By Kyle Johansen @kylejohansen on March 27, 2014
While Spring Training is wrapping up and fans eagerly await Opening Day, let’s take a look one year into the future to see which Chicago Cubs will be taking the field in 2015. Many positions are in a state of flux as the Cubs are still not sure who will be the long-term answers at third base, shortstop and second base, in addition to every outfield position. Competition will be fierce with prospects quickly advancing at nearly every position.
Starlin Castro recently said that he would be willing to move over to second base to accommodate phenom Javier Baez, and I believe that would be the best way to line these two players up. Castro has improved defensively and is an above-average defender at short, but he may have the potential to be even better as a second baseman.
Ryan Kalish has officially made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster for 2014 and will likely have a starting job to open the 2015 season. The 26-year-old Kalish has strong on-base skills and good speed, making him a nice fit in the No. 2 hole of the lineup.
Anthony Rizzo has the skill and makeup to develop into a force in the middle of the Cubs' lineup. While Rizzo struggled with his batting average in 2013, he increased his walk rate from 7.3 to 11 percent while increasing his isolated power and maintaining an above-average strikeout rate of 18.4 percent. In 163 games at triple-A, Rizzo has a line of .336/.405/.670 with 49 home runs, proving that he has the potential to lock down the No. 3 spot.
Javier Baez will be the ideal cleanup hitter in the Cubs’ future lineup. His frightening swing will be perfectly paired up behind Rizzo and his high walk rate. As a free-swinger, Baez is better used at cleanup than the No. 3 spot in the lineup, but no matter where the Cubs line him up, he is going to produce.
If Kris Bryant is on the Cubs’ Opening Day lineup in 2015, he will have paved his way onto the roster through sheer force. Bryant has done nothing but hit since being drafted second overall by the Cubs in the 2013 draft. He can most likely handle double-A right now, and if he moves quickly enough in 2014, he has a chance to be on the Opening Day lineup in 2015.
Mike Olt has officially made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster for 2014 and will be given every opportunity to run away with the third base job. Olt is a smooth defender at third base and features strong on-base skills paired with plenty of power at the plate. If Olt establishes himself as the long-term starter for the Cubs at third base, the rebuild plan will be that much easier as the Cubs will have an overflowing logjam of third base prospects.
Junior Lake has the widest gap between his ceiling and his floor of any player in the Cubs’ system right now. At his highest potential, Lake can be a power-hitting center fielder with a cannon for an arm and speed to burn. The downside, however, is just as great if Lake never figures out the mental aspects of the game and allows his free-swinging ways to kill his offensive potential.
Welington Castillo had a productive season at the plate last year and was the fifth-best defensive catcher in baseball per defensive WAR. To take the next step, Welington needs to tap into his raw power and improve on his eight home runs in 2013. As the No. 8 hitter in the lineup, any offense Castillo provides is gravy.
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