Baseball action is finally back! It may be Spring Training, but with games on Saturday, the Chicago Cubs show first glimpse at lineup for season.
Spring is in the air, and the words “Play Ball” are about to be heard again. The talk of the off-season is almost complete. Teams are looking over their players, seeing what potential lays within their reach. Many are comparing themselves to the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs are the odds-on favorite to win it all again in 2017. Speculation on winning 95-97 games abounds in sports books and preseason previews. And, with all the moves the team completed during the offseason, there is reason the think a big year is ahead.
Much of that will depend on the lineup the team puts together. We get our first look at this on Saturday.
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Lineup vs. Giants
Tomorrow (February 25, 2017) the Cubs will open Spring Training games with split squad affairs against the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics. And, according to Evan Altman from CubsInsider.com, Manager Joe Maddon has announced the lineups for both games.
As starting pitcher Rob Zastryzny takes the mound versus the Giants in Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday, he will be supported several new faces. Here is how the lineup shakes out.
- Kyle Schwarber – LF
- Javier Baez – 2B
- Jeimer Candelario – 3B
- Miguel Montero – C
- Albert Almora – CF
- Chris Dominguez – 1B
- John Andreoli – RF
- Munenori Kawasaki – SS
- Mark Zagunis – DH
As speculated, Schwarber is getting a change to leadoff. His ability to drive the ball and get on second base is what the team needs to start the offensive engine. Baez batting second is interesting. While it is unlikely he will start there during the season, it could prove advantageous for the team to place him earlier in the lineup. Placing him between other quality hitters may encourage him to take more pitches.
There is much to learn about the rest of the lineup. What potential do the Chicago Cubs hold in Candelario and Zagunis? Can Andreoli and Kawasaki make their way on the bench as play moves to Wrigley? Will Almora show that his bat is ready for a starting role?
Lineup vs. A’s
In the game versus the Oakland Athletics, we see many of the regular starters slotted where they will be during the season. With Mike Montgomery on the hill, there will be plenty to see.
- Jason Heyward – LF
- Kris Bryant – 3B
- Anthony Rizzo – 1B
- Ben Zobrist – 2B
- Addison Russell – SS
- Willson Contreras – C
- Jon Jay – CF
- Matt Szczur – LF
- Ian Happ – DH
Heyward leading off? Time to show off that work he put in the offseason. But what if he shows that he can hit? Will that change Maddon’s mind on who leads off? That is doubtful, but I do not rule it out. Schwarber has to prove he can leadoff, and Heyward just needs to hit. However, seeing improvement is a must for Heyward.
The order of Russell, Contreras and Jay warrants watching. Does the shortstop continue his power display and raise his average? If so, the five spot is great for him. But if Contreras can show his offensive talent in a full season, as he did in half a years in 2016, the order will change.
And, if Jay performs anywhere close to his time with the team three hours south, look for him to move up.
It is just Cactus League action, but I am excited to see these players on lineup cards. The best part is seeing names like Happ and Candelario. It may be the first time Cubs fans really witness the talent the farm system still holds. The future is bright.