Cubs Opening Day: Projecting the starting lineup for Thursday’s game

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /
1 of 4
Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

The offensive woes of the Cubs in recent years have been well documented. The Opening Day lineup will look slightly different, but the faces we are accustomed to seeing everyday will be counted on to do the heavy lifting this season.

The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to the mound in Thursday’s opener against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. Pittsburgh announced on Tuesday that right-hander Chad Kuhl gets their Opening Day nod. In three games against the Cubs, Kuhl holds a 1-0 record with a 2.92 ERA and 1.297 WHIP across 12 1/3 innings pitched.

Here’s a look at a potential lineup manager David Ross will use on Thursday:

  • Ian Happ-CF
  • Kris Bryant-3B
  • Anthony Rizzo-1B
  • Willson Contreras-C
  • Joc Pederson-LF
  • Javier Baez-SS
  • David Bote-2B
  • Jason Heyward-RF
  • Kyle Hendricks-P

The more I look at this lineup, the more optimistic I am about the Cubs this season. This team is still loaded with potential talent, but issues have been whether or not they can execute consistently. They’ve always been streaky, and even in recent years of winning it’s been attributed to being carried by their pitching staff. Now the roles will be reversed this season, and the offense needs to step up.

Cubs Opening Day: The offense has to improve this season

In 2020, the Cubs offense was ranked as the fourth-worst in team batting average (.220) and seventh-worst in slugging percentage (.387). The team was ranked 20th in runs scored, but that number is misleading given how often they scored in bunches throughout the season. The Cubs scored three runs or fewer in 26 games while getting shutout four times last summer. Compare that to the Dodgers who scored three runs or fewer 14 times and were shutout in zero games.

It’s unlikely the Cubs ditch their slug-first approach, but there needs to be small-ball tactics used throughout the season. There also needs to be turnarounds from the big-names in this lineup who are set to hit the free-agent market.

The good news is everyone, other than Happ and Heyward, had miserable offensive seasons in 2020. Yet the Cubs still managed to win a weak NL Central. If the likes of Rizzo, Bryant, Baez, and Contreras can get back to their All-Star ways, the Cubs will once again be a World Series contender.