When it comes to projecting a lineup, the Chicago Cubs are probably the hardest team to figure out. As Spring Training approaches for the 2017 MLB season, the Cubs are coming in with World Series’ rings and a boatload of talent. They have so much talent that at least one of Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist could very well be on the bench on any given day.
Then throw in manager Joe Maddon, who likes to keep things interesting. By that I mean he likes to move guys around in the order, especially when adding and subtracting names from the day prior. So I will say, this projected lineup will most certainly not be the one that Maddon is rolling out each day. However, it will certainly be one that will be under consideration on any given day.
- Ben Zobrist, RF – The Cubs lineup is loaded with talented hitters, but they do not have a prototypical leadoff man, especially now that Dexter Fowler has departed. So the best candidate on the roster would be Zobrist, who is a veteran bat who will give a professional at-bat while getting on base at a solid clip. He can help work over pitchers and to start games, give his teammates several pitches to watch and then proceed to reach base at a .386 clip.
- Kyle Schwarber, LF – Schwarber has monster power. That is the primary reason he will find himself in the lineup, as his defense surely will not be. Slotting him in the second hole goes along with something Maddon has shown in the past: putting a power type hitter in the two slot. Placing him in front of the team’s two best players (Rizzo and Bryant) will ensure he sees plenty of good pitches, meaning extra chances for him to deposit those pitches over the fence.
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B – Anthony Rizzo would be considered the best player on almost any other team. But thanks to the presence of Kris Bryant, Rizzo needs to share that role. But, nonetheless, he can still mash. He hits for a solid average (.292 average), hits for power (32 homers) and he is still in the prime of his career. There is no reason to expect him to slow down any time soon and he will find himself in the heart of the Cubs order every day.
- Kris Bryant, 3B – The NL MVP is only 25 and is hands down one of the best hitters in MLB. Like Rizzo, he hits for average (.292) to go along with some serious power (39 homers). We have not seen the best of Bryant either and a 40 homer season is coming very soon. That type of power is perfect for the four spot in this potent lineup. He could theoretically be a nice option for the two slot as well for reasons mentioned above with Schwarber, but his best option is hands down the cleanup slot.
- Willson Contreras, C – Contreras is arguably the best young catcher in baseball right now. In his rookie campaign, he hit .282 with 12 home runs and a .488 slugging percentage over the course of 252 at-bats. SO theoretically that is like half a season (he played in 76 games), which puts him on pace for a little over 20 home runs in a full year. He showed he can hit for average in the minors as well and he could certainly handle the duties of hitting behind Bryant.
- Javier Baez, 2B – Baez is the type of guy who can do a little of everything. He will give you a little power (14 home runs) and come up with some big hits to bring home runners. He will also steal a handful of bags (12 stolen bases) to help set the table for the bottom of the order. He does strikeout more than one would like, hence why he is not in the two slot. But down here at six, he is in the perfect slot to showcase his talents.
- Jason Heyward, CF – Talk about a guy who was a letdown last season. In a season that saw the Cubs reach the top of the mountain, Heyward was the only true blemish. He was given a monster contract last Winter and he failed to deliver. He posted a .230 average, hit seven long balls and only drove in 49 runners. He will need to prove himself if he wants to move up in this lineup.
- Starting Pitcher – Maddon likes to do screwy things. This is one of them. I am not a fan of hitting a pitcher eighth, but Maddon will do it. More than he should.
- Addison Russell, SS – In Maddon’s way of thinking, the nine hitter would serve as a de facto leadoff hitter in a sense. Russell is not a great hitter in terms of batting average, as he hit .238 last season, but he did have a breakout power season in 2016 with 21 homers. Because he does not get on base at a high enough clip, he will not fit well at the top, which means he is likely ticketed for the backend.
Left out of this lineup will be Jon Jay and Albert Almora Jr., both of whom are more natural fits in centerfield than Heyward. If either of them start, they are going to find themselves at the bottom of the order and replacing Schwarber, Heyward, Baez or Zobrist. The Cubs have plenty of flexibility which will give Maddon the freedom he loves. But those two are solid fits for defensive replacements late in games, especially for Schwarber, making the lineup I have listed above, the most ideal in my opinion to start any given game.
How do you see the Chicago Cubs’ starting lineup shaking out for the upcoming 2017 MLB season? Tell us in the comments!