With the arrival of the spring season, or at least the possible arrival, right around around the corner, there’s no better time to look forward to Opening Day baseball. Coming off a historic season, one that ended with the hoisting of the Commissioner’s Trophy, the Cubs seem poised to continue their winning ways.
This spring season, however, is different, very different. It’s the first time the Cubs have arrived to camp as champions since spring training became league wide. Although there’s some new added pressure, the Cubs roster seems built to return to the Fall Classic come November. The Cubs core of young stars remains intact and the return of Kyle Schwarber only makes that group of youngsters more dangerous. The leadership and maturity of the returning veterans only further cements the Cubs as World Series contenders.
The Cubs current roster hovers around 50 players, only to be shortened down to 25 once Opening Day arrives. Fans can expect to see a healthy combination of familiar faces and some new additions.
So, without further ado, here is my 2017 Chicago Cubs roster breakdown:
STARTING POSITIONAL PLAYERS
Catcher: Willson Contreras – Contreras is essentially a lock at the catchers position for the Cubs. He burst on the scene last season, constantly proving he can hit big league stuff while also making runners think twice on the base-paths. The 24-year-old sophomore had impressive offensive numbers in 2016 as he hit .282/.357/.488. Not to mention, Contreras was beyond clutch throughout the entirety of the 2016 playoffs. Expect big things this year from the young catcher.
First Base: Anthony Rizzo – Another obvious prediction here. Frankly put, Rizzo was phenomenal last season. Besides posting MVP caliber offensive numbers and receiving a Gold Glove in 2016, Rizzo also was an influential team leader. It’s easy to see why Theo Epstein, current team President of Baseball Operations and future Hall of Famer, traded for Rizzo in 2o12 after originally drafting him as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 2007. Expect another All-Star selection in 2017 with some potential MVP chatter as the season progresses.
Second Base: Javier Baez – Baez was essentially a human highlight real at second base last season. His stellar play forced coach Joe Maddon‘s hand in moving original second baseman, and all around utility player, Ben Zobrist to the outfield. The former first-round draft pick (2011) will see most of the action at second but will also play a little at third as well when Kris Bryant isn’t there.
Shortstop: Addison Russell – Regarding defense, Russell can easily be considered one of the top shortstops in the National League. Russell had strong power numbers last season, hitting 21 homers and driving in 95 RBIs in the process. In 2017, he must be more patient at the plate and avoid getting into the occasional slumps. If he can raise his batting average while simultaneously keeping his power intact, expect Russell to be a force to be reckoned with.
Third Base: Kris Bryant – What more can be possibly said about Bryant that hasn’t already? 2016 was a phenomenal year for Bryant, as he won the National League MVP Award and celebrated a World Series championship. Bryant batted .292 last season, and posted strong offensive numbers highlighting his power and contact. Expect the Bryzzo Souvenir Co. to be back in business on opening day – and business will be booming.
Left Field: Kyle Schwarber – The Schwarberino is back. This may be my most anticipated prediction on the entire roster. Schwarber only had 4 at-bats last season before going down with a season ending knee injury, at least regular season ending. He returned in the World Series, and immediately made a large impact. Schwarber’s natural position is at catcher, but with Contreras manning the helm, Schwarbs will spend most of his time in left. His strong spring training is another good positive for the former first-rounder (2014).
Center Field: Jason Heyward – Well on the bright side, there’s no way Heyward can perform as poorly offensively as he did last year, right? Hopefully Heyward proves me wrong and delivers this season. After signing an 8-year, $184 million dollar deal last offseason, many expected Heyward to perform at a rather high level. His above average defense is what kept him on the field in the regular season and playoffs. Cross your fingers Cubs fans.
Right Field: Ben Zobrist – As Joe Maddon‘s utility knife, Zobrist flourished last season, his first with the Cubs. Zobrist’s ability to play anywhere on the diamond makes him indispensable. Although his primary position is second base, expect to see a lot of Zobrist in the outfield corners. He’s having a quiet spring, only averaging .185 with 1 homer and 4 RBIs. But there’s nothing to worry about, Zobrist will return to regular form once the season starts.
Jon Jay – OF
Albert Almora – OF
Miguel Montero – C
Tommy La Stella – 3B
Matt Szczur – OF
Jon Lester – The southpaw was filthy last season, simply put. After signing a huge contract in 2014, Lester followed it up with an average 2015 season. Last year, he returned to Cy Young form and was even in the conversation for the award at years end. He posted an impressive 2.44 ERA and went on to win 19 games for the Cubbies. Fans can expect to see similar results this season, barring injury, out of Lester.
Jake Arrieta – Arrieta followed up his 2015 Cy Young Award winning season with another impressive season, posting an 18-8 record/3.10 ERA. All the yoga sessions and pilates are paying off. Arrieta expects to have a strong 2017, especially considering his free-agent status this offseason. Expect his same nasty pitch arsenal, with an overpowering fastball. But don’t sleep on his curveball, it’s wicked.
Kyle Hendricks – The soft tossing control freak had a breakout season in 2016, posting an unbelievably low 2.13 ERA. Hendricks’ strong spring training only further supports the notion that last season wasn’t some fluke. Having middle-of-the-rotation pitcher who posts a sub 3.00 ERA while also winning 15+ games is unheard of, at least until now.
John Lackey – The 38-year-old veteran will be in charge of anchoring the back end of the starting rotation. It’s a task that’s easier said then done. But Lackey has been around the block and knows his role on the Cubs, which is to provide stability and maintain a veteran presence.
Mike Montgomery – Montgomery had a solid 2016 season, mainly coming out of the bullpen, and capped it off in remarkable fashion – winning the World Series. But 2017 brings about a new challenge, one that requires him to be the fifth starter in the rotation.
Wade Davis – Closer
Carl Edwards Jr – RP
Pedro Strop – RP
Hector Rondon – RP
Justin Grimm – RP
Koji Uehara – RP
So there you have it, your 2017 Chicago Cubs. Expect big things out the Cubs this season, as they look to repeat as World Series champions. If the Cubs can stay injury free, there’s no reason why winning 100+ games isn’t a real possibility.
I strongly urge all readers, regardless of team affiliation to also check out our White Sox 2017 Preview. It’s loaded with information that any baseball fan can come to appreciate.
But Go Cubs.