Expect Michael Busch to be the Cubs Opening Day first baseman come March 28

The top 100 prospect, acquired from the Dodgers via trade, will be given the opportunity to solve the team's longstanding first base problem in 2024.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The general consensus around the game is that Michael Busch is going to hit at the big league level. So if you're drawing comparisons to Matt Mervis, stop now, and give the kid a chance. Eighty-one scattered plate appearances are hardly enough to judge a top 100 prospect - and, thankfully, the Chicago Cubs are smart enough to understand that.

The widespread expectation is that Busch will be the team's Opening Day first baseman, with or without another addition to the roster between now and then. A return of Cody Bellinger feels more likely to push top outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong to Triple-A for some more seasoning than knocking Busch off the top spot of the depth chart at first.

"Our expectation is he’s on the Opening Day roster. I think there’s obviously opportunity at first base — that’s kinda the easy plug-and-play. He’s got really good reviews defensively over there from our scouts that have seen him, from talking to the Dodgers, from obviously seeing him over there."

Carter Hawkins via Marquee

Cubs hoping for big things from infield prospect Michael Busch

Depending on which projections system you like, Busch projects as a 1-3fWAR player in 2024, which will be his first full MLB season. ZiPS is particularly high on his bat, pegging him for 22 home runs, 75 RBI and 81 runs in his rookie campaign. Were that to be the case, it's safe to say he'd be locked into the position moving forward, giving the Cubs a long-term solution at first they've lacked since trading Anthony Rizzo in 2021.

Busch could see time at other positions, as well, with experience at second and third in his professional career. If the bat plays which, again, it's expected to, he could get slotted in as a DH, as well. First-year Cubs manager Craig Counsell is a big versatility guy, so I think we can expect some creativity throughout the year when he needs to give a guy a blow.

"He’s gonna get a shot — there’s no question about it. He’s done everything you can possibly do in Minor League Baseball. He’s ready for a major league shot. We need left-handed hitters. We’re skewed right-handed right now, so to add a young guy that’s left-handed is really important."

Craig Counsell, via Marquee

The Cubs need to add more left-handed bats regardless of what happens with Busch. A reunion with Bellinger remains 'likely' by most indications, but even if they miss on that, Hoyer can't put all his eggs in the Busch basket in 2024. He helps balance the lineup, but needs to be the cherry on top - not the ice cream itself.