Predicting Chicago Cubs’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup
Chicago Cubs' 2014 Opening Day Lineup
The Chicago Cubs will soon be in game action later this week when they face the Arizona Diamondbacks in split squad action, and the Los Angeles Angels after that. During Spring Training, there are many questions surrounding the team and organization for not just this year, but also preparing for the future as well. On the horizon, the Cubs have impending stadium and TV deals to iron out, a decision to make on who will be the ace of the pitching staff, and just how soon and how good will the loaded crop of prospects be once they are in Cub uniforms full time.
But until that time, Chicago has the 2014 season in their immediate future to contend with. The Cubs will try to avoid finishing in fifth place within the National League Central for the fifth straight year. While the battle may be an uphill climb within a strong division, there has been changes made on the North side. Along with adding a few new arms to the bullpen, the biggest change on offense will be in the outfield. The Cubs will be replacing two thirds of their Opening Day outfield from a season ago.
Chicago will open up at the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second straight season. It will also be the third time in four years where the Cubs and Pirates will play each other on Opening Day. The Cubs can expect to face a different starter on day one of the season, as A.J. Burnett, who pitched Opening Day last season, is now with the Philadelphia Phillies. The likely starter the Cubs lineup will see is veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano. Last year, Liriano dazzled in his first season in Pittsburgh, and against the Cubs went 3-1 with a no decision in five starts.
The Cubs will certainly need to have the bats ready when they travel from Spring Training to Pittsburgh to open up and attempt to get off to a fast start. It will be new manager Rick Renteria's first Opening Day lineup card, and here is how it just may look against a tough lefty.
Nick Schaeflein is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.
1. Starlin Castro
Starlin Castro may not be a prototypical lead-off hitter, but Rick Renteria has already stated that Castro could be the guy stepping into the box first. Castro is likely a better option batting second, but he will also get a chance to lead off to begin the season. He will play shortstop and bats right-handed for the Cubs.
2. Justin Ruggiano
One of the new outfielders will be Justin Ruggiano. Ruggiano does have some pop, but his job will be to get Castro into scoring position and also set up the heart of the Cubs order. He bats right-handed and will play center field.
3. Anthony Rizzo
Interestingly, the NL Central pitching staffs are going to be right-hand dominant. But on day one, Anthony Rizzo will face one of the few lefties. Rizzo is the key bat within the order and figures to be the major run producer in his second full season. He will bat left-handed and play first base.
4. Nate Schierholtz
Nate Schierholtz will be the other left-handed bat in the lineup versus a lefty starter. He had a nice first season as a Cub last year and will try to continue that. Schierholtz will bat left and play right field.
5. Junior Lake
Junior Lake will be on his first Opening Day roster and be the other new outfielder from a year ago. Lake is a young player with potential and power. He will bat right-handed and play left field.
6. Mike Olt
Because the Cubs will matchup against a lefty first, Mike Olt will have an opportunity to start on Opening Day. With a good spring, Olt could platoon this season with Luis Valbuena and get most of the at-bats against left hand pitching. Olt will bat right-handed and play third base.
7. Welington Castillo
Welington Castillo will see the majority of the starts behind the plate. The major question facing him will be if he can reach that next level in his offensive progression. Castillo will catch and bat right-handed.
8. Darwin Barney
It will be a very important year for Darwin Barney. While his glove certainly belongs, the bat is arguably lacking behind. With guys behind him waiting in the wings, it could be now or never for Barney this season. He will play second base and bat right-handed.
9. Jeff Samardzija
If the rumor mill does not produce anything between now and Opening Day, Jeff Samardzija will be on the bump for game one. It will be the right-hander's second straight Opening Day start, and both will have come at Pittsburgh. If something were to happen to Samardzija, lefty Travis Wood would be next in line for the Cubs.