Football season is over, and it is officially baseball season. Though we’re a little under six weeks away from Opening Day, the preseason kicks off with the beginning spring training this week.
Despite another disappointing season in 2022, hope springs eternal. Cubs fans watched as the team committed over $300 million to free agents this winter, and they hope that will turn into more wins — and maybe even a playoff appearance — in 2023. Whether that becomes reality remains to be seen, but that sort of excitement comes at this time of year.
Whether you’re all in on the Cubs this season or you want to wait and see how the new additions gel with the rest of the roster, here’s everything you need to know about Cubs spring training.
When does Cubs spring training start?
Though a number of players have already been seen around the Cubs’ spring complex in Mesa, Ariz., the first official workout for pitchers and catchers is on Wednesday, Feb. 15. After that, the first full-team workout is scheduled for next Monday, Feb. 20, when all Cubs position players are expected to report to Mesa.
The World Baseball Classic has added a bit of a wrinkle to the spring training proceedings. Pitchers and catchers committed to the exhibition tournament were to report today, Feb. 13, while position players playing in the Classic are due at camp by Thursday, Feb. 16.
As far as the spring training game schedule, the Cubs begin Cactus League play on Saturday, Feb. 25, when they host the Giants at Sloan Park. They’ll play 33 spring games overall, with the finale coming on Tuesday, March 28, in a home contest against the White Sox.
Which Cubs players are participating in the World Baseball Classic?
As previously stated, all Cubs players playing in the World Baseball Classic will be in camp by Thursday, Feb. 16. In total, 17 players in the Cubs organization will be participating in the tournament, which is set to run from March 8-21.
Here’s the complete list:
- Puerto Rico: RHP Marcus Stroman, OF Nelson Velázquez
- Japan: OF Seiya Suzuki
- Mexico: RHP Javier Assad
- Canada: OF Owen Caissie, IF/OF Jared Young, RHP Curtis Taylor
- Israel: 1B Matt Mervis
- Italy: IF/OF Miles Mastrobuoni, OF Ben DeLuzio, RHP Vinny Nittoli
- Colombia: RHP Danis Correa, IF Fabián Pertuz
- Great Britain: IF BJ Murray, LHP Branden Noriega (designated pitcher pool)
- Cuba: LHP Roanis Elías
- Australia: IF Liam Spence
Not only will the players be gone from camp during this time, but some will also be scattered around the globe. There are four pools consisting of five different squads each; Pool A will take place in Taichung, Taiwan, Pool B in Tokyo, Pool C in Phoenix and Pool D in Miami. Quarterfinal games take place in Tokyo and Miami, with the latter also hosting the semifinal round and the championship. The title game will come just nine days before the Cubs host the Brewers on Opening Day.
Which top prospects have been invited to Cubs camp?
Between the players on the 40-man roster and 32 non-roster invitees, a number of top prospects will report for camp with the Cubs over the next week. That would include — based on MLB Pipeline’s most recent top 30 — Pete Crow-Armstrong (No. 1), Brennen Davis (No. 2), Kevin Alcantara (No. 3), Ben Brown (No. 7), Alexander Canario (No. 9), Hayden Wesneski (No. 12), Caleb Kilian (No. 14), Miguel Amaya (No. 16), Matt Mervis (No. 21), Chase Strumpf (No. 25) and Ryan Jensen (No. 28).
In addition, Brailyn Marquez resigned on a minor league contract with the Cubs in December and received a non-roster invite to spring training. Marquez was considered the top prospect in the system as recently as 2021, but injuries have derailed his career after he made his big league debut on Sept. 27, 2020.
What are the biggest storylines at Cubs spring training?
The overarching storyline for Cubs spring training will be if all the new additions do make this team better. Heading into last spring, the Cubs signed the most free agents in the majors, but the moves obviously didn’t work out in their favor. They’re right up near the top of the list again (though the moves overall look more impactful this time around). So, will these new Cubs make this a better team? Will they put the Cubs in position to be playing meaningful games late in the season?
Another thing to keep an eye on are in-house extensions. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has talked about not wanting to negotiate extensions in spring training. Well, spring is here, which means any extensions will likely come after the first full-team workout next week. What does that mean for Ian Happ, who will be a free agent this upcoming offseason? Do the Cubs still try to get an extension done with Nico Hoerner, who agreed to a 2023 contract last month to avoid arbitration in his first year eligibility?
Eyes will also be on Seiya Suzuki, the $85 million man looking to take a jump in his second season; Cody Bellinger, who’s looking to find some semblance of his 2019 MVP form; and Dansby Swanson, who looked to for immediate production after the Cubs signed him for $177 million over seven years.
Will there be any position battles or roster spots up for grabs at Cubs spring training?
After spending over $300 million in free agency this winter, the Cubs have fewer holes around the diamond than they did at this time last year. Of course, for a team that on paper has fringe playoff potential, there will be some battles in spring training.
The No. 1 spot up for grabs is at third base. The Cubs didn’t make a big splash to address the position, so they’ll go into the season with a position group that should mainly feature Patrick Wisdom, Christopher Morel and Zach McKinstry.
As the team’s starting third baseman for most of the last two seasons, Wisdom likely has the inside track on the starting job. Morel may end up playing all over the field like he did in 2022, but a strong spring (which would include showing he can still provide impressive pop, can cut down on his strikeouts and can consistently make good throws to first) could help him claim the third-base job. Barring a surprise, McKinstry should play a utility-man role with some time at third.
The rotation is mostly set with Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, new signing Jameson Taillon and re-signed Drew Smyly penciled in. A healthy Kyle Hendricks likely takes the fifth spot, but with him not expected to be ready by Opening Day, that spot is open.
Wesneski, Adrian Sampson and Javier Assad all had success in the rotation to end the year and could claim the No. 5 starter job. Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay’s futures appear to be in the bullpen, but the Cubs could surprise by naming either to the Opening Day rotation. The starting pitching group is as deep as it has been in years, but who is the fifth man in the rotation is still remains one of the biggest questions heading into spring.