Chicago Cubs

Cubs Playoff Preview: Predicting the Playoff Roster

The Chicago Cubs are a team that prides itself on versatility, and that is going to give Joe Maddon and the front office a lot of options when they sit down to assemble the team’s playoff roster.

The Cubs, who will take on the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series beginning on Friday night, have plenty of experience in putting together the proverbial jigsaw puzzle, but how will the pieces line up when the postseason begins later this week?

To answer that question, we’re going to take a crack at predicting what Maddon and company will do, as we present our picks for the team’s playoff roster.

Infield: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist

None of these selections are particularly surprising, given Zobrist’s versatility and La Stella’s strong bat as a pinch-hitter. The one question will revolve around whether or not Zobrist will start at second base, or if Maddon will have him somewhere else (left field or perhaps even on the bench).

Outfield: Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Jon Jay, Kyle Schwarber

The Cubs’ outfield is going to be a giant question mark heading into the series, as Maddon will have a slew of different configurations to choose from.

Will he play Almora in center field to bolster the team’s defense? Will he work Schwarber or Happ into the lineup to take advantage of their power bats? Will he go with a completely new configuration and have Heyward play center field and stock the corners with bats?

The one player to keep an eye on in terms of being added to the roster potentially is Leonys Martin, who would give the Cubs an incredible speed option and a defensive option late in games should they need it. In a five-game series, the team could knock a pitcher off the roster without much worry, but with Martin’s poor performance at the plate, it may still be a risk to have him play regularly.

Catcher: Alex Avila, Willson Contreras

The Cubs carried three catchers a season ago, with Contreras joining David Ross and Miguel Montero on the team’s roster, but will they do it again this season?

Rene Rivera has had a solid impact on the team since coming over as a waiver wire pickup, but we’re banking on the team sticking with two catchers. They have too many other tough questions to answer, and adding a third catcher into the mix would rob them of a spot they could use on Martin or a pitcher like Justin Grimm or Justin Wilson.

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Starters: Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana

Forget the fact that his relief appearance on Sunday didn’t go well. Lackey has a good chance of making the postseason roster, and he may do so even if Maddon has no intention of having him pitch in relief.

With Arrieta’s status for the postseason at least in doubt a little bit as he deals with a hamstring issue, the Cubs are going to want to have Lackey around in case they need to make a move mid-series. Doing so would be preferable to cutting Arrieta off the list mid-series, as he would then be ineligible to return to the team until the World Series.

The team’s rotation is also a question mark, but it would seem that Lester, Quintana, and Hendricks will be used in some order in Games 1 and 2 of the series against Washington.

Relievers: Wade Davis, Brian Duensing, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Justin Wilson

The bullpen is generally the biggest question mark for a team heading into the playoffs, and the Cubs have plenty of decisions to make here. Will they carry six relievers? Seven? Will Justin Wilson have gained enough of Maddon’s confidence to warrant inclusion over someone like Justin Grimm or Rob Zastryzny?

We’re banking on Wilson sneaking in, but nothing at the back end of the bullpen would be particularly surprising, as there is a lot of uncertainty beyond the top four or five guys. 

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