Pitchers and catchers don't report until Thursday. There will be two weeks' worth of workouts and five-plus weeks of games, with "phenoms" producing gaudy stats that will have people saying, "Hey, he needs to make the team!", before the Cubs and Pirates open the season in Pittsburgh March 31. (The photo above is from last year's Cubs/Pirates season opener at PNC Park.)
So even though there could be surprises, injuries, free-agent acquisitions or trades before Opening Day, here's my best guess as to who will be the 25 players who will fly from Phoenix to Pittsburgh after the final exhibition game March 29 against the Diamondbacks.
Catchers: Welington Castillo, George Kottaras Infielders: Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Mike Olt, Luis Valbuena, Ryan Roberts Outfielders: Junior Lake, Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Sweeney, Justin Ruggiano, Chris Coghlan Starting pitchers: Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Jake Arrieta Relief pitchers: Pedro Strop, James Russell, Jose Veras, Wesley Wright, Carlos Villanueva, Blake Parker, Hector Rondon
There are probably just two names on my list that are mild surprises. I chose Roberts over Donnie Murphy because I just don't think Murphy is good. Not at all. He had a hot streak when he came to the Cubs that lasted 18 games, during which he hit .308/.375/.738 with four doubles and eight home runs (and 19 strikeouts in 65 at-bats). After that, he hit .214/.275/.369 with 29 strikeouts in 84 at-bats. That's a lot closer to his real level of performance (career .215/.280/.405). Roberts, on the other hand, actually had a decent full year for the Diamondbacks in 2011, and since he's more or less a placeholder, I'd put more stock in him having a good year as a utility guy than Murphy.
You'll note this list still doesn't include a suitable, actual backup first baseman to give Rizzo a break once in a while. There aren't really any RH-hitting 1B/OF types in camp; none of the non-roster outfield invitees has any significant experience at first base. Thus I choose Coghlan as the last outfielder, again, because he once had a pretty good year for the Marlins and maybe he can figure out a way to get back to that level.
My assumption is that Olt is going to win the third-base job. The Cubs really need him to, and need him to produce as he was in the Rangers' system, or this offense will be even worse than last year's.
You, I'm sure, have some different ideas on who's going to break camp with the team. Please share them in the comments.