Updated Prediction for Cubs' 2015 Opening Day Roster

Jacob Kornhauser@@KornSportsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 2, 2015

Updated Prediction for Cubs' 2015 Opening Day Roster

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    With about a month left to go in the MLB regular season, I took a crack at predicting the Cubs' 2015 Opening Day roster. While a lot remains unchanged, there are a lot of new players who have been added to the mix this offseason. 

    That being said, here's a look at what the 25-man roster should look like, as well as what the roster prediction looked like back in September. If you want to take a look at those predictions in full, you can visit the article here.

1. LF Chris Coghlan

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Previous: CF Arismendy Alcantara

    Coghlan should still be the starter heading into the season, but he might face more of a platoon with the addition of Chris Denorfia by the Cubs. However, still expect Coghlan to get the majority of starts in left field after resurrecting his career in Chicago last season.

    As of right now, Coghlan should be the leadoff hitter since he hits for a good average and displays good speed as well. If he could duplicate his 2014 performance, the Cubs would be ecstatic.

    Previously, Alcantara was listed as the projected leadoff hitter in 2015, but he just didn't make enough adjustments last season to prove he could get on base consistently enough to lead off at the big league level.

2. SS Starlin Castro

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Previous: LF Chris Coghlan

    Everyone figured Castro would be back in 2015 to start at shortstop once again. Even though his name was floated around as a potential trade chip, nothing ever formulated. Especially since he's the only proven shortstop among the Cubs' Big Three of Castro, Javier Baez and Addison Russell, Cubs fans should be happy he wasn't traded.

    While he could logically be moved to either third base or the outfield depending on where other prospects are moved, Castro figures to be a big part of the Cubs' promising future.

3. 1B Anthony Rizzo

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    Previous: 1B Anthony Rizzo

    Nobody thought this would be changing any time soon. In fact, the Cubs certainly hope they can just plug Rizzo into the first base spot for the next 10-plus years. He's a cornerstone of this rebuild and is really becoming a leader for this young Cubs team. Even though he's young himself, it almost feels like he's the veteran leader on the squad.

    Along with his leadership qualities, Rizzo brings a lot to the table power wise. He finished second in the National League in home runs last season (32), behind only Giancarlo Stanton, who cashed in on a 13-year, $325 million contract extension this offseason.

4. RF Jorge Soler

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    Previous: RF Jorge Soler

    Soler made a great first impression in Chicago last season, as he hit .292 with five home runs and 20 RBI in just 24 games. More impressive than that is his patience at the plate. While it didn't show in his short time in the major leagues, his career minor league on-base percentage is .383, an astounding 76 points higher than his .307 batting average.

    His plate approach isn't one that all of the young Cubs have, but it's something the front office probably hopes rubs off on the rest of the kids. Expect Soler to get almost every start in right field for the Cubs next season.

5. 2B Javier Baez

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    Tom Lynn/Getty Images

    Previous: 2B Javier Baez

    Even though he showed just how much he could strike out last season (95 strikeouts in just 213 at-bats), he also showed his power upside (nine home runs). If he can cut down on the strikeouts and continue to hit the ball out of the ballpark, Baez is going to be a perennial All-Star.

    However, both of those things are big ifs, especially since he struggled making adjustments last season. Only time will tell whether Baez realizes his potential, but he will start at second base with a full season to prove himself.

6. 3B Luis Valbuena

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    Previous: SS Starlin Castro

    Valbuena was a pleasant surprise for the Cubs last season, as he filled in at third base most of the year. While fans want Kris Bryant to be in the big leagues right away, the team is still set to wait a few weeks to bring him up in order to secure an extra year of team control over the slugger.

    There's a chance this could change; due to the acquisition of infielder Tommy La Stella, Valbuena becomes expendable. Don't be surprised if he is dealt before the start of the season. However, as of right now, he's the starter at the hot corner going into the season.

7. C Miguel Montero

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    Previous: 3B Luis Valbuena

    Montero was the most significant position player the Cubs added this offseason, and the All-Star catcher should make an immediate impact in the Cubs lineup. He is a big step up from Welington Castillo, who had been injured a lot over the past couple seasons.

    He also brings improved defense, as he's known for calling good games for his pitchers. That will be a welcome change from Castillo, who was perceived to be lacking in that area.

8. CF Arismendy Alcantara

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Previous: CF Arismendy Alcantara

    Nothing is changed here in terms of the starting center fielder for the Cubs entering 2015. Even though they may platoon Alcantara more often given his poor performance against righties in 2014 (.190 average), he should still get the majority of playing time in center field.

    In his first full season in the big leagues, Alcantara will have to show an ability to make in-game and in-season adjustments. After all, that is almost always what separates good hitters from great ones.

Bench

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    Previous: 

    • C John Baker
    • OF Matt Szczur
    • OF Ryan Sweeney
    • IF Chris Valaika
    • IF Mike Olt

    Updated: 

    • C David Ross
    • IF Tommy La Stella
    • OF Chris Denorfia
    • OF Ryan Sweeney
    • IF Mike Olt

    This might be the most changed overall aspect of the Cubs' projected Opening Day roster for next season. They gave themselves a lot of depth by adding players like Ross, La Stella and Denorfia, and that gives them a lot of options in terms of pinch hitting and platooning.

    Make no mistake about it, this improved bench could be the difference between 80 and 85 wins for the Cubs in 2015.

Rotation

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    Previous: 

    1. LHP Jon Lester
    2. RHP Jake Arrieta
    3. RHP Kyle Hendricks
    4. LHP Travis Wood
    5. RHP Jacob Turner

    Updated:

    1. LHP Jon Lester
    2. RHP Jake Arrieta
    3. RHP Jason Hammel
    4. RHP Kyle Hendricks
    5. LHP Tsuyoshi Wada

    The Cubs did in fact sign ace Jon Lester, as projected, and they also added Jason Hammel, which gives their rotation tremendous depth. The updated prediction takes into account the possibility that the Cubs will trade Travis Wood before the offseason is over. 

    Wada could win the fifth starter spot over Jacob Turner because he's a lefty who would give the rotation more balance. He also signed a two-year deal with the team, so it may want to utilize him in the rotation rather than the bullpen.

Bullpen

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    Previous:

         Middle Relievers:

    • LHP Felix Doubront
    • LHP Wesley Wright

         7th Inning Guys:

    • RHP Justin Grimm
    • RHP Neil Ramirez

         Setup Men: 

    • RHP Arodys Vizcaino
    • RHP Pedro Strop

         Closer:

    • RHP Hector Rondon

    Updated:

         Middle Relievers: 

    • RHP Edwin Jackson
    • LHP Felix Doubront

         7th Inning Guys:

    • RHP Justin Grimm
    • RHP Neil Ramirez

         Setup Men: 

    • RHP Jason Motte
    • RHP Pedro Strop

         Closer:

    • RHP Hector Rondon

    There aren't a whole lot of changes in the bullpen, but there are a few. Wright left via free agency, and Vizcaino was traded to the Braves, so those two obviously won't be in the bullpen. Also, it's looking increasingly less likely the team will be able to trade Jackson, so it may be stuck putting him in the bullpen as a long relief man.

    Jason Motte, the 2012 NL saves leader, was also signed recently and has the potential to be a great addition to the bullpen. He can serve as both a setup man and a closer, and it wouldn't be out of character for manager Joe Maddon to platoon the closer spot with whomever is hot at the time.