With MLB spring training under way and the North Siders heading south to Mesa, Arizona, it is the perfect time to start thinking about who is going to be in the starting lineup against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 1st.
The Cubs have a few newcomers filling out the roster—let's see if they make the cut to be in the starting nine.
Other than breaking Carlos Zambrano's streak of starting six straight games on Opening Day, there is not one reason for Ryan Dempster to not be the ace and start on the first of April.
Last season, Dempster led the team with 208 strikeouts. He has the most overpowering arm in the team. The Cub with the second most strikeouts next to Dempster is Matt Garza, who only recorded 150 K's.
Dempster also had the lowest ERA on the team last season; his earned run average was 3.85. No. 48 also led the team with wins, tying the ex-Ray Garza with 15.
It's a no-brainer that Mr. Soto will be starting the majority of the Cubs' games this season. Koyie Hill is nowhere near the everyday player that Geovany Soto is.
After his sophomore slump season in 2009, Soto came back and hit .280 in 2010. He belted out 17 homers and drove in 53 runs. Behind the plate last season, he only committed four errors and threw out 22 runners trying to steal.
After three full seasons in the big leagues, expect Soto to have a breakout year.
This offseason, the Cubs paid $10 million to bring Carlos Pena to the North Side for a year. Pena filled the empty first base position created when Derrek Lee was traded to Atlanta.
Last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, Pena did not even bat his weight. The 225-pound Dominican batted a very low .196. Even though he had a low batting average, he still managed to hit the long ball and drive in runs. In 2010, Pena hit 28 home runs and drove in 84 runs.
Everyone should expect Pena to flourish with the Cubs. He is no longer in the tough AL East and is in the easier Central Division. The 2008 AL Gold Glove winner is also a great defensive first baseman. Last season he made only six errors and recorded a .995 fielding percentage.
He will play exceptionally well at the hitter's paradise of Wrigley and the Friendly Confines.
Blake DeWitt will be starting at second base. DeWitt is one of the newer faces in Chicago. Last season with the Dodgers and Cubs, DeWitt batted .261 and hit a total of five home runs. The 25-year-old also drove in 52 runs.
DeWitt is an average fielder; last season he committed 14 errors at second. He will be the starter come Opening Day, but don't be surprised if he shares a lot of time with Jeff Baker.
Aramis Ramirez has been with the Cubs since 2003. Come April, he will be starting at third for his eighth consecutive Opening Day. Ramirez only played in 124 games last season. He hit a total of 25 home runs and drove in 83 runners, leading the team in both of those categories.
Ramirez did hit his Cubs career low in batting average with a .241 average. Ramirez also committed 16 errors last season, and his fielding percentage was .939.
If Ramirez stays healthy this season, he will be the key for the Cubs' success.
Starlin Castro made his major league debut last season on May 7th. He stormed onto the Chicago scene by hitting his first career home run in his debut game.
Playing in 125 games last season, Castro hit .300 and drove in 41 runs. He also hit three home runs. Castro's offensive stats made a strong case for him to win Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, he came up short.
Castro played a lot in 2010. He chewed up a lot of innings, and in this process he made a very high 27 errors. The 20-year-old's fielding percentage was .950.
The youngster is a favorite with Cubs fans, and everyone is excited to see what he will do in his first full season.
This will be Alfonso Soriano's fifth season in Chicago. The free-swinging and slightly overpaid righty will be starting his fourth consecutive Opening Day game in April.
Last season, No. 12 played in a total of 147 games. He hit 24 homers and amassed 79 RBI. He hit .258.
Last season, Soriano stopped his little hop before catching fly balls, and this decreased the number of errors the left fielder committed. His fielding percentage was .968, and he only made seven errors.
Cubs fans everywhere hope that Soriano will play to his potential and actually earn all of the money that the Cubs are paying him.
Byrd is the word for the Cubs in 2011. The newcomer had a team-high 170 hits last season. He hit 12 home runs and drove in 66 runs. He hit .293 in his first season with the Cubs.
Byrd only made three errors in center field last season for the Cubs. His fielding percentage was .992.
Byrd will be a key for the Cubs' success in 2011. The team and fans all hope that he will produce higher numbers in his second season in the Windy City.
Kosuke Fukudome has a slight advantage over Tyler Colvin and Reed Johnson. Kosuke is one of the most selective hitters in the league. Fukudome led the Cubs in walks and will be starting in right field this season. In 2010 he hit .263 with 13 homers. He also drove in only 44 runs.
Fukudome is a great right fielder. Last season he only made one error, and his fielding percentage was .995.
If Fukudome doesn't produce, he will quickly be replaced by Colvin. But as of right now, he will be the starter.
Kerry Wood is returning to Chicago and will be the setup man for Carlos Marmol. Kerry was a favorite throughout his career with the Cubs.
After leaving the Cubs, Wood spent time with both the Indians and the Yankees. In 2010, he pitched in 46 innings and recorded 49 strikeouts. His ERA last year was 3.13. Wood had a good WHIP with a 1.39.
The Cubs have one of the best closers in the game, and Kerry Wood will do a great job setting up for him.
Carlos Marmol has one of the most electrifying arms in all of baseball. Marmol was the Cubs' setup man from 2007 till 2009. 2010 was his first year as the official Cubs closer. He recorded 38 saves and struck out an amazing 138 batters. His WHIP was a very low 1.18, and he only blew five saves.
The 28-year-old just signed a three-year, $20 million contract with the Cubs. Clearly, he will be closing a lot of games in the future for Chicago.
Here is manager Mike Quade's projected batting order.
1. Starlin Castro
2. Marlon Byrd
3. Carlos Pena
4. Aramis Ramirez
5. Alfonso Soriano
6. Geovany Soto
7. Kosuke Fukudome
8. Blake DeWitt
9. Ryan Dempster (pitcher's spot)
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