Cubs Opening Day roster coming into focus as spring training comes to a close


Outside of their bullpen, the Cubs entered spring training with few roster spots up for grabs. By picking up Cole Hamels' 2019 option, the team's starting rotation was all but set. And while Daniel Murphy (free agency) and Tommy La Stella (trade) departed in the offseason, the Cubs returned nearly every other position player from the 2018 group.

Now that spring training is in the rearview mirror, the Cubs Opening Day roster is seemingly set. Things can change over the next two days, of course, but here's what one should expect the team to look like Thursday against the Rangers.


Willson Contreras
Victor Caratini

Contreras struggled down the stretch in 2018, finishing with a .585 OPS in 56 games following the All-Star break. Spring training results don't predict regular season success, but Contreras had a solid spring, hitting .342/.432/.605 with two home runs and 10 RBIs.

After an offseason of speculation as to whether the Cubs would sign a veteran to backup Contreras, Caratini is set to open the season as the Cubs' No. 2 backstop. The 25-year-old hit .349/.420/.581 this spring, is a switch-hitter and can play first base when Anthony Rizzo needs a day off.


Anthony Rizzo
Ben Zobrist
Javier Báez
Kris Bryant
Daniel Descalso
David Bote

No surprises here, though Joe Maddon has numerous combinations he can start each night. Báez will be the Cubs' starting shortstop through at least April while Addison Russell serves the remainder of his 40-game suspension. Bote will backup Báez, though the former only played 10 major league innings at the position in 2018. He has 344 2/3 innings of experience at shortstop in the minor leagues, however.

Descalso has played more innings (1,974) at second base than any other position in his career. However, he has experience playing first and third base, shortstop, and left and right field. He didn't see any time at shortstop in 2018, though, so one should not expect to see much of him there.

Ian Happ was going to be part of the second base rotation before the Cubs demoted him to Triple-A over the weekend. His demotion has more of an effect on the Cubs outfielders, however.


Kyle Schwarber
Albert Almora Jr.
Jason Heyward
Mark Zagunis

Happ's demotion means Almora will get majority of the starts in center field. Heyward can slide over from right field when Almora needs a day off or when the Cubs face a tough right-handed starting pitcher. Perhaps the Cubs give Almora every chance to become an everyday player, though.

Almora hit .286/.323/.378 in 2018, though he posted a below-average wRC+ of 89. He also disappeared in the second half, hitting just .232/.267/.280 and posting a 47 wRC+ after the All-Star break. Almora plays a high-level center field, but the Cubs need him to hit more like he did in the first half, when he had a .795 OPS.

Zagunis' spring training performance likely made demoting Happ a bit easier. The 26-year-old hit .370/.444/.761 with four home runs and 15 RBIs. How much he plays is up for debate, though, as the Cubs can play Bryant and Zobrist in the outfield, too.

Starting pitchers

Jon Lester
Yu Darvish
Cole Hamels
Kyle Hendricks
José Quintana

The question was not who would be in the Cubs Opening Day starting rotation, but what order the pitchers would be in. The Cubs announced early in March that Lester will be the Opening Day starter, though they did not reveal who would follow the left-hander in Texas until Tuesday. 

Hendricks (fresh off a contract extension) figures to be the No. 4 starter, with Quintana rounding out the rotation at No. 5. The Cubs also have Mike Montgomery and Tyler Chatwood in their bullpen as starting rotation depth.


Pedro Strop 
Carl Edwards Jr.
Steve Cishek
Mike Montgomery
Brad Brach
Brandon Kintzler
Tyler Chatwood
Randy Rosario

Strop likely will get majority of the save opportunities while Brandon Morrow continues his recovery from offseason elbow surgery. Edwards Jr. and Cishek could also get save opportunities until Morrow returns, which, in a best-case scenario, will be in early May.

Montgomery and Rosario are the only two lefties in the bullpen; the latter beat out fellow-left-hander Kyle Ryan for the team's final bullpen spot. Rosario allowed seven earned runs this spring, though five of them came in two appearances (March 12 and 15). He did not allow a run in his last 4 1/3 innings, for what it's worth.

Brach allowed four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings this spring, three of which came in his final appearance on March 24. Despite being signed late in the offseason, the right-hander could be a valuable arm for Maddon. After the Orioles traded him to the Braves last summer, Brach posted a 1.52 ERA in 23 2/3 innings.

What the Cubs get out of Chatwood is anyone's guess, though he deserves recognition for how he has pitched this spring. The right-hander finished spring training with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings, striking out nine batters compared to just four walks. No matter how he fares, paying $12.5 million to a long reliever will be a tough pill to swallow for the Cubs.

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