Predicting Cubs' 2020 Opening Day roster

March 4th, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs camp is in full swing under the new leadership of manager David Ross and his revamped coaching staff. In the coming weeks, they will be monitoring a series of roster competitions, alongside the team's front-office evaluators.

Here is an updated Opening Day 26-man roster projection, which will be revisited throughout the spring.

Catcher
Locks: ,
No surprises here. Contreras has started for the National League in each of the past two All-Star Games and he is lined up to be the Cubs' starter behind the dish in '20. Caratini proved to be more than capable as a backup and part-time starter in '19 and will remain in that role. Behind them, the Cubs have veteran depth in .

First base
Locks:

With a healthy spring, Rizzo will man first base on Opening Day for the eighth year in a row for the Cubs. In franchise history, only Mark Grace (12), Charlie Grimm (12) and Ernie Banks (nine) can claim at least that many Opening Day nods at first.

Second base
Locks: None
Possibilities: , , ,
This one's written in pencil. The Cubs will have a competition for second base this spring and Kipnis -- a veteran with a solid career resume -- is in the fold as a non-roster invitee. It is possible that Kipnis wins the versus-righties part of a timeshare at the position, especially if the Cubs decide that top prospect Nico Hoerner needs more development at Triple-A.

Related

Shortstop
Locks:
Báez was the Cubs' full-time shortstop in '19 for the first time in his career and he proved to be one of baseball's elite defenders at the position. Per Statcast, Báez led all MLB infielders with 19 Outs Above Average. He'll be back at short and in the thick of Chicago's lineup.

Third base
Locks:
Following an offseason filled with trade rumors, Bryant has reported to camp focused on preparing for 2020 with the Cubs. With each passing day, the chances of the star third baseman being dealt before Opening Day decrease. While the trade chatter will continue up until the July 31 Deadline, for now, plan on Bryant being at the hot corner for the North Siders.

Utility
Locks: Bote, Descalso
Possibilities: , Hoerner,

Bote also has the ability to slide to third base. Descalso is under contract for $2.5 million and adds some veteran leadership to the room. He could also help at second and third, or be utilized as a pinch-hitter. The Cubs also have non-roster invitees  and Pérez in camp as utility candidates. Besides Hoerner, Pérez is a backup shortstop option.

Outfield
Locks: , , , , Happ
Schwarber has a home in left and Heyward is locked into right field. From there, expect there to be some mixing and matching in an effort to maximize the offensive production and keep the defense as tight as possible. Souza can help be a versus-lefties bat for the corners and it's possible that the Cubs have Happ and Almora split the duties in center. Bryant can also help in the outfield corners, if so desired.

Rotation
Locks: , , ,
Possibilities: , , ,
Darvish, Hendricks, Lester and Quintana occupy the first four spots in the rotation (not necessarily in that order). That leaves the fifth spot up for grabs this spring, but Chatwood is the front-runner for that job. Mills (out of Minor League options) is also a candidate, along with Alzolay, and Rea. For now, Chatwood has the edge, given the solid campaign he compiled in '19 as a swing man on the Cubs' staff.

Bullpen
Locks: , , , ,
Possibilities: , Chatwood, , , Mills, , , , , , ,
The only thing written in stone for the Cubs' bullpen is that Kimbrel will be in the closer's role. There is a wide-open competition for the jobs in front of him. Jeffress was signed to an MLB contract, so he is positioned well to be part of the Opening Day cast. Ryan and Wick are leading candidates, given their emergence as setup men last year. Mills and Underwood are both out of options, so their performance this spring can either make or break their standing with the team. Wieck entered camp as a favorite for a job, but his status for Opening Day is now uncertain following a recent heart procedure.