Since the Cubs are playing a night game Friday (6:40 p.m. CT vs. the Padres at Peoria), I thought I’d take a bit of time to look at a possible iteration of the team’s 26-man Opening Day roster, after we’ve now seen about a week’s worth of Spring Training games.
First, though, I think it’s important to look at this statement manager David Ross made last weekend:
With spring games underway, insight from David Ross on the factors that may play into the Cubs’ decisions for the roster competitions: pic.twitter.com/En6055QkmC— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) February 25, 2023
So what we see on the field in Arizona isn’t necessarily going to have an impact on the Opening Day roster. Two players who have started off well, in very small sample sizes, are David Bote (5-for-8, a double, a home run, no strikeouts) and Nick Madrigal (3-for-9, a double, a stolen base, three RBI).
Bote was outrighted off the 40-man roster over the winter. Madrigal was injured much of last year. Yet, it might appear that both could play a role for the team this year. Ross’ statement included help from “the guys who get sent down,” implying there could be lots of roster moves during the season.
Here is my best guess for the 26 men who will be on the field for introductions March 30 at Wrigley:
Tucker Barnhart, Yan Gomes
This catching tandem will play most of the games this year, barring injury. Dom Nuñez is likely headed to Triple-A Iowa as the “break glass in case of emergency” guy.
Eric Hosmer, Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, Patrick Wisdom, Zach McKinstry, Nick Madrigal
McKinstry makes the team, I think, because otherwise there’s no realistic backup shortstop. Yes, Hoerner can play shortstop but I think the team wants to establish him at second base and not move him around. Also, Swanson played all 162 games last year. It could be that a true backup isn’t needed, in which case Bote has a chance to make the team.
Ian Happ, Cody Bellinger, Nelson Velázquez, Trey Mancini, Christopher Morel
I know what you’re saying — Morel probably needs more time at Iowa to get his game together. He hasn’t hit well yet this spring. It’s possible that Miles Mastrobuoni gets that last spot, because he can play three infield positions including shortstop and all three outfield positions.
Starting pitchers (5)
Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon, Justin Steele, Drew Smyly, Hayden Wesneski
I think Wesneski gets the nod over Adrian Sampson, who profiles well as a multi-inning reliever. If Sampson gets the fifth starter spot, Wesneski probably opens the season at Iowa.
Relief pitchers (8)
Adbert Alzolay, Brad Boxberger, Roenis Elias, Michael Fulmer, Brandon Hughes, Mark Leiter Jr., Adrian Sampson, Keegan Thompson
You’ll note Rowan Wick isn’t on this list. He might be at the end of the line with the Cubs. I’ve also listed two non-roster guys here — Elias and Leiter — both would need 40-man spots. I’ve listed Elias largely because of his excellent numbers in winter ball, his good outings so far this spring and the fact that the Cubs only have one other lefty in that bullpen list (Hughes).
Also, in this article Thursday in the Athletic, Patrick Mooney quoted Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer as saying the Cubs are still looking at relief pitchers:
“There are still free agents out there, so I wouldn’t be shocked if we brought someone in,” Hoyer said. “(Our pro scouting) group is always working. We’re generally done. But if someone came into camp, I wouldn’t be shocked, just because there are some players out there, in particular some relievers.”
Zack Britton was mentioned specifically in the article, as well as Mike Minor, Will Smith and Brad Hand.
As always, we await developments. Perhaps you have others you think will be on the Opening Day roster. Share those names in the comments.