Cubs set 2022 Opening Day roster

April 7th, 2022

The Cubs' Opening Day roster is set and the preseason prognosticators have had their say. If the new-look North Siders are going to chase down a postseason spot this summer, they will do so as underdogs.

"I don't like that narrative," Cubs manager David Ross said. "I don't know that I'm going to be pounding the table, 'We're underdogs.' I think the expectations here, and they have been for a long time, are of a championship-type mindset. We're here to win."

With that in mind, here is a breakdown of the 28-man Opening Day roster that the Cubs have constructed, beginning with Thursday's lid-lifter against the Brewers at Wrigley Field:

Catcher (2): Willson Contreras, Yan Gomes
After cycling through eight backup catchers in 2021, the Cubs brought in the veteran Gomes on a two-year contract to provide more balance behind the plate. Both Contreras and Gomes have earned strong defensive and game-calling reputations, and Gomes' arrival (plus having the designated hitter now) should help keep Contreras' legs fresh and bat productive. Throughout spring, Chicago's pitchers raved about working with both catchers.

First base (1): Frank Schwindel
Schwindel dealt with some back tightness early in Spring Training, but looked just fine after returning to Cactus League play, hitting .389 with a 1.056 OPS in eight games. The Cubs are looking forward to seeing if he can build on his impressive showing last season, when he hit .342/.389/.613 down the stretch after Anthony Rizzo was traded. Behind Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom offers depth at first, along with lefty-hitting Alfonso Rivas.

Second base (1): Nick Madrigal
Madrigal, 25, is healthy now, following surgery in July to repair a tear in his right hamstring. He is primed to be the Cubs' starter at second and offers an elite contact-based bat for the lineup. In 2020-21, Madrigal posted a 92 percent contact rate and a 97.6 percent in-zone contact rate. Those both ranked first among hitters with at least 300 plate appearances. His 3.6 percent swinging-strike rate was the second-lowest mark in that time period. The Cubs also have Nico Hoerner and Jonathan Villar as options at second base, as Ross will try to manage Madrigal's playing time in light of last year's injury.

Shortstop (1): Nico Hoerner
Injured list (1): Andrelton Simmons
If anyone doubted Hoerner's ability to pull off elite defensive plays at short, he provided some pretty strong counter evidence this spring. On one particular grounder deep in the hole, Hoerner completed a leaping throw with precision for a highlight-reel play. Yes, Hoerner was a Gold Glove finalist at second base in 2020, but he is eager to prove he can be an everyday shortstop for Chicago. They key for Hoerner will be staying on the field, as injuries marred his '21 showing. In 44 games, he did hit .302 with a .382 on-base percentage. Simmons will also be an option at short this season, but he is starting the season on the injured list due to a right shoulder issue.

Third base (1): Patrick Wisdom
Wisdom set the Cubs' single-season rookie record for homers (28) last year, but also had a bloated strikeout rate (40.8 percent). This spring has been a similar: 11 strikeouts in 26 at-bats, but also a two-homer game. Wisdom's power potential and solid defense helps make up for the whiffs, though he has made some subtle swing changes in an effort to be more direct to the baseball. Expect Villar to share time at third base with Wisdom, who can also move to a corner outfield spot, if needed. Hoerner also offers depth at the hot corner.

Utility man (2): Jonathan Villar, Alfonso Rivas
Injured list (1): David Bote
Without Simmons available for Opening Day, the Cubs will lean on Villar as their backup shortstop behind Hoerner. Villar, who is a switch-hitter, should also get playing time at third base, offering a lefty-bat complement to the right-handed-hitting Wisdom. Rivas has shown a mature offensive approach since first getting a taste of the Majors last year, and that continued throughout the spring. With a righty-heavy infield, Rivas gives Ross another left-handed bat off the bench for first base or corner outfield.

Outfield (6): Clint Frazier, Ian Happ, Michael Hermosillo, Jason Heyward, Rafael Ortega, Seiya Suzuki
Once MLB expanding Opening Day rosters to 28 players, and the Cubs decided to go with 14 position players, it was possible for the team to carry all six outfield options into the season. That eliminated the potential risk of losing either Hermosillo or Ortega (both out of Minor League options) on the depth chart. The signing of Suzuki to a five-year, $85 million deal to be the Cubs' new right fielder pushed the veteran Heyward to center. Suzuki is still adjusting to MLB pitching, but he showed off his power potential and plate discipline during the spring. While Heyward will be the starter in center, Hermosillo (.991 OPS vs. lefties between Triple-A and MLB in '21) will have opportunities there, too. Ortega (.900 OPS vs. righties in '21 with Cubs) offers depth at all three spots. Expect Happ and Frazier to each see time in left field. Happ enjoyed a great finish in 2021 (.886 OPS in second half) and belted a career-high 25 homers. The Cubs are hoping Frazier -- who was impressive at the plate all spring -- is a solid bounceback candidate after a few injury-plaqued seasons with the Yankees. Ross will undoubtedly use the DH slot to help divvy up the at-bats as well, given the logjam that exists in the outfield to start the year.

Rotation (5): Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson
Injured list (3): Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills, Wade Miley
Beginning with Opening Day, Chicago will roll out Hendricks, Steele, Stroman and Smyly (in that order) against the rival Brewers. That splits up the righties (Hendricks and Stroman) and lefties (Steele and Smyly) and breaks up the two arms (again, Hendricks and Stroman) most ready to handle a regular workload at the season's outset. Steele and Smyly should be in a good position to offer at least four innings, with Thompson potentially available early for a "piggyback" outing. Technically, the Cubs do not need a fifth starter until April 16 in Colorado. Prior to Opening Day, Mills was placed on the 10-day IL due to a lower-back strain. The rotation was a weakness in 2021 (4.77 ERA), but the overhauled cast should be better, especially with Stroman joining the fold via his three-year, $71 million contract. The hope was to have Miley as the No. 3 starter, but the lefty is shelved with a left elbow issue.

Bullpen (9): Jesse Chavez, Scott Effross, Mychal Givens, Chris Martin, Daniel Norris, Ethan Roberts, David Robertson, Michael Rucker, Rowan Wick
Injured list (2): Codi Heuer, Brad Wieck
One of the best moments of Spring Training arrived late in camp, when Roberts was informed mid-game that he made the Opening Day roster. The arrival of the 24-year-old relief prospect continues the Cubs' wave of internal arms impacting the 'pen. Last year, Steele and Thompson had turns in the bullpen, along with Effross, Rucker, Manuel Rodríguez and others. And there is more coming soon from the farm. To start this season, the Cubs are balancing that youth with a group of veterans. Chavez, Givens, Martin, Norris and Robertson were all added post-lockout to bring MLB experience to the clubhouse and mound. For late-inning situations, Ross has a number of ways he could go based on matchups and other factors. Robertson looks like a prime candidate for save opportunities, along with Wick, who has been used as a setup man and part-time closer in recent seasons for the North Siders.