The Chicago Cubs Opening Day starter could be between several pitchers

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs
Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

Opening Day is about a month and a half away and one may already be wondering who will take the ball in game one. One thing this team does not necessarily have is a prototypical ace pitcher who can easily be named the Opening Day starter. A few years ago fans could count on Jon Lester being named the guy, and in recent years we saw a run of Kyle Hendricks getting the job. With Hendricks likely not being ready for the start of the season, and his recent struggles, we will likely see another pitcher start on March 30th at Wrigley.

There is a lot of fluidity in the Cubs' pitching staff, but we can count on several guys being staples in the rotation at the start of the season. This includes Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, and likely Drew Smyly. It's also very possible Hayden Wesneski gets a crack at the starting rotation at the beginning of the year, Spring Training will help determine who gets what roles

Two guys who make a lot of sense for the Opening Day job are Stroman and Steele.

Stroman, an eight-year veteran, is coming off a very solid season in which he pitched to a 3.50 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 7.7 K/9, and 1.15 WHIP in 25 starts. Stroman was the Opening Day starter for the Blue Jays in 2016 and 2019, so he has experience in that role. Hendricks is the only pitcher on the current 40-man roster who has made more MLB starts (222) than Stroman (198). The combination of veteran experience and being a good enough pitcher makes Stroman a worthy candidate.

As for Steele, he might not have the experience Stroman has, but he has better swing-and-miss stuff. Last season he pitched to a 3.18 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 1.35 WHIP, and 9.5 K/9. In his final nine starts of 2022, he struck out 59 batters in 49.1 innings. Steele was the team's overall strikeouts leader and sported the staff's lowest FIP. The one knock on Steele is he has had some issues with command at times, compare his career BB/9 of 3.9 to Stroman's 2.5.

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Between the two, Steele can "dominate" with strikeouts while Stroman has the experience and control. It is worth mentioning that Taillon cannot be ruled out as the Opening Day starter either. Last season he pitched to a 3.91 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, and 1.6 BB/9. His control is excellent and he has had a very solid career. Taillon was the Pirates' Opening Day starter in 2019. With that said, right now it would make sense for Taillon to be the two or three starter in the rotation, but time will tell for sure.

FanGraphs currently projects Stroman to be the Opening Day starter, as does CBS Sports.