Chicago Cubs: Projecting the 2014 Opening Day Roster

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Chicago Cubs' Projected Opening Day Lineup

Castro
Benny Sieu - USA Today Sports

As Spring Training gets underway and position battles begin, it's time to start looking forward to who's in and who's out when it comes to the Chicago Cubs' Opening Day 25-man roster. Several spots are already set in stone for the North Siders, and many more are still to be decided.

There are plenty of intriguing storylines to look out for. Will Darwin Barney be able to hold onto the starting second base job? Will Mike Olt finally be able to claim the third base job? These and plenty of other questions may be answered this spring.

New additions such as Jason Hammel and Emilio Bonifacio will look to prove their worth. Bonifacio will be fighting for a spot on the 25-man roster, while Hammel will be working to be the team's no. 4 starter. It's always interesting to see new faces in Spring Training and consider how they could possibly contribute to this year's team.

On the infield, there are essentially five guys battling for three spots. Bonifacio, Olt, Luis Valbuena, Ryan Roberts and Logan Watkins will be battling with each other all spring long. It's going to be a tight one and it's a rare occasion where Spring Training results will completely matter in determining who makes the 25-man roster come April.

Another area of note is the bullpen. Many players already know what their role will be and know that they have a spot locked up. However, others like Blake Parker, Arodys Vizcaino, Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm will be battling for the last couple of spots. Additionally, Pedro Strop could potentially win the closer job with a strong spring even though the veteran Jose Veras is the favorite to win the position right now.

Based on the directions their careers seem to be going and how they fit into the team's future plans, here is the Cubs' projected 25-man roster for 2014.

Jacob Kornhauser is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. Add him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or add him to your Google+ network.

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Starting Rotation

Cubs Spring Training
Rick Scuteri - USA Today Sports

Jeff Samardzija: Even though the drama surrounding him has created some noise this offseason, he's still the Cubs' ace until further notice.

Travis Wood: He was the Cubs' most effective pitcher a year ago and that's why he was their only All-Star. Another big step could be taken in 2014.

Edwin Jackson: After signing a four-year deal in the offseason, Jackson majorly disappointed a year ago. As the no. 3 starter, things will have to improve in year two.

Jason Hammel: As strange as it is, Hammel is one of the Cubs' highest-paid players. They will try to flip him at the deadline for prospects.

Jake Arrieta: He's already injured, but he should be fine by the beginning of the season. He will really look to build on a solid end to the 2013 season.

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Long Relief

Hector Rondon
Dennis Wierzbicki - USA Today Sports

Arodys Vizcaino: He hasn't pitched since 2011, but as long as he shows that he's healthy and effective in Spring Training, the Cubs' front office seems ready to give him a chance at the major league bullpen right away.

Blake Parker: He had a breakout year last season and will look to build on that in 2014.

Hector Rondon: He's still a big question mark in the bullpen, but he has no more minor league options left. For that reason, 2014 may be his last chance to prove to the Cubs that he can live up to his potential.

James Russell: He has been the team's only left-hander for a couple of years, and he's been about as dependable as they come.

Wesley Wright: He joins Russell as the second lefty in the 'pen, which gives the team added versatility in late-game situations.

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Setup Man

Pedro Strop
David Banks - USA Today Sports

Pedro Strop: After coming over from Baltimore last season, Strop was a revelation for the Cubs. He pitched effectively enough last year to convince the Cubs that he could be the closer of the future.

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Closer

Jose Veras
Bob DeChiara - USA Today Sports

Jose Veras: Signed as a free agent this offseason, Veras brings veteran experience and anchors a now very solid bullpen. He is likely to be the team's closer in 2014 unless Strop wins the job in Spring Training.

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Starting Lineup

Anthony Rizzo
Jeff Curry - USA Today Sports

SS Starlin Castro: After a disappointing 2013 campaign, Castro will look to silence his critics this season.

OF Junior Lake: A year ago, Lake was a pleasant surprise and 2014 will show whether or not it was a fluke.

1B Anthony Rizzo: Even though he was criticized a season ago, his power production was still solid for a first full season in the majors.

OF Nate Schierholtz: After signing him last offseason, the Cubs got very solid production from Schierholtz last year. He could be traded at the deadline this year.

3B Mike Olt: The Cubs need to see what they have in Olt, whose third base job is his to lose this Spring Training.

OF Ryan Sweeney: He enjoyed a solid season last year while not injured, which earned him a two-year contract with the team. Now he'll get a chance to play almost everyday.

C Welington Castillo: Coming off of knee surgery, 2014 will be a major measuring stick year for Castillo.

2B Darwin Barney: Even though he batted just .208 last season, he will get one last chance to produce in the starting lineup.

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Bench

Emilio Bonifacio
Peter Aiken - USA Today Sports

UTIL Emilio Bonifacio: After being signed a couple of days ago, this speedster that plays infield and outfield has a serious chance to make the Opening Day roster.

C George Kottaras: He's nothing flashy, but Castillo is going to need days off and Kottaras will provide them.

2B/3B Luis Valbuena: It's likely that Olt will unseat him from his third base job this spring, but he will be coming off of the bench, which he's better fit to do.

OF Justin Ruggiano: His power upside will get him starts against left-handed pitching and he will also be a valuable pinch hitter off the bench.

UTIL Donnie Murphy: He had a random power outburst last season; he provides versatility off the bench and can be a solid pinch hitter in late inning situations.

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