Final Predictions for Who Will Make Chicago Cubs Roster

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Final Predictions for Who Will Make Chicago Cubs Roster
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We're officially one week from Opening Day, when the Cubs will kick off the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 1.

Coming off a 101-loss season and continuing with the rebuilding process, it may be another long season in Chicago. However, it was a busy offseason for the North Siders. If nothing else, there are some new faces to look forward to seeing on Cubbie blue.

Here is a look at my final predictions for the team's Opening Day 25-man roster, as well as a breakdown of the players making up the team.

 

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SP Jeff Samardzija

Starting Pitchers (5)

RHP Jeff Samardzija
RHP Edwin Jackson
RHP Scott Feldman
LHP Travis Wood
RHP Carlos Villanueva

Starting pitching was just one of a number of Achilles' heels for the Cubs last season, and they turned their attention to shoring things up this offseason.

Jackson was the big offseason addition, signing a four-year, $52 million deal. He's not a staff ace, but he'll give the team a proven veteran starter who will give them consistent production.

Feldman, Villanueva and Scott Baker were also added in free agency, and while they are little more than stop-gap options, they could serve as solid trade chips at midseason.

Wood, who was acquired from the Reds for Sean Marshall last offseason, quietly had a solid final month with a 3.05 ERA over his final seven starts. He could be a key piece of the future if he can pitch like that for a whole season.

The real gem here though is Samardzija, as he enjoyed a breakout season last year and gets the Opening Day start this time around. If he can build off of last year, he would set himself up as the long-term ace.

Matt Garza and Baker will likely open the season on the disabled list, but they should join this group sometime in the first half.

 

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RP Kyuji Fujikawa

Relief Pitchers (7)

RHP Hector Rondon
LHP Hisanori Takahashi
RHP Michael Bowden
RHP Shawn Camp
LHP James Russell
RHP Kyuji Fujikawa
RHP Carlos Marmol 

The roller coaster ride that is Carlos Marmol will once again be a ninth-inning staple at Wrigley Field, as the beleaguered yet talented right-hander is due $9.5 million in the final year of his contract.

Fujikawa was signed to a two-year, $9.5 million deal out of Japan as a potential replacement for Marmol. The 32-year-old has piled up 220 saves over 12 seasons for the Hanshin Tigers.

Camp, who made an NL-high 80 appearances last season, was re-signed to a one-year deal. He'll join left-hander Russell as the team's most reliable returning arms.

Bowden, acquired from the Red Sox for Marlon Byrd last season, had a 2.95 ERA over 30 appearances with the Cubs. He could be ready to take on a bigger role.

Rondon, the No. 2 pick in the Rule 5 draft from Cleveland, is a former Futures Game participant and he's finally healthy after battling injury the past three seasons. There's plenty of upside here, and he's worth keeping around.

Takahashi gets the final spot to give the team a second left-hander. He struggled last season, but he was a solid option in 2011 when he posted a 3.44 ERA over 61 appearances for the Angels.

 

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C Welington Castillo

Catchers (3)

C Welington Castillo
C Steve Clevenger
C Dioner Navarro

After trading Geovany Soto to the Rangers at the deadline last season, the Cubs are without a proven starting option behind the plate this season.

Castillo will get the bulk of the at-bats, as he has the potential to be the long-term answer at the position. He hit .265/.337/.418 with five home runs and 22 RBI in 170 at-bats last season.

Navarro was signed to a one-year, $1.75 million deal, and he gives the team a proven backup. Though his skills have diminished, he is a former All-Star from his time with the Rays.

Clevenger was solid out of the gates last season, going 11-for-22 with five doubles over his first 10 games. A strained oblique sidelined him after that though, and he was never the same. He played first and third this spring as the team looks to increase his versatility.

 

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1B Anthony Rizzo

Infielders (5)

2B Darwin Barney
SS Starlin Castro
UT Brent Lillibridge
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Luis Valbuena

The infield is home to the team's two franchise cornerstones, as Castro and Rizzo figure to lead the team throughout their continued rebuild.

Rizzo turned in a solid performance for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, and he appears to be ready to take the next step towards stardom.

Castro signed a seven-year, $60 million extension last August, and he'll continue to be the of the rebuilding franchise moving forward.

It will once again be Barney who joins Castro up the middle, after he took home Gold Glove honors last season. He's among the worst everyday players in the game offensively, having hit .254/.299/.354 last season, but he more than makes up for it with his glove.

Third base may be the biggest hole on the roster, as it will once again be a platoon of Valbuena and Ian Stewart, who is likely to open the season on the disabled list. Neither will be an All-Star, but Valbuena has solid on-base skills and there is still some upside with Stewart if he can get healthy.

Lillibridge was brought aboard on a minor league contract, and though he hit just .195 last season, he has some upside as well. In 2011, he posted an .845 OPS with 13 home runs in 186 at-bats while playing all over the field.

 

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LF Alfonso Soriano

Outfielders (5)

CF David DeJesus
RF Scott Hairston
CF Dave Sappelt
RF Nate Schierholtz
LF Alfonso Soriano

Despite their best efforts (h/t Twitter), the Cubs were unable to find a taker for Soriano this offseason and he opens the season with two years and $36 million remaining on his contract. He had 32 home runs and 108 RBI last season and will again be a key run producer.

DeJesus returns as the team's leadoff hitter after he had a .350 OBP and 76 runs scored last season, though he'll shift over to center field this season.

Free-agent signings Schierholtz and Hairston will platoon in right field, and Hairston gives the team another power threat as he crushes left-handed pitching.

Sappelt beat out Brian Bogusevic for the final outfield spot after a solid showing down the stretch last season when he hit .275/.351/.449. He could work his way into a platoon with DeJesus in center field, as he has some upside.

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