Filling Out the Cubs’ Lineup Card

An Exercise in Management

Tom Verducci/Sports Illustrated

It appears that Cubs fans have gotten caught up in waiting to see which starting pitcher Chicago will sign. And that’s understandable, but we’ve lost sight of the fact that in order to win a team also needs to score runs.

The majority of the Cubs’ lineup is already filled out in pen for Joe Maddon. Anthony Rizzo at first, Kris Bryant at third, Jason Heyward in right and Willson Contreras behind the plate, just to name a few.

However, there are questions that need to be answered before the season begins.

Let’s look at a few of them.

Who is the Cubs’ leadoff man?

At the moment Albert Almora Jr. would be the primary leadoff man and get the bulk of the playing time in center field.

Almora had his best season as a big leaguer in 2017. He compiled a slash line of .298/.338/.445 in 132 games. On top of his great year at the plate, Almora played Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field.

Another name to look out for is Ian Happ.

Happ made his big league debut in May and played very well. He only hit .253, but he hit 23 home runs and drove in 68 runs while playing all three outfield spots, and second base.

Kris Bryant’s name has also come up as a potential option, but I think the odds of Joe Maddon taking Bryant out of the middle of the order are slim.

Unless something changes between now and Opening Day, I expect Joe Maddon to give Albert Almora the first crack in the leadoff spot.

What do we do with Ben Zobrist?

The 36-year-old Zobrist is coming off of one of his worst seasons as a big leaguer. Zobrist only ended up with a .232 average, and it does look like Zobrist is entering the twilight of his career.

On the flip side, Javier Baez is coming off his best year as a pro. Baez hit .273 and clubbed 23 home runs while playing Gold Glove-worthy defense at second base.

With Baez and Ian Happ on the roster, it looks like Ben Zobrist is going to occupy a bench/utility man type role in 2018.

Is Kyle Schwarber an everyday player?

Kyle Schwarber’s 2017 season might be described by some as “Awful” or “Dismal.”

Schwarber got demoted to Triple-A Iowa for a short time to work on his swing. Kyle also had his struggles in left field.

Kyle Schwarber is still one of the most powerful players in the majors today. And after losing weight this offseason, he should be just a little quicker in left. I expect him to get the majority of the starts against righties in 2018.

Few other things to look out for in 2018

Jason Heyward plays a marvelous right field, but in his first two seasons with the Cubs it appears he’s forgotten how to hit. Heyward is hitting .245 with the Cubs.

However, similar to Schwarber’s bat it would very tough for Joe Maddon to take a Gold Glove defender out of his everyday lineup.

The last thing to watch during spring training is to see who will win the backup catcher’s job.

It was thought that Victor Caratini was a lock at that spot, but newly signed Chris Gimenez is going to give him a run for his money.

I believe Gimenez will win the place to bring another veteran presence to the clubhouse.

What will the Cubs Opening Day lineup be?

I think the Cubs’ Opening Day lineup will look like this:

Almora Jr.-CF