23 for ’23: What will the Cubs’ Opening Day lineup look like?
Between position battles, roster additions and new rules, there are plenty of questions surrounding the 2023 Cubs. We attempt to provide answers for 23 of the most intriguing questions heading into the season.
MESA, Ariz. — Everyday lineups in Major League Baseball are a thing of the past.
It’s rare that teams roll out the same group of position players in the same batting order slots on a regular basis. Playing the matchups and prioritizing days off have become an increasingly regular part of a manager’s lineup strategy.
So it would be foolish to try to predict what the Cubs lineup might look like throughout 2023. Especially because — as Jed Hoyer always says — the offseason lineup projection rarely comes to pass throughout the regular season because of injuries and performance.
Instead, we’re taking a shot at what the first lineup of 2023 might look like.
When the Cubs host the Brewers at Wrigley Field on March 30, Corbin Burnes will almost assuredly be on the hill for Milwaukee.
The 2021 NL Cy Young winner has been incredibly tough to hit throughout his career, but lefties have fared a bit better than righties.
With that in mind, here’s how David Ross could fill out the lineup card in two weeks:
1. Nico Hoerner – 2B
2. Ian Happ – LF
3. Dansby Swanson – SS
4. Trey Mancini – DH
5. Cody Bellinger – CF
6. Edwin Ríos – 3B
7. Eric Hosmer – 1B
8. Yan Gomes – C
9. Mike Tauchman – RF
Hoerner has emerged as the new leadoff hitter for this Cubs roster and he’s ready to take the job and run with it.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Hoerner said. “I know the Cubs haven’t really had a stable spot in that lineup in a while.”
While Hoerner didn’t walk a ton last year (5.4%), Ross likes him as a spark plug atop the Cubs lineup.
“It’s about setting the tone for our group to start a game,” Ross said. “He’s as ready to go as anybody I’ve ever been around. There’s something about the way he plays that sets a great tone for our team.”
Early in Cactus League games, Swanson was pegged in the 2-hole in the lineup. He’s hit in that spot more often than any other lineup position throughout his career, including 102 games with the Braves last season.
But more recently, Ross has flipped Happ and Swanson, moving the left fielder into the 2-hole and the new star shortstop into the No. 3 spot in the order.
Either option makes a lot of sense. Swanson, Happ and Mancini are projected to be the Cubs’ three best hitters so it stands to reason that they will make up the heart of the order in some capacity after Hoerner.
Then there’s a run on lefties, led by 2019 NL MVP Bellinger. If he can return to anywhere near his elite offensive form, he’ll likely fill a spot in the middle of the Cubs lineup throughout 2023.
Ríos has demonstrated his power this spring and is a good bet to make the Opening Day roster. With the injury to Seiya Suzuki, Tauchman has emerged as an intriguing option to help provide depth in the outfield.
“He’s a really good defender. He’s swung the bat really well. What’s stood out to me — he’s had the same at-bats righties and lefties, whoever is on the mound,” Ross said. “But yeah he’s a really good baseball player, good baserunner, good defender.”
Given that Patrick Wisdom has struggled against Burnes in his career (1-for-11 with 8 strikeouts, though the 1 hit was a homer), it might make the most sense for the Cubs to bring him off the bench in this game as a pinch-hitter or replacement — possibly for Tauchman in right field.
Nick Madrigal has a strong chance at making the Opening Day roster as well and Ross could call his number to replace Ríos at third base if needed throughout the later innings (especially if the Brewers bring in a lefty out of the bullpen).
Things can certainly change over the final two weeks of Spring Training, but this feels like a good bet for the Cubs Opening Day lineup. Bookmark this and come back to it on March 30 to tell us how right we were (though if we’re wrong, we don’t want to hear about it).
23 for ’23 series
What will the Cubs’ new era at catcher look like?
What is the Cubs’ plan at third base?
Who steps up in the wake of the Seiya Suzuki injury?
What role will Christopher Morel have on the 2023 Cubs?
Who will win the Cubs’ 5th starter spot?
Where does Nick Madrigal fit on the roster?
Who will close for the Cubs?
What kind of impact will Dansby Swanson have in his first season in Chicago?
What is the plan for Matt Mervis?
Who are some under-the-radar players that could make the Opening Day roster?
What will Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer bring to this team?
Which young Cubs pitchers will take the next step this season?
What can we expect from Kyle Hendricks when he returns this season?
What does the Opening Day bullpen look like?
Will the Cubs’ pitching staff pick up where it left off?