Chicago Cubs: Projecting the team’s Opening Day starting lineup

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Can Happ solidify the team’s outfield picture?

In my mind, there’s no chance Albert Almora start in center field on Opening Day. The only two ways I can see it happening? Ian Happ plays terribly this spring, forcing Chicago to turn to Almora or there’s an injury that forces the team’s hand.

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For the last year-plus, Almora, a former first-round pick, has been the worst offensive player in baseball. In 2019, his defense took a step back, as well, which, to that point, had been the feather in his proverbial cap. Given Happ’s late season surge that saw him bring home National League Player of the Week honors in the season’s final days, right now I think he’s got the upper hand.

Jason Heyward will undoubtedly start in right field. Of course, that’s assuming Milwaukee sends right-hander Brandon Woodruff (or another righty) to the mound that day. But there are two points to make when it comes to Heyward.

  1. If there’s a lefty on the mound, don’t start him. I know you lose his glove, but the offensive drop-off isn’t to be taken lightly.
  2. Never, under any circumstances, bat him in the leadoff spot. Keep those two things in mind and I expect the veteran will have his best offensive season as a Cub.

Last but not least, Kyle Schwarber will handle things in left field. He’s coming off a breakout 38-homer campaign in which he was one of the most valuable offensive players in the entire league down the stretch. If he can carry that over to 2020 and put up that kind of performance over the course of an entire season, Cubs fans might finally see the numbers they’ve yearned for since 2015.

This won’t be a popular opinion, but as the roster is currently constructed, here’s how I’m lining it up on Opening Day. Now, this might not be ideal – but Chicago can’t keep giving away outs at the top of the order.

  • 1. Anthony Rizzo 1B / 2. Javier Baez SS / 3. Kris Bryant 3B / 4. Kyle Schwarber LF / 5. Jason Heyward RF / 6. Willson Contreras C / 7. David Bote 2B / 8. Ian Happ CF / 9. Yu Darvish P

Next. Internal competition is the name of the game for the Cubs. dark

There’s a lot that can happen between now and late March. But don’t be surprised if the first lineup card Ross hands to a home plate umpire looks a lot like this come Opening Day.