What might have been: Likely Cubs, White Sox lineups if season had opened on schedule

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago White Sox rookie left fielder Eloy Jimenez is introduced at the home opener to the 2019 MLB season at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago Friday.

    Chicago White Sox rookie left fielder Eloy Jimenez is introduced at the home opener to the 2019 MLB season at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago Friday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/26/2020 6:21 AM

Thursday was supposed to be the day all Major League Baseball fans long for.

The day marked on the calendar months in advance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Opening Day.

Cubs at Brewers. Royals at White Sox.

It would have been the earliest start to a season in the history of baseball. Like just about everything else in the world, first pitch has been placed on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Don't fret too much, the game will eventually be back.

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball," Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) reminds Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) in the classic movie "Field of Dreams."

"America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again."

Once it does arrive, Opening Day is going to be more memorable than ever.

When it's time to play ball, the Cubs will get back to trying to prove they are more like the team that went to the playoffs from 2015-18 and won the 2016 World Series than the team that collapsed down the stretch last year and went home.

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The Sox will get back to trying to prove they are a team on the rise coming out of a three-year rebuild.

Here's a look at how the teams are likely to line up:

Cubs

1. Kris Bryant, 3B:

Primarily a No. 2 or 3 hitter in his first five seasons, Bryant is being moved to the top of the order. New manager David Ross wants his best hitter at the plate as much as possible.

2. Anthony Rizzo, 1B:

He's batted third or fourth most of his career. Under Ross, Rizzo is moving up to give the Cubs an intriguing 1-2 punch.

3. Javier Baez, SS:

Hitting behind Bryant and Rizzo, Baez should rank among National League RBI leaders.

4. Kyle Schwarber, LF:

He was probably the Cubs' most dangerous hitter in the second half of last season and is looking to carry it over.

5. Willson Contreras, C:

His 24 home runs last year were a career high, and the 27-year-old catcher did it in only 105 games while battling injuries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

6. Jason Heyward, RF:

The $184-million outfielder has been a major disappointment, but Heyward did have his best season (.251, 21 homers, 62 RBI) last year since 2012.

7. Ian Happ, CF:

It was a miserable 2019 season for Happ, for the most part. He salvaged some of it with a strong September and regained needed confidence.

8. Jason Kipnis, 2B:

Joining the Cubs after spending his first nine seasons with the Indians, the Northbrook native should emerge from the crowd of players competing for the starting job at second base.

Opening Day starter:

Yu Darvish is the likely choice for Ross based on how he finished the 2019 season. After the all-star break, Darvish had a 2.76 ERA with 118 strikeouts and only 7 walks in 81⅔ innings.

White Sox

1. Yoan Moncada, 3B:

After finishing third in the American League with a .315 batting average last season, look for the emerging superstar to hit first for the Sox and exploit his ability to run up pitch counts.

2. Tim Anderson, SS:

He preferred hitting seventh in 2019, but after leading the majors with a .335 average, Anderson slots in much better at No. 2.

3. Jose Abreu, 1B:

He led the AL with 123 RBI last season and Abreu is now positioned to be a run-producing machine hitting behind Moncada and Anderson.

4. Yasmani Grandal, C:

The newcomer has big power from both sides of the plate and a great eye to match.

5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH:

The veteran slugger plugs a hole that has been leaking for years. Not only is he a proven DH, Encarnacion has the most home runs (297) in baseball since 2012.

6. Eloy Jimenez, LF:

As he figured out major league pitching last season, Jimenez still led all AL rookies with 31 homers and 79 RBI. He's only going to get better.

7. Luis Robert, CF:

He'll start near the bottom in the Sox's lineup, but the electric rookie has superstar potential and is more than capable of rising quickly up the order.

8. Nomar Mazara, RF:

How deep is the White Sox's lineup? Mazara has hit 20 or more homers three times and he had 101 RBI for Texas in 2017, yet the newcomer is almost an afterthought.

9. Leury Garcia, 2B:

He is capable of contributing at nearly any spot in the order, but Garcia is only holding down second base until Nick Madrigal is ready.

Opening Day starter: Lucas Giolito

Reported to camp in February a little behind due to a strained chest muscle. Health will no longer be an issue when play resumes, and Giolito earned the opening start after going 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA in 2019.

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