How Cubs' roster is shaping up so far
MESA, Ariz. -- There have been plenty of storylines surrounding Cubs camp this spring, but there has been a lack of drama when it comes to the makeup of the roster. So far, the injury bug has not struck, allowing Chicago to focus on fundamentals and its renewed sense of urgency for the important season ahead.
"I'm seeing the most open group I've worked with in a long time. Really open," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I've always had good exchanges -- no question. It's just, it's another level right now."
At the outset of Spring Training, MLB.com took a shot at predicting the Cubs' Opening Day roster. With roughly three weeks left until Chicago's season opener against the Rangers on March 28, this is a good time to revisit those predictions to see what, if anything, has changed.
Here is the latest Opening Day roster prediction for the Cubs.
Catcher (2): Victor Caratini, Willson Contreras
Contreras logged more innings than any catcher in baseball last year and he will once again handle a considerable amount of frames this year. While the Cubs could have explored adding a veteran backup, it looks like the club is willing to trust Caratini as the next option. Maddon also likes Caratini's ability to offer depth for first base.
First base (1): Anthony Rizzo
Like a few spots in the Cubs' lineup, this one is written in pen. The only question here is who might get innings as the backup at first. Caratini can handle the position, along with super utility man Ben Zobrist or even Ian Happ.
Second base (1): Zobrist
Somebody needs to be listed, so Zobrist still gets the nod here. But Maddon will mix and match at second for the first month, while Javier Báez mans short and shortstop Addison Russell (restricted list) finishes out a 40-game suspension for violating MLB's Domestic Violence Policy. If Zobrist needs a rest day or Maddon does not like the matchup, the Cubs can choose from Daniel Descalso, David Bote or Happ.
Third base (1): Kris Bryant
The only change here is that Bryant has had time this spring to really show that his left shoulder is strong, following last season's injury-influenced drop in slugging percentage. Bryant is also an option for the outfield corners in the right situation. Behind Bryant, it's a familiar cast of options: Bote, Descalso, Happ and Zobrist.
Shortstop (1): Baez
All that is new on this front is that Russell has been participating fully in Spring Training and -- by all accounts -- meeting the standards set by the Cubs behind the scenes. Until Russell is eligible to return at the start of May, Baez will get the bulk of the innings at short. The National League's MVP runner-up is more than capable of handling that position. Bote is currently the primary backup for short.
Outfield (3): Albert Almora Jr., Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber
Status quo in this area of the roster, too. Almora is the main center fielder, though he will split time with Happ based on matchups. Schwarber is the primary left fielder, but could sit against some lefties. Heyward is the top choice for right, but he could also shift to center for certain games. There will be a lot of mixing and matching, with the potential for Bote, Bryant, Descalso and Zobrist to also see innings in the outfield grass.
Utility (3): Bote, Descalso, Happ
Honestly, you could list most of the Cubs' roster in the utility category, but Bote, Descalso and Happ will be moving in and out of the lineup and around the diamond. Between that trio and Zobrist, Chicago has a multitude of directions it can go both offensively and defensively. And that's the way Maddon likes things.
Rotation (5): Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, José Quintana
The only thing locked in for the rotation is Lester being named the Opening Day starter. It will mark his fourth career Opening Day assignment with the Cubs and eighth overall in his career. While the rest of the order has not been formerly announced, the spring order behind Lester has been Darvish, Hamels, Hendricks and Quintana. Darvish (coming back from arm troubles) has looked strong this preseason, hitting as high as 97 mph already in his outings.
Bullpen (8): Brad Brach, Tyler Chatwood, Steve Cishek, Brian Duensing, Carl Edwards Jr., Brandon Kintzler, Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop
The original roster prediction included Tony Barnette, and the righty remains one of the top candidates to nab the eighth spot. With three weeks to go, we've swapped Barnette out and put Chatwood in. Chatwood is the biggest domino for the Cubs' bullpen makeup. He's being stretched out as a starter and wants to be a starter, but there is no room at the inn as things currently stand. So, unless an unforeseen health issue emerges, Chatwood will either be in the bullpen or pitching for another team come Opening Day. So far, the righty has looked solid in his Cactus League appearances. Nothing has changed in camp to alter the predictions for the other seven slots.
Here's the breakdown for the second round of the MLB.com 25-man roster projections:
Albert Almora Jr.
Carl Edwards Jr.