Ahead of Game 1 against the Giants tonight, the Chicago Cubs announced their NLDS roster. Overall, though, the players that made the cut should not come as a surprise to Cubs fans.
Friday morning, the Chicago Cubs announced their 25-man playoff roster for the 2016 NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. Although one can argue for the players left off the roster, the 25 players selected earned their spot.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon ultimately decided to carry 11 pitchers and 14 position players for the first round series. At one point, pitching coach Chris Bosio discussed how the team could or should carry 12 or even 13 pitchers. By choosing to keep 11 pitchers, the Cubs had to make tough decisions.
The Cubs left starting pitcher Jason Hammel and reliever Joe Smith off the NLDS roster. Had the team decided to carry one or two more pitchers, though, Hammel might not have even made it then. Realistically, a team only needs three or four starters during a short five game series.
More from Chicago Cubs News
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
- Cubs: P.J. Higgins deserves to be in the lineup on a daily basis
- Cubs might start to limit Justin Steele’s workload soon
- Cubs: Adrian Sampson is forcing his way into the conversation
- Projecting the Chicago Cubs bullpen to open the 2023 season
The Cubs acquired Smith at the trade deadline to stabilize the back end of the bullpen. However, he pitched to a 7.36 ERA in August (3 2/3 innings). Smith did have a 0.93 ERA in September (9 2/3 innings), so one can argue he deserved a roster spot. Ultimately, though, his cold start may have been the deciding factor to exclude him.
Between the 11 pitchers on the roster, seven are relievers and four are starting pitchers. Every starting pitcher is included on the NLDS roster, minus Hammel. Maddon announced that his rotation will consist of Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey (in that order).
The Cubs could have included Hammel as a reliever. However, doing so would have taken away a roster spot from a “normal” bullpen arm. Maddon will have a variety of options each game, as he has four righties and three lefties in the bullpen.
Despite two men missing extended time in September, the Cubs have their 7th, 8th and 9th innings figured out. Strop will be the primary setup man for the 7th and Rondon will be the 8th inning man. After those two, Chapman obviously will be the man pitching the ninth inning as the team’s closer.
Between all of the playoff teams, the Cubs have one of the most versatile groups of position players. Guys like Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, and Ben Zobrist can play multiple positions, a true luxury for the Cubs. Because of this, the team is able to carry three catchers, something most teams do not do.
Willson Contreras, Miguel Montero, and David Ross all made the NLDS roster. At one point, Montero looked like he was on the outside looking in. A solid September batting average of .267 earned him a spot, however.
It’ll be interesting to see how Maddon decides to use these three. Ross is Lester’s personal catcher and Montero clicks well with Arrieta when paired together. Contreras could see limited at-bats during the postseason, but he can play other positions as well. If his bat gets hot, he could force the issue.
In addition to Báez, Bryant, and Zobrist, other Cubs infielders on the roster include Tommy La Stella, Anthony Rizzo, and Addison Russell. Due to the emergence and versatility of Báez though, La Stella’s playing time could be limited.
The biggest question mark about the playoff roster is was in regard to the outfield. Due to the fact that both Bryant and Zobrist can play outfield, a “regular” outfielder was up for exclusion from the team.
Albert Almora Jr., Chris Coghlan, Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler made the roster. Coghlan and his .298 September average forced his way onto the roster, unsurprisingly. One player whose inclusion is surprising is Almora Jr.
Matt Szczur was the team’s best pinch hitter at one point in the season before regressing. His .120 batting average in September may be the cause of his exclusion. However, Almora Jr. had a great month of September at the plate after getting recalled to the major leagues. For the month, he hit .321, an impressive stat line considering he had been in Iowa since July.
Szczur’s exclusion is both surprising and unsurprising at the same time. A natural center fielder, he can play any of the three positions in the outfield. When on point, he also brings the ability to pinch hit well to the table. His speed also makes him a viable pinch runner off the bench.
Sadly for Szczur though, Almora can do all of these things too. Almora is a natural center fielder who can play the corner outfield spots as well. His .321 average in September more than exceeds Szczur’s .120 average. All in all, Almora simply showed he is more worthy in September than Szczur did.
Overall, the Cubs look like a formidable team heading into tonight’s Game 1 against the Giants. To see those who made the roster in action, tune into FS1 at 8:08 for first pitch!