates for DH at-bats, while Mancini and Wisdom may help out in right field.

Second base (1):
Hoerner willingly moved to second when it meant the Cubs were bringing in veteran shortstop Dansby Swanson. Hoerner projects as the everyday starter at second and is getting a look as the lineup's leadoff man.

Shortstop (1):
Swanson joined the fold over the offseason via a seven-year, $177 million contract. One of the reasons Chicago felt Swanson was a great fit was his potential to stick at the position over the life of the deal.

Third base (1):
Wisdom gets the nod here, but it should be noted that Nick Madrigal and Ríos are also fits for the hot corner. Wisdom may also get innings in right with Suzuki sidelined. Expect Ross to weigh daily matchups for this spot.

Outfielders (3): , ,
Bellinger was brought into the fold to be the Cubs' regular center fielder, while Happ is coming off his best all-around season (in which he won a Gold Glove Award in left). Suzuki's setback opens the door for Tauchman to make the roster as a non-roster invitee. Tauchman can play all three positions, has MLB experience and has impressed Ross this spring with his ability to control the strike zone. He increasingly looks like a favorite to win a job.

Bench/utility (3): , ,
At the moment, it looks like younger players such as and may benefit from getting regular playing time at Triple-A at the start of the season. Madrigal has been given a serious look at third and the Cubs really value his elite contact ability. Ríos is an intriguing lefty power bat who can play both infield corners. McKinstry is out of Minor League options, which could play in his favor in the name of maintaining roster depth at the front end of the season. Chicago believes McKinstry has yet to tap into his offensive potential, and his ability to play all over the infield adds versatility to Ross' bench.

Starting pitchers (5): , , , ,
The front four of Smyly, Steele, Stroman and Taillon is locked in. The question for the Cubs this spring is which of , Wesneski and gets the No. 5 slot while Hendricks continues to build toward a comeback. Sampson's recent track record of success carries weight, but Wesneski and Assad have been more impressive to date this spring. If it comes down to Wesneski or Assad, the former seems to have the edge right now. Whoever does not win the No. 5 job could help the bullpen, but would more likely head to Triple-A Iowa to stay ready as the next-man-up options for the rotation.

Relief pitchers (8): , , , Brandon Hughes, , , ,
Ross has made it clear that Alzolay and Thompson will be in the bullpen. From there, free-agent signings like Fulmer and Boxberger are locks, along with Hughes. Wick returns as one of Chicago's most experienced in-house arms and has one Minor League option year left. Merryweather was an intriguing offseason addition, has impressed the Cubs this spring and is out of Minor League options. There are a number of ways the Cubs could go with the last slot. Leiter is a non-roster invitee, but he was a key part of the Cubs' bullpen down the stretch last year, when he neutralized lefty batters (.571 OPS). That could be important with only one left-hander (Hughes) potentially in the bullpen. Righty is also having a solid spring and is a contender for a spot.