Cubs

Examining where the Cubs' roster stands after Jackson signing

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Examining where the Cubs' roster stands after Jackson signing

As the Cubs added two more pitchers to the mix Thursday, the Opening Day roster has rounded into focus a bit more.

RELATED: Cubs send 52 million message in signing Edwin Jackson

Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva figure to be integral parts of the pitching staff in 2013. If Villanueva doesn't crack the rotation to start, he will have an impact in the bullpen and provide insurance should a starter suffer through injury or ineffectiveness.

Jackson and Villanueva join Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Kyuji Fujikawa, Hector Rondon, Cory Wade and Sandy Rosario as new additions to the Cubs' pitching staff this offseason.

With so much shake-up, let's take a look at what the 25-man roster could be when the Cubs break camp and head to Wrigley Field. Keep in mind, there's still roughly two months left in the offseason, so things may change an awful lot between now and then.

Position players

C: Welington CastilloDioner Navarro
1B: Anthony Rizzo
2B: Darwin Barney
3B: Ian StewartLuis Valbuena
SS: Starlin Castro
LF: Alfonso Soriano
CF: David DeJesusTony Campana
RF: Nate SchierholtzDave Sappelt

The Cubs are hoping Castillo can, indeed, fulfill his promise as a catcher of the future, and Navarro should provide a veteran presence and help mentor Castillo. Steve Clevenger also figures to be in the mix. He was handed the job of Geovany Soto's backup in spring training last season. There's a chance Clevenger winds up cracking the roster as a third catcher and backup first baseman.

Journeymen Brian Bogusevic (outfield) and Edwin Maysonet (infield) may take on utility roles, with young guns Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters waiting in the wings in Triple-A. Expect some more changes to this group, as the Cubs currently lack position player depth.

Pitchers

SP: Matt Garza
SP: Jeff Samardzija
SP: Edwin Jackson
SP: Travis WoodScott Baker
SP: Carlos VillanuevaScott FeldmanArodys Vizcaino

CL: Carlos Marmol
RP: Kyuji Fujikawa
RP: Shawn Camp
RP: James Russell
RP: Hector Rondon
RP: Michael BowdenSandy RosarioCory WadeRafael Dolis

The Cubs signed Wade this week in an under-the-radar move. The 29-year-old righty has a career 3.65 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in four seasons with the Dodgers and Yankees. But his big league career has been marked by inconsistency -- he had an ERA of 2.27 in '08 and 2.04 in '11, but ERAs of 5.53 in 2009 and 6.46 in '12 -- so there's no guarantees.

Whoever doesn't crack the starting rotation figures to be moved to the bullpen, with Feldman and Villanueva having spent extended time as relievers in the past. Wood may also be an option as a reliever, providing another left-handed arm for manager Dale Sveum to call on.

There's also no guarantee Garza or Baker are healthy at the beginning of the year, as each is coming off an elbow injury. Vizcaino is coming off Tommy John, and as Insider Patrick Mooney has said all winter, will be brought along slowly.

RELATED: Would Cubs go all-in on Samardzija or Garza?

Rondon is a Rule 5 draft pick, so the Cubs have to keep him on the 25-man roster all year or risk losing him. They can also put him on the disabled list -- as they did with Lendy Castillo last season -- to retain his services beyond 2013 even if he struggles to get outs in the majors, but the MLB is reportedly cracking down on such loopholes this season, so he may fill a roster spot all year.

Dolis spent part of last season as the closer when Marmol went to the DL and could find his way back in the big-league bullpen at some point in 2013.

Young lefties Jeff Beliveau, Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley could be in the mix as well and Castillo, Casey Coleman, Marcos Mateo, Blake Parker, Jensen Lewis and Jason Berken are other options from the right side. Alberto Cabrera has been stretched out a bit as a starter this fall and winter and may wind up an option in the rotation or bullpen late in the season while 2011 draft pick Tony Zych is quickly climbing through the system.

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

There's a legit case to be made that Ian Happ has been the Cubs' second-best hitter in 2018.

Yes, really.

Happ ranks second on the Cubs in OPS (.895), behind only Kris Bryant (.995) among regulars, though a recent hot streak has buoyed that overall bottom line for Happ.

Still, it's been a pretty incredible hot streak and it's propelled Happ back to where he began the season — at the top of the Cubs order. 

Happ has walked 10 times in the last 6 games and hammered out 3 homers in that span, including one on top of the Schwarboard in right field as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night.

Even more jaw-dropping: He's only struck out 5 times in the last 9 games after a dreadful start to the season in that regard.

"It was just a matter of time until things clicked a little bit," Happ said. "That's why we play 162 games and it's a game of adjustments. At the end of the day, it all evens out.

"Look at the back of Tony [Rizzo's] baseball card — it's the same thing every single year. That's how this thing goes. You're gonna have your ups and your downs and I'm just trying to be as consistent as I can. If I can level it out a little bit and be more consistent over a period of time, that'll be better for our team."

So yes, Happ is on the upswing right now and he'll inevitably have more slumps where he strikes out too much and looks lost at the plate.

Such is life for a 23-year-old who is still a week away from his 162nd career MLB game.

The league had adjusted to Happ and he had to adjust back, which he'd been working hard doing behind the scenes.

"I just try to get him to primarily slow things down," Joe Maddon said. "Try to get him back into left-center. And I did not want to heap a whole lot of at-bats on him. When you're not going good, if you heap too many at-bats on somebody, all of a sudden, that's really hard to dig out of that hole.

"So a lot of conversations — a lot of conversations — but nothing complicated. I like to go the simple side of things. I wanted him to try not to lift the ball intentionally, really organize his strike zone."

Maddon believes Happ had lost sight of his strike zone organization, chasing too many pitches out of the zone — particularly the high fastball.

Now, the Cubs manager sees Happ using his hands more and less of his arms in his swing, working a more precise, compact path to the ball.

The Happ experiment at leadoff was a disaster to begin the year — .186 AVG, .573 OPS and 22 strikeouts in 10 starts there — but all the same tools and rationale exist for why Maddon likes the switch-hitting utiliy player in that spot.

And that's why Happ was leading off Wednesday with both Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. getting the night off.

"We're gonna find out [if he can stick at leadoff]," Maddon said. "I just thought he's looked better. He's coming off a nice streak on the road trip. [Tuesday night], pinch-hitting. I know the home run's great and of course that's nice.

"But how he got to the pitch that he hit out, to me, was the important thing. Got the two strikes, took the two borderline pitches and then all of a sudden, [the pitcher] came in with a little bit more and he didn't miss it.

"That's the big thing about hitting well, too — when you see your pitch, you don't either take it or foul it off. You don't miss it. He didn't miss it."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Who has more fun on the diamond, Javier Baez or Yolmer Sanchez?

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Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Who has more fun on the diamond, Javier Baez or Yolmer Sanchez?

Ozzie Guillen and David DeJesus join Leila Rahimi on Wednesday's podcast. After Tuesday's game-winning hit and second self-inflicted Gatorade bath the guys wonder if anyone has more fun on the field than Yolmer Sanchez. Jim DeShaies joins the conversation and brings Javy Baez to the table.

Plus, Manny Mania continues to swirl in Chicago. Finally, what should be the White Sox plan for calling up their top prospects?

Listen to the full Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast right here: