Cubs: Breaking down the Opening Day roster

Cubs: Breaking down the Opening Day roster
March 29, 2014, 3:00 pm
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The group that looks out across the Pittsburgh skyline and runs onto the field at PNC Park on Monday afternoon won’t be the same one that shows up for Game 162. The roster could look drastically different by Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.

[RELATED: Rick Renteria will find out what Cubs job is really like]

There will be hotshot prospects at Triple-A Iowa. There will be another summer sell-off. Injuries always happen. And nothing ever goes exactly as planned in this marathon. But the Opening Day roster is just about done now.

With that in mind, here are your 2014 Chicago Cubs:


No. 5 Welington Castillo

Bats: R  |  Throws: R
Ht: 5-10  |  Wt: 210
Age: 26  |  Service Time: 2.009

Beginning to earn the trust of the pitchers and coaching staff, looking to build on his first full season in the big leagues (2.8 defensive WAR and an .863 OPS after the All-Star break) and hoping to become the long-term answer behind the plate.

No. 38 John Baker

Bats: L  |  Throws: R
Ht: 6-1  |  Wt: 213
Age: 33  |  Service Time: 4.141

Guitar-playing backup, a Cal-Berkeley guy, will bring some veteran presence and a free-spirit attitude into the clubhouse.


No. 44 Anthony Rizzo

Bats: L  |  Throws: L
Ht: 6-3  |  Wt: 240
Age: 24  |  Service Time: 1.168

First baseman needs to handle his face-of-the-franchise responsibilities, hit better with men in scoring position (.191) and build off a 23-homer, 80-RBI season.

[RELATED - Rizzo: It's 'awesome' to be the face of the Cubs]

No. 15 Darwin Barney

Bats: R  |  Throws: R
Ht: 5-10  |  Wt: 186
Age: 28  |  Service Time: 3.053

Gold Glove second baseman will see his name in trade speculation, because his defense, versatility and intangibles would play well on a contender, and Javier Baez is coming soon.

No. 13 Starlin Castro

Bats: R  |  Throws: R
Ht: 6-0  |  Wt: 190
Age: 24  |  Service Time: 3.150

A hamstring injury has slowed the $60 million shortstop as he tries to return to that All-Star level after a disappointing step-back season that saw him hit .245.

[MORE: Starlin Castro preparing for a bounce-back season]

No. 30 Mike Olt

Bats: R  |  Throws: R
Ht: 6-2  |  Wt: 210
Age: 25  |  Service Time: 0.063

X-factor third baseman won a job in spring training, showing he’s recovered from all the health issues that led the Rangers to include their 2012 minor league player of the year in last summer’s Matt Garza trade.

No. 43 Emilio Bonifacio

Bats: S  |  Throws: R
Ht: 5-11  |  Wt: 205
Age: 28  |  Service Time: 5.066

Potential leadoff hitter can play all over the infield and the outfield and adds another dimension to the roster with his speed (138 career stolen bases).

No. 24 Luis Valbuena

Bats: L  |  Throws: R
Ht: 5-10  |  Wt: 200
Age: 28  |  Service Time: 3.148

Venezuelan utility guy hit 12 homers last season — fans love the bat flips — and will be part of the mix again at third base.


No. 19 Nate Schierholtz

Bats: L  |  Throws: R
Ht: 6-2  |  Wt: 215
Age: 30  |  Service Time: 5.078

No-nonsense professional will continue to be linked to contending teams because he plays plus defense in right field, can hit for power (21 homers last season) and will become a free agent at season’s end.

No. 21 Junior Lake

Bats: R  |  Throws: R
Ht: 6-3  |  Wt: 215
Age: 24  |  Service Time: 0.073

Now “retired” from shortstop, this could be a breakthrough season for a player with so much talent and — at times — questionable instincts. Alfonso Soriano once saw 40/40 potential in this converted infielder.

[RELATED: Cubs hoping Junior Lake can put it all together]

No. 20 Justin Ruggiano

Bats: R  |  Throws: R
Ht: 6-1  |  Wt: 210
Age: 31  |  Service Time: 3.019

Hoping to benefit from the move away from Marlins Park — his first 12 homers came on the road last season — and willing to play all three positions in the outfield.

