An early 26-man roster prediction ahead of Cubs spring training

Reviewing the list of NRIs and the 40-man roster to predict who will be on the Chicago Cubs' 26-man roster on Opening Day.

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages
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Early roster prediction - The bullpen

  • Javier Assad
  • Luke Little
  • Drew Smyly
  • Yency Almonte
  • Mark Leiter Jr.
  • Julian Merryweather
  • Adbert Alzolay
  • Hector Neris

Here, I like the looks of a bullpen with at least two lefties. A season ago, the Cubs were plagued by the fact that everyone was a righty, and they had to lean especially heavily on guys like Mark Leiter Jr. just because he has good splits against LHBs. As stated, Assad is your swingman. Smyly is guaranteed since he doesn't have options, and Luke Little continues where he left off in his short stint in the majors last season.

Other than that, everybody here except for Neris and Smyly have options remaining and are interchangeable if need be. Triple-A Iowa certainly has talent, as guys like Hayden Wesneski, Caleb Kilian, Daniel Palencia, and even Keegan Thompson are all just a call away. The depth this year is some of the best in the majors.

What I like is the upside of the final five. We know Hector Neris and Adbert Alzolay will be there late in games because both had a fantastic season in 2023. Yency Almonte is a wild card because if he gets back to his 2022 version, he has the potential to be the best arm in the pen. Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather had a solid season for the Cubs last year, and I expect them to continue their roles later in games in the 7th or 8th, determining how Craig Counsell sees fit for any given matchup.