McKnight: Cubs' postseason roster looks fascinating

  • Since Aug. 1, Starlin Castro has hit .310 for the Cubs, likely earning a spot on the postseason roster.

    Since Aug. 1, Starlin Castro has hit .310 for the Cubs, likely earning a spot on the postseason roster. Associated Press

 
Updated 9/19/2015 3:30 PM

With the Cardinals in town and the Cubs adamant that their goal is to chase them down for the NL Central crown, the unusually thick atmosphere seems a harbinger of the playoffs; not so much stormy weather.

Choices have to be made come playoff time and there could be multiple rosters to set if the Cubs are unable to supplant the Cardinals' flag atop the standards above the old green scoreboard.

 

So, let's play with some roster combinations.

Guessing the one-game roster is tough. There's every chance that Joe Maddon leaves a starter or two off the roster in order to carry an extra bullpen arm. It's possible that any and all of Kyle Hendricks, Dan Haren and, with the way he's pitched lately, Jason Hammel, get left off the roster.

Jake Arrieta gets the start, no doubt. Jon Lester stays. You can't win it all if you don't win the first one. Can't leave the $155 million man at home.

Positionally, it gets fun. You know the players locked into the roster. I think it's clear that Javier Baez, with the way Maddon has talked about -- darn near fallen in love with -- his defensive ability and versatility, will make a post season roster. That allows Kris Bryant to float into right field if needed.

Starlin Castro has made the roster. When the season started, it's near unfathomable that the sentence would need to be written but it does. Since Aug. 1, Castro's slashed in the .310/.330/.470 range. That's stellar.

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It's clear, too, that the three catchers will need to be on the roster. Although it's a little less clear whether David Ross makes the roster for one game against the Pirates. Maddon could gamble here and decide it's Miguel Montero and Kyle Schwarber as they only two catchers as Jon Lester won't start until a division series.

A huge question mark remains Jorge Soler. Can he get his swing back in time? Austin Jackson has been a steady replacement. Quintin Berry was added to be Dave Roberts; he's taking that bag when everyone knows he has to. I think in a one-game spot, Berry is more likely to be on the roster than not. That one bag matters that much more.

Maddon has shown and clearly stated that he favors matchups above all else. Even when talking about Clayton Richard's work out of the pen back on the 17th, Maddon noted that the left-handed Richard worked against a lineup stacked to face a righty; that helped Richard's cause.

The Cubs are working with what may be the most versatile lineup in the National League. There are five regulars who play at least three positions; seven who play two. (Although you could credit Kyle Schwarber with three if you think he could handle right field. The same goes for LaStella if you believe he can handle a corner of grass).

That versatility is just another weapon Maddon gets to deploy against the Pirates. Although, if the Cubs get their wish, they'll do it in the NLDS and not a wild-card game.

• Connor McKnight can be heard regularly on WGN 720-AM. He hosts the weekly sports show, The Beat, Saturday's from 3-7 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @McKnight_WGN

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