We are in the home stretch.
With only three games remaining in the Cubs Cactus League schedule, the Opening Day lineup has finally been revealed.
An off-season filled with question marks greeted the Cubs. New faces like Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Dale Sveum helm the new look 2012 Cubs team, but the new leadership took a back seat on Cub fans worry lists. More prevalent roster questions followed the Cubs from Addison to Mesa, especially when it comes to filling the top three spots in the batting order.
For now, (in order) David DeJesus, Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro will man the top of the Cubs lineup next Thursday against the Washington Nationals. Do not expect the lineup to remain the same for long.
First year manager Svuem called putting the lineup together one of the hardest jobs he had to do all of spring. Looking at the Cubs roster, deciding a No. 1, 2 and 3 hitter would be a handful for even the most tenured manager. Simply put, the Cubs do not have any prototypical players to populate the top of order.
The leadoff spot drew the majority of the attention this spring, and with good reason. Coming into camp it was decided with certainty that DeJesus would leadoff on opening day. While the lefty still holds leadoff honors, DeJesus struggled this spring.
In 55 plate appearances, DeJesus hit for a .182 batting average and a .287 on-base percentage. Numbers not fitting a leadoff man.
However, do not think DeJesus is the sole cause of all the Cubs’ lineup uncertainties. Yes, even the beloved Starlin Castro causes the Cubs front office and fans alike many sleepless nights contemplating where the promising youngster should hit.
Sveum wants to see Castro at the plate with runners aboard but time after time the young shortstop fails to claim a batting identity. With spring training nearly in the Cubs’ review mirror, Castro is batting a slim .192 with runners in scoring position.
As of last week Castro was 0-for-11 with runners on base and it wasn’t till late this week when the righty started limping towards his five spring RBIs that are adjoined with just one homerun.
Cubs fans know Castro is capable of more. In fact, how could they ever forget it? This is the same Starlin Castro who once hit the most RBIs in a Major League debut; hit a three-run home run in his first MLB at-bat and the youngest player to lead the National League in hits. Castro seemed to be as sure a-thing as prospects get.
Now the one-time rookie who hit home six runners in his big-league debut clings to the number three spot in the order with the same uncertainly that plagues DeJesus and the leadoff spot.
As for now, it seems Darwin Barney is the ‘sure’ thing in the opening half of the Cubs batting order. Barney earned the second spot after batting for an impressive .450 average this spring - the only top spot hitter to earn his batting position through performance.
Surprise – there are questions with Barney as well.
While the second baseman showed his ability to hit all spring, question marks still remain if Barney is capable to hit so high in the order. The 26-year-old walked just 22 times last season in the 142 games in which he saw action. Alongside lack of walks, last season Barney claimed a low .313 on-base percentage, a number not typical of top spot hitter. However, finding a guy with a high OBP will be a challenge all season for the Cubs.
The dust in beginning to settle, the Cubs opening day lineup is finally in place – but how many questions did the releasing of the game one batting order answer? Unfortunately for Cubs fans, not many.