At least one thing is certain about the starting lineup the Cubs will send out on Opening Day next week.
It’ll look a lot different than last season, never mind recent past.
Gone are Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javy Báez and Joc Pederson, and David Bote will open this season on the 60-day injured list as he rehabs from offseason shoulder surgery. That group made up half of the 2021 Opening Day lineup.
The departures of Rizzo, Bryant and Báez headline the differences. It’s been six years since that trio wasn’t in the Cubs’ Opening Day lineup. Rizzo and Bryant started the 2016 opener, while Báez was on the bench.
You have to go further back for the last Opening Day lineup that didn’t include Rizzo, Bryant or Báez: 2012. Rizzo made his Cubs debut that summer, Bryant was still in college and Báez was in Single-A.
Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Kyle Hendricks — the expected 2022 Opening Day starter — return from the 2021 opener.
The Cubs also made a flurry of additions this winter that give manager David Ross a ton of possible lineup combinations, certainly with the addition of the universal DH.
What could it look like next Thursday at Wrigley Field?
RELATED: Cubs Opening Day roster projection
Our Cubs coverage team came up with Opening Day lineup predictions, and only one seems to make sense for how they can attack Brewers ace and reigning Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes.
As Ricky Bobby might say, with all due respect to our Cubs experts, what have they been watching this spring?
2B Nick Madrigal (R) — One of top contact rates in MLB; small strike zone
DH Ian Happ (S)— Best left-handed option on roster; good eye, power
C Willson Contreras (R) — Best experienced hitter left on roster
RF Seiya Suzuki (R) — Will start earning his $85 million quick vs. Burnes
3B Jonathan Villar (S) — Wisdom 4 Ks, 4 ABs vs. Burnes in '21
LF Clint Frazier (R) — Breakout candidate in 2022 with good health
1B Frank Schwindel (R) — Was competitive in lone game vs. Burnes in '22
CF Jason Heyward (L)— One of only three lefty options for lineup
SS Nico Hoerner (R)— Second best contact bat; second leadoff hitter
DH Nico Hoerner — Solid hitter gives lineup speed; decent pop in his bat
2B Nick Madrigal — Professional hitter who should flirt with .300 every season
1B Frank Schwindel — Same guy who mashed 2nd half of '21? Has chance to prove it
C Willson Contreras — Excellent hitting catcher with power, and he runs well.
RF Seiya Suzuki — Classic middle-of-the-order hitter; has power and plate discipline
LF Ian Happ — Switch-hitter with power; runs well; has to K a lot less
CF Jason Heyward — He is what he is. Not a great bat
3B Patrick Wisdom — Has excellent power. Is he for real?
SS Andrelton Simmons (R) — Tremendous defender; little pop, below average hitter
2B Nick Madrigal — Elite contact skills; 200-hit potential if healthy all season
RF Seiya Suzuki — Good plate discipline with power to pair
C Willson Contreras — Top returning bat; 6th straight opener for Cubs — and last?
DH Ian Happ — Lefty power; potential DH early post-offseason elbow surgery
1B Frank Schwindel — Earned opportunity to build off breakout '21
LF Clint Frazier — Low-risk, potential high-reward signing could be in for big year
3B Patrick Wisdom — Biggest power bat on roster looks to build off breakout '21
CF Jason Heyward — Veteran and one of three left-handed bats on roster.
SS Nico Hoerner — Second leadoff hitter; shortstop if Simmons (shoulder) not ready
Well, maybe none of us know what we're talking about.