The 2020 MLB season is now a 60-game dash, starting on July 23 and ending, hopefully, with a full-size postseason in October. Between now and the start of the season, we’ll be giving quick capsule previews of each team, reminding you of where things stood back in Spring Training and where they stand now as we embark on what is sure to be the strangest season in baseball history. First up: The Chicago Cubs roster and schedule:
CUBS ROSTER (projected)
When the season opens on July 23-24, teams can sport rosters of up to 30 players, with a minimum of 25. Two weeks later, rosters must be reduced to 28 and then, two weeks after that, they must be reduced to 26. Teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.
In light of that, there is a great degree of latitude for which specific players will break summer camp. For now, though, here are who we expect to be on the Cubs roster to begin the season:
The Cubs missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2014. The club’s 84-78 record marked a decline of 11 wins from the previous season. The offense was predictably good, but the pitching staff did not quite live up to expectations, especially the mid-season signing of closer Craig Kimbrel, who posted a 6.53 ERA over 20 2/3 innings.
They’re bringing back more or less the same starting cast from last year. The big change on offense is the glut of second basemen used last season will be replaced by prospect Nico Hoerner and, to a lesser extent, veteran Jason Kipnis. Before the league shut down due to the pandemic and the 2020 season was reduced to 60 games, there was some thought that the Cubs could leave Hoerner in Triple-A, but now the club has nothing to lose. In a brief debut spanning 20 games in 2019, Hoener posted a solid .741 OPS. Kipnis, meanwhile, has been getting closer and closer to replacement level since he turned 30, but he will prove to be a valuable mentor to Hoerner.
Alec Mills earned a spot in the rotation as José Quintana is sidelined with a thumb injury. Tyler Chatwood, bumped up to the No. 4 spot for the time being, pitched mostly out of the bullpen last year and showed promise after a couple of shaky seasons in 2017-18. The right-hander improved his strikeout rate and made progress on reducing his walk rate. He hasn’t pitched regularly out of the rotation since ’18, but if his peripherals and limited exhibition performances this year are any indication, he may have turned the corner.
One wonders how much leash Kimbrel will have if he can’t figure things out in a shortened season. His 2019 performance was by far the worst of his 10-year career, no doubt affected by his free agency lingering two months into the regular season. Kimbrel will need to be effective out of the gate, but none of the other members of the bullpen have lengthy histories closing out games. Would the Cubs trust Rowan Wick, Casey Sadler, or Kyle Ryan, for instance, to handle the ninth inning if Kimbrel can’t?
It goes without saying the Cubs will be buoyed by their big bats — Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber. One can write in pen 150 homers (or the 60-game equivalent pace, 56) from the quintet. It’s the rest of the cast that will determine whether or not the Cubs miss out on the postseason for a second straight season or make an attempt to return to glory.
Every team will play 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games.
- July 24-26: vs. Brewers
- July 27-30: @ Reds
- July 31-August 2: vs. Pirates
- August 3-4: vs. Royals
- August 5-6: @ Royals
- August 7-9: @ Cardinals
- August 11-12: @ Indians
- August 13-15: vs. Brewers
- August 17-19: vs. Cardinals
- August 21-23: vs. White Sox
- August 24-26: @ Tigers
- August 28-30: @ Reds
- September 1-3: @ Pirates
- September 4-7: vs. Cardinals
- September 8-10: vs. Reds
- September 11-13: @ Brewers
- September 15-16: vs. Indians
- September 18-20: vs. Twins
- September 21-24: @ Pirates
- September 25-27: @ White Sox