Make no mistake: The Chicago Cubs of 2009 will most certainly be different from the 2008 team.
Gone are a pair of fan favorites in Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa. In their place, Kevin Gregg, Milton Bradley, and a number of other new faces will aim to buck the Cubbie trend of not winning the World Series.
Of course, for the Cubs to make any progress towards actually achieving their goal of world domination, they have to actually play some regular-season games.
Furthermore, before they get started on game No. 1 out of 162, they've gotta decide on who they'll put on the 25-man roster come Opening Day.
By my calculations, 19 of those 25 spots are already a done deal. For the sake of brevity, we'll list last names only, just so we can count to confirm. We've got: Soto, Lee, Fontenot, Ramirez, Theriot, Soriano, Fukudome, Bradley, Miles, Johnson, Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Marshall, Heilman, Cotts, Gregg, and Marmol.
Sweet Lou has said previously that he's afraid Larry Rothschild will punch him in the face if he carries any fewer than 12 pitchers, so we know what's left for Lou to decide upon this spring: He needs three more position players, and three more pitchers.
So who's it gonna be? Let's take a look at the "last six in" for the 2009 Chicago Cubs.
- Koyie Hill, C - Hill has had an excellent spring with the bat, posting a .394/.444/.576 slash line. He's also a switch hitter, which will help Lou add balance to the line-up.
- Micah Hoffpauir, 1B/OF - Hoffpauir is basically a younger, (slightly) slimmer Daryle Ward. Left-handed with power, he can spell Lee at first. Two major issues, though: lack of defensive versatility, and a propensity for striking out.
- Joey Gathright, OF - Joey is a classic late-inning replacement outfielder. He'll provide solid defense in the field, as well as plus speed on the basepaths. Basically, a major-league ready Felix Pie.
- Kevin Hart, RP - Since allowing four runs in one inning on March 8th against Texas, Hart has been dominant: 4.1 perfect innings, and eight strikeouts.
- Luis Vizcaino, RP - Hasn't quite gotten going yet, but has quality major league experience all over his resume. He'll be an early-inning option against right-handers once the regular season starts.
- Jason Waddell, RP - It's close between Waddell and Rule V pick David Patton. Both are young, and neither has pitched in the majors. But Waddell would be the second lefty in the 'pen. He's also a little older, and has some solid experience from the AA level.
Notable omissions from my 25-man roster would be two big-name pitchers: Chad Gaudin and Jeff Samardzija. I have substantial reasons for letting both guys start in Triple-A in 2009.
Samardzija needs to refine his entire repertoire. He's been exceedingly hittable this spring, giving up 15 hits in 10 innings. He's also walked four batters, along with just six strikeouts. He may very well be able to contribute later in the year, but to begin the season, Jeff should be working on his stuff in the minors.
Gaudin is in the same boat. He's given up the same number of hits as Samardzija, in fewer innings, with more walks, and fewer strikeouts. He may be useful yet, but at this point, he hasn't come anywhere near earning a spot on the major league roster.
So, there you have it: your Opening Day roster for the 2009 Chicago Cubs.
Alex Walsh is the creator of Bench Aaron Miles!, a blog that looks at position battles of the 2009 Chicago Cubs.