Chicago Cubs: Top 5 Storylines as we head into Spring Training

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Who plays second base while Addison Russell serves his suspension?

Javier Baez will be the opening day shortstop. Unless something unforeseen occurs, that’s a given since his double-play mate is serving the remainder of his MLB-mandated domestic violence suspension. Since Baez is by far the best shortstop the Cubs can send out there, who will be playing second base?

Will it be second-by-committee?  Will it be mostly Ben Zobrist? Will it be mostly newly acquired Daniel Descalso? Will Ian Happ get any time there? Will David Bote get a shot after a superb defensive performance (and some pretty big highlights with the bat before he cooled down at the plate) at third base during the second half of 2018?

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Descalso represents one of the few moves of note this offseason- a journeyman infielder known for his versatility and leadership.  While the Cubs essentially swapped out Tommy La Stella for Descalso, they got a bit more defensive ability and perhaps more of a voice in the clubhouse as well. It’s possible he could get the lion’s share of time at second base while Russell is out, especially after his best pro season a year ago in Arizona. Fans will get their first look at Descalso in Mesa when Maddon deploys him somewhere in the infield.  How much he plays second in the Spring could give the fans a little insight into the team’s plans for early 2019.

Zobrist is the guy staring down Father Time seeing who will blink first. At 37 (soon to be 38 in May) years old. He continues to be one of the smartest and most clutch hitters in baseball when rested and healthy.  Keywords: rested and healthy.  Joe Maddon has been reticent to rely on Zo too much early in the season, but with Russell out for a significant chunk of time, Zobrist represents the best offensive and best overall option at second base most nights.  As with Descalso, where Maddon deploys Zobrist the most during the spring could give fans an idea as to who will be at second most nights.

Happ didn’t play a ton of second base last year and seemed destined to stay in the outfield again this season. Barring something crazy there, it’s hard to believe Maddon would give Happ more than a few innings here and there at second base, especially with the newly acquired veteran Descalso.  However, Happ can play there, and he is the youngest and most athletic option.

Bote, who excited and tantalized fans for most of July and August last summer, struggled mightily at the plate after his Ultimate Grand Slam against the Nats.  One thing that did not suffer, however, was his defense. A versatile and supposedly adequate back-up infield guy turned many a fans’ head with the way he flashed the leather and slung bare-handed balls at the hot corner.  Some fans were even calling for Bote to take over for Kris Bryant at the hot corner before Bote came back down to Earth after a torrid start.

While we won’t be able to tell much in early Spring Training games because Maddon will make sure everyone gets work, fans will be able to see if Bote has adjusted to MLB pitching, and what combination (or lack thereof) Maddon seems to go with at the keystone.