CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is still several months away from getting back into his game-day routine but took a crack at his 2017 starting lineup on Wednesday. The first name he wrote down, at least against a right-handed pitcher, was Kyle Schwarber's.
"I do like Schwarber leading off," Maddon said Wednesday evening from his annual Thanksmas event where he cooked and served dinner to Chicagoans. "I do like it."
The Cubs have intimated all winter Schwarber could be their lead-off hitter as Maddon simply likes Ben Zobrist -- the more natural candidate for the top spot -- batting fourth. Zobrist drove in 76 runs while walking 96 times hitting cleanup last season before winning World Series MVP. Maddon's unconventional looking lineup would then feature three very dangerous hitters in the first inning of each game.
"I still like KB [Kris Bryant] two," Maddon said. "After all he was the MVP (batting second). Think he was ok. If you ask Anthony [Rizzo] he likes hitting third. Then Zobrist. Everyone wanted Zo out of the four-hole until it came to the seventh game of the World Series."
Zobrist's keen eye provides protection for hitters in front and behind him. His ability to get on-base was one reason shortstop Addison Russell drove in 95 runs hitting fifth or lower in the lineup. Schwarber's position in the lineup also opens the door for Maddon to return to a strategy he employed in 2015.
"There is the consideration with Schwarber hitting first you want to hit the pitcher eighth again," Maddon said. "There is that kind of consideration. I'll give that to the geeks (team analytics) to look at. You want to feed Schwarber as much as you can."
Newcomer Jon Jay could be a perfect fit batting ninth, as his strength is getting on-base. Maddon stressed this was a January 11 lineup and that much can change between now and April. Plus, he didn't get into how things could look when the Cubs face a lefty. There's also the question of Javier Baez. If Schwarber is in left field and Zobrist is at second base where and when does Baez play?
"I'm not worried about that right now," Maddon said. "Of course you have to keep everyone involved."
Maddon mentioned the back-to-back seven-month seasons Zobrist endured in winning two straight World Series, along with his age, as factors for getting him more rest. But Maddon will rotate everyone, not just Zobrist, as the Cubs plan for another seven-month run. Here is Maddon's complete Jan. 11 lineup against right-handed starters: