Chicago Cubs: Predicting the starting lineup we’ll see on Opening Day
Chicago Cubs: Which passionate righty will be in the three hole?
Not only have you given the pitcher a tough matchup right out of the gates with arguably the two toughest outs in the lineup 1-2, you’ve already set up your left-right structure in the order. While there might be some philosophical changes to that set up with the new reliever rules, look for Ross to continue the back-and-forth to start the season. The next logical guy in the three-hole is Javier Baez, but you certainly could make an argument for putting Willson Contreras next as well.
Generally and historically, the three spot has been the best hitter on the team, but in recent years, the two spot has taken over that role with more managers opting to give their best players more at bats over the course of the season by bumping that guy up one spot. Baez makes a ton of sense in the three spot as he’s protected between Rizzo and another lefty masher (we’ll get to that later), and his speed and ability to drive runs in plays well after the two OBP guys in front of him. He is a bit of a free swinger, however, so there are some whose philosophy on lineup construction might push him back to the 5 spot.
If you’re in that category, it probably means you’d rather have Contreras in the three hole, opting for a better and more patient overall hitter. Contreras owns a .350 career OBP to the lifetime OBP of Baez at .310. Not that Baez isn’t clutch and great in his own right, but if you’re choosing to stack OBP at the top, Contreras makes a lot of sense as well. You also get him a guaranteed at-bat before he’s gotta put his gear back on if the Cubs are on the road. Silly thing I know, but the new manager was a catcher. For the sake of projecting the real lineup, Baez will probably be the guy in the three hole.