No. 6 Ryan Sweeney

Bats: L  |  Throws: L
Ht: 6-4  |  Wt: 225
Age: 29  |  Service Time: 6.028

Last October, this solid role player grabbed a two-year, $3.5 million contract that includes a club option for 2016, a good haul for someone who signed a minor-league deal a year ago and impressed with his two-way contributions.

No. 51 Ryan Kalish

Bats: L  |  Throws: L
Ht: 6-0  |  Wt: 213
Age: 26  |  Service Time: 2.033

The front office envisions the possibility of a bigger role for the former Red Sox prospect, who had his last three seasons ruined by shoulder surgeries but is finally healthy again.


No. 29 Jeff Samardzija

Throws: R
Ht: 6-5  |  Wt: 225
Age: 29  |  Service Time: 4.028

Enjoy watching this Opening Day start because the longest-tenured player on the team will almost certainly be traded by the July 31 deadline.

[RELATED: Whatever happens next, Samardzija can’t wait for Cubs season]

No. 36 Edwin Jackson

Throws: R
Ht: 6-3  |  Wt: 210
Age: 30  |  Service Time: 8.070

The $52 million pitcher led the majors with 18 losses last season. A frontloaded contract — the balance is three years, $33 million — could get him traded again if he shows he can be a reliable fourth or fifth starter.

No. 39 Jason Hammel

Throws: R
Ht: 6-6  |  Wt: 225
Age: 31  |  Service Time: 6.153

This year’s sign-and-flip guy understands his name will be in trade rumors and hopes to be part of another surprise playoff team after pitching for the 2008 Rays, 2009 Rockies and 2012 Orioles.

No. 37 Travis Wood

Throws: L
Ht: 5-11  |  Wt: 175
Age: 27  |  Service Time: 3.004

The All-Star lefty has played his way into the team’s long-term future, going 9-12 with a 3.11 ERA and making 24 quality starts last season.  

No. 33 Carlos Villanueva

Throws: R
Ht: 6-2  |  Wt: 215
Age: 30  |  Service Time: 7.030

The Most Interesting Swingman in the World says he’s keeping the handlebar mustache while filling in for Jake Arrieta (shoulder) as the fifth starter.


No. 41 Jose Veras

Throws: R
Ht: 6-6  |  Wt: 242
Age: 33  |  Service Time: 6.128

The sign-and-flip closer didn’t look all that sharp in the Cactus League, but he’s supposed to be a stabilizing force, at least for a few months, after saving 19 games for the Astros last season and getting traded to Detroit.

No. 46 Pedro Strop

Throws: R
Ht: 6-1  |  Wt: 220
Age: 28  |  Service Time: 2.156

Potential future closer looked rejuvenated after last summer’s Scott Feldman trade with the Orioles, putting up a 2.83 ERA in 37 games with the Cubs.

No. 40 James Russell

Throws: L
Ht: 6-4  |  Wt: 200
Age: 28  |  Service Time: 4.000

Lefty insists he hasn’t been worn down by the last two seasons (151 appearances), but the Cubs should have more weapons this year and could try to sell high this summer.

[RELATED: Cubs see the upside in Mike Olt and Ryan Kalish]

No. 53 Wesley Wright

Throws: L
Ht: 5-11  |  Wt: 183
Age: 29  |  Service Time: 4.105

Another left-handed option. Signed a one-year, $1.425 million deal after going 0-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 70 games with Houston and Tampa Bay last season.

No. 52 Justin Grimm

Throws: R
Ht: 6-3  |  Wt: 210
Age: 25  |  Service Time: 0.170

Power arm with Baseball America top-prospect pedigree, who’s trying to make it in the bullpen after starting 17 games for the Rangers last season.

No. 56 Hector Rondon

Throws: R
Ht: 6-3  |  Wt: 180
Age: 26  |  Service Time: 1.000

Rule 5 pick-up posted a 3.20 ERA after last year’s All-Star break and earned a spot by showing the potential that made him Cleveland’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2009.

No. 63 Brian Schlitter

Throws: R
Ht: 6-5  |  Wt: 235
Age: 28  |  Service Time: 1.039

The Maine South High School graduate won the final bullpen spot by beating out Alberto Cabrera, who was out of options and got designated for assignment.