2021 Cubs Opening Day lineup projection with Pederson aboard


Think Joc Pederson is just a different looking version of Kyle Schwarber in the Cubs lineup? Not so fast.The Cubs wanted to diversify their lineup this offseason by adding hitters with a more contact-oriented approach. At this point, Pederson is their only major addition — his one-year deal with a 2022 mutual option became official Friday — and he profiles very similarly to Schwarber.-Pederson career (2,517 plate appearances): .230/.336/.470, 130 home runs, 12.1 BB%, 24.2 K% -Schwarber career (2,108 plate appearances): .230/.336/.480, 121 home runs, 13.0 BB%, 28.0 K%Both Pederson and Schwarber have struggled against lefties during their careers, too.-Pederson vs. LHP (385 PAs): .191/.266/.310, 9 home runs, 9.4 BB%, 28.8 K% -Schwarber vs LHP (435 PAs): .197/.301/.348, 14 home runs, 12.0 BB%, 33.8 K%However, looks may be deceiving.Manager David Ross told Pederson he’ll be the Cubs’ everyday left fielder, according to the outfielder’s piece in The Players’ Tribune. He might be replacing Schwarber, now with the Nationals, but he’s both better defensively and offers the Cubs more lineup possibilities.Pederson has plenty of experience hitting leadoff, making more starts there (249) than any other lineup spot. He's a viable option there, with a career .235/.325/.503 slash line.The Cubs have struggled to find consistent leadoff production post-Dexter Fowler. Ian Happ took over the spot in 2020 but Pederson could now be an option in at least some matchup situations.Pederson figures to face more lefties in 2021 than any other time in his career, and on those days could hit eighth. He’s made 104 starts there (second-most) and has had his most success of any spot (.261/.391/.491). With his selective eye, he could serve as a second leadoff man of sorts.With the switch-hitting Happ penciled in to open the season at leadoff, Pederson is a good fit in the sixth spot. At least for now.Although the roster could change between now and Opening Day, here’s what the Cubs starting lineup could look like to begin the 2021 season. This assumes baseball sticks with its plan for no universal DH and the pitcher hits ninth.

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Happ projects to hit leadoff right now, if only because of what Ross said back in December.

“I think Ian's earned that right for now,” Ross said during his Winter Meetings press conference, “unless there's an acquisition that we make that would change anything, where you get a true, proven leadoff hitter. But I like Happer in a lot of spots.”

Pederson’s leadoff experience could change things and at least offers a rotation option in the top spot. Before his signing, the only other short-term leadoff option was Anthony Rizzo.

Happ could hit in a number of spots — he started last season ninth and worked his way up. But he led the Cubs in hits last season and has a patient approach to set the table for the Cubs’ big run producers. 


Bryant and his on-base skills started 2020 as the Cubs leadoff man, a potential solution to a problem that has long plagued the club. He hit just .177 with a .271 OBP in 16 starts there, with Happ taking over after the third baseman went on the injured list.

Assuming Bryant is still a Cub on Opening Day, it makes sense for him to return to the No. 2 spot. He’s made more starts there than any other spot in his career and has had plenty of success (.295 average, .394 OBP). 


Bryzzo tends to be a package deal in the Cubs lineup. Ross moved the first baseman up to the No. 2 spot from his typical three-hole to start last season, keeping him behind Bryant.

Rizzo has hit third more than any spot in his career (by far) and should return there this season. He’s historically been the Cubs’ top run producer the past six seasons and will get plenty of RBI chances behind the patient eyes ahead of him.


Báez, like many stars across the league, had a down 2020 season at the plate. Ross showed a willingness to shuffle the lineup to combat any individual struggles, starting Báez as far down as seventh after he began the season in the No. 3 hole.

A strange, shortened season shouldn’t distract from the fact Báez has been a premier run producer since 2018. He drove in 111 runs in 2018 and was on pace to eclipse 100 again in 2019 before missing the final month with a hand injury. 

Báez figures to return to his customary cleanup spot and doing so gives the Cubs a right-left-right balance atop the lineup after Happ.


Another Cub who’s been the fixture of trade rumors this winter, Contreras is still with the team nearing the start of spring training. Batting him behind Báez disrupts the right-left alternation but keeps one of the Cubs’ top hitters in the thick of the order.

Contreras, who’s started the last two All-Star games, has made more starts batting fifth in his career and has mashed. He’s willing to take a walk, and although his numbers are better against lefties, his left-right splits aren’t dramatically different.


Pederson’s second-best batting average and third-best OPS of any lineup spot has come in the No. 6 hole (85 games/73 starts). Placing him there keeps his power bat in the middle of the order and should offer him plenty of RBI chances. 

Pederson has hit 25+ home runs four times, including 36 in 2019, when he also had 74 RBIs.


Heyward in the No. 7 spot behind Pederson would mean back-to-back lefties, which may present an unfavorable matchup. But Heyward is coming off his best offensive performance with the Cubs in the shortened season, slashing .265/.392/.456.

A bulk of Heyward's starts figure to come hitting sixth or seventh but if his 2020 offensive performance carries over, he could move up.

If Pederson hits eighth against lefties, Heyward could slide up to sixth, which would create a right-left balance from the Nos. 5-8 spots (Contreras, Heyward, David Bote/Nico Hoerner, Pederson).


Hoerner played in a platoon with Jason Kipnis last season. Kipnis is now a free agent, leaving Hoerner, Bote and Ildemaro Vargas as current second base options.

Hoerner was a Gold Glove Award finalist in 2020 and his contact-oriented approach offers the Cubs lineup a different look. He's in line to start at second.

Besides Bote and Vargas, the Cubs have the versatile Sergio Alcántara (recently claimed off waivers from Detroit) and veteran Matt Duffy (signed to a minor league deal this winter) as infield depth options.

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