Chicago Cubs: Final Projection for the Cubs' Opening Day 25-Man Roster

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Chicago Cubs:  Final Projection for the Cubs' Opening Day 25-Man Roster
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

They say “hindsight is 20/20.”  But what about foresight?  Does that score somewhere around 20/1200 on the Snellen chart?

The evidence—an article of mine published last September—would suggest to the affirmative.  Granted, some of my predictions are correct, or will turn out to be correct, and deserved of a self-congratulatory pat on the back.

But, boy, some are outright swings and misses.

The September version of the predicted 25-man roster was riddled with terrible selections:  Bryan LaHair, Joe Mather, Ryan Dempster, Chris Rusin, and Josh Vitters along with then-predicted free agent acquisitions Humberto Quintero and Geoff Blum, to name a few.

And while foresight is of questionable clarity, now that we’re mere days away from the official start of spring training, the upcoming predicted roster is bestowed with the assistance of a proverbial pair of eyeglasses.

First, we must begin by eliminating the obvious inclusions to the 25-man roster.  The infielders are Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Ian Stewart, and Luis Valbuena; with Welington Castillo as the starting catcher.

Returning from the 2012 squad are David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano, and they will be joined by free-agents Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz, to make up four-fifths of the outfield component,

Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, and Scott Feldman will comprise the starting rotation—although hopeful, Scott Baker will not be ready by Opening Day due to Tommy John surgery last year. 

Bullpen sure-ins include Kyuji Fujikawa, James Russell, Carlos Marmol, Shawn Camp, and Carlos Villanueva.

That leaves five holes in the Opening Day roster.

Filling the first of these five spots is fairly easy.  There needs to be a backup catcher.

Given the options available are Dioner Navarro and Steve Clevenger, all signs point to Dioner Navarro being named to the 25-man roster over the abysmal Steve Clevenger.

Using the same roster structure the Cubs used last spring that leaves four spots available for two infielders, an outfielder, and one additional reliever.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Cubs could kill two birds with one stone if Brent Lillibridge makes the roster.  He can play some outfield and short, but most importantly he could serve as Anthony Rizzo’s primary backup at first base in the event Rizzo needs a day off.

The Cubs do have an option, if the unforeseen happens and Rizzo is out for a lengthy period of time, in minor-leaguer Brad Nelson.

Nelson’s career has been similar to Bryan LaHair, and looks to begin the season in Triple-A.  However, if for some reason Anthony Rizzo were to be out of action for a few weeks, Nelson would serve as the first baseman in the interim.

But for him to break camp on the 25-man roster does not seem likely.

As for the other backup infielder, the Cubs have only two legitimate options going into camp:  Alberto Gonzalez and Edwin Maysonet.  But let’s put it this way:  If they were books, you wouldn’t consider them page turners.

It is for that reason the Cubs will break camp with six infielders in 2013, as opposed to the seven they did in 2012.  That extra spot will go to the bullpen; the area in which the Cubs need to see the greatest improvement.

The Cubs, with Lillibridge included, will then have three infielders who can play multiple positions in emergency situations which can allow them to add an extra arm to the much maligned bullpen and, hopefully, avoid the kind of start to the season the 2012 version experienced.

The team could use the extra spot, so both prospects, Dave Sappelt and Brett Jackson, could break camp with the big league club.  However, the outfield is already crowded as it is by having four veterans expecting to be on the roster. 

That will leave just one spot for Dave Sappelt or Brett Jackson to claim.

Offensively, in 2012, Brett Jackson was…well…offensive.  He did showcase his outstanding fielding instincts while in the MLB, but if he wants to begin the 2013 season on the 25-man roster, he will need to prove that his overhauled swing can translate from the batting cage to the diamond.

Brett Jackson is a strikeout machine, which would be good if he was a pitcher, but horrible since he’s a position player.  He will need to seriously limit his strikeouts in the Cactus League if he wants to break camp as a member of the 25-man roster.

Even so, it is more likely Dave Sappelt will begin the season in Chicago, while Brett Jackson continues to improve his plate discipline and work on his new swing in Triple-A.

That leaves two remaining spots for the bullpen:  The greatest concern that needed addressing this offseason.

The Cubs’ bullpen in 2012 was one of the worst in the league.  Last season, the club’s bullpen ranked in the bottom of the MLB in just about every team category, leaving much room for improvement.

Rule 5 draftee, Hector Rondon looks to be an obvious choice once you read the rules of the Rule 5 draft.

A team that selects a player in the Rule 5 Draft pays $50,000 to the team from which he was selected. The receiving team must then keep the player on the Major League 25-man roster for the entirety of the next season, and the selected player must remain active (not on the disabled list) for a minimum of 90 days. If the player does not remain on the Major League roster, he is offered back to the team from which he was selected for $25,000. If his original team declines, the receiving team may waive the player.

Once a player is selected, he is automatically assigned to his new organization's 40-man roster. 

Now, with only one spot remaining on the 25-man roster, the competition among camp relievers is sure to be intense.

One of the bright spots from last year’s bullpen was Michael Bowden.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

In 32 appearances he pitched 36.2 innings for the club earning a bullpen best 2.95 ERA and held opponents to a .225 average.  He was also ranked second in the bullpen in WHIP (1.25) and fourth in strikeouts (29).

Bowden pitched very well for the Cubs last season and, unless he flames out completely in Mesa or another candidate lights up the Cactus League, Michael Bowden will break camp as part of the Cubs’ Opening Day 25-man roster.

 

Infielders\Catchers:  Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Ian Stewart, Luis Valbuena, Brent Lillibridge, Welington Castillo, Dioner Navarro

Outfielders:  Alfonso Soriano, David De Jesus, Nate Schierholtz, Scott Hairston, Dave Sappelt

Starting Pitchers:  Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Scott Feldman

Relievers:  Kyuji Fujikawa, James Russell, Shawn Camp, Carlos Marmol, Carlos Villanueva, Hector Rondon, Michael Bowden

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