Chicago Cubs set Opening Day roster

The Chicago Cubs announced their Opening Day roster for the 2014 season on Sunday. The roster includes 11 players who were on last year’s Opening Day roster (Darwin Barney was on the Disabled List). Let’s take a look at the roster and some of the more surprising moves that were made.

The Roster

Pitchers:

29 – Jeff Samardzija

33 – Carlos Villanueva

36 – Edwin Jackson

37 – Travis Wood

39 – Jason Hammel

40 – James Russell

41 – Jose Veras

46 – Pedro Strop

52 – Justin Grimm

53 – Wesley Wright

56 – Hector Rondon

63 – Brian Schlitter

 

Catchers:

5 – Welington Castillo

12 – John Baker

 

Infielders:

anthony rizzo chicago cubs

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

13 – Starlin Castro

15 – Darwin Barney

24 – Luis Valbuena

30 – Mike Olt

44 – Anthony Rizzo

64 – Emilio Bonifacio

 

Outfielders:

6 – Ryan Sweeney

19 – Nate Schierholtz

20 – Justin Ruggiano

21 – Junior Lake

51 – Ryan Kalish

Interesting Inclusions

For a team that seemingly had the bulk of its roster set at beginning of Spring Training, there were still some dark horse guys who made the roster.

One of those guys is outfielder Ryan Kalish. Signed to a minor league deal in December, Kalish played well in the Cactus League. He led the team in both runs scored (10) and stolen bases (6), and also hit above the .300 mark. His performance this spring even created some Nate Schierholtz trade rumors. Kalish has missed a lot of playing time the last three years due to neck and shoulder surgeries, but he has proven that he is healthy and ready to contribute.

Another player – who I considered to be a borderline roster maker – is third baseman Mike Olt. His vision problems from last season appear to be fixed, crushing five homers and driving in twelve runs. I only considered Olt to be a dark horse for the roster because of the returning third base platoon of Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy. I can’t say if Murphy’s move to Texas is what got Olt onto the big league roster, but it definitely made the decision to do so much easier.

Surprising Exclusion

The biggest roster surprise to me was sending relief pitcher Blake Parker down to Triple-A Iowa. Parker was one of the more consistent relievers in a less-than-impressive Cubs bullpen last season. For pitchers to appear in at least 20 games for the Cubs last year, Parker had the best ERA (2.72) and ERA+ (146), and had the second best K/9 rate (10.7) and K/BB rate (3.67). Yes, Brian Schlitter (who made the big league bullpen) had a better spring, but Parker has had much more success in the majors. Schlitter – who pitched in seven games for the Cubs in 2010 – gave up 11 runs on 18 hits in just eight innings pitched (an ERA of 12.38). While that is a small sample size, it is also worth noting that happened almost four years ago. I would much rather give the ball to one of the team’s best relievers last year than to a guy who, despite pitching well this spring, has not pitched in a major league game since Mike Quade was the interim manager for the Cubs.

The 2014 Chicago Cubs…

could be one of the more interesting teams to watch this year. It is well known this team is not expected to do well, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete. With several players looking to have bounce-back campaigns plus prospects and under the radar guys looking to make an impact in the big leagues, the 2014 season has potential to be considerably better than expected.