CHICAGO -- A playoff berth is on the horizon for the Chicago Cubs, which brings a new round of questions heading into the final weeks of the season. Here are some answers as we empty our Twitter mailbag:
Jesse Rogers: That's the biggest question right now. Obviously there is a chance, but I'm going to say Jason Hammel will get a start if they get that far. They might need four starters anyway, so mixing and matching at No. 3 just doesn't seem feasible. I'm not saying it's not impossible, especially with Joe Maddon at the helm, but I have to think somehow, some way Hammel gets one start and we go from there. Kyle Hendricks helped his cause pitching well on Wednesday night.
Jesse Rogers: I'm pretty sure Maddon, like most managers, would prefer a long season didn't come down to a single game so a series makes sense for several reasons. Theo Epstein joked recently that whatever is in the Cubs' self-interest at that moment is what he prefers, so I suppose this year he doesn't mind the one-and-done since he'll have one of the best pitchers in the world on the mound. Television likes the one game aspect as well but I'm sure it will change in the future. A reduced regular-season schedule would make that happen.
Jesse Rogers: There are a lot of choices, but I've been a Kris Bryant guy from the get-go. He's a robot, a hitting machine who's only touching the surface of what he could become. And he's a complete player along with being a really humble guy. Addison Russell's play at his age is spectacular and even seeing Javier Baez make changes has been impressive. And then there's Babe Schwarber. But at the end of the day, Bryant will be the most consistent hitter of the group, always the most reliable from year-to-year. He's great now, how could he not be the most impressive?
Jesse Rogers: The middle three have possibilities, for sure, but I get the feeling Dexter Fowler won't be returning. They'll offer him a qualifier, he'll turn it down, and then hit big in the open market. The Cubs are earmarking money for pitching anyway. I'm guessing Fernando Rodney would move on but you never know. Jonathan Herrera probably will get caught in a number's game as well but Austin Jackson and Trevor Cahill are possibilities to stick.
Jesse Rogers: Obviously, Javier Baez is at the top of the list. I don't think there is any doubt he'll be on the roster for his defense alone. Quintin Berry is your late inning pinch-runner while Jackson is at least a late inning defensive replacement. He came in just before the Aug. 31 deadline. The final two weeks will tell us more about CJ Edwards but I'm not sure he makes the cut right now.
Jesse Rogers: It appears that way, but with so much depth right now it's about the matchup that night. If Maddon believes he has a good one for Jorge Soler he'll be in there, but obviously he no longer simply has right field all to himself. I think seeing him come off the bench and hit that three-run home run the other night was really big. The final two weeks could determine some things as well. Hot bats going into October play a part in these decisions.
Jesse Rogers: I think Starlin Castro is going to want to play every day again, and I don't think the Cubs will or should guarantee that. If he wants to be part of an expanded platoon role as he is now then I would keep him. Nothing is in stone though. If he plays himself into an every day player again who can handle all types of pitching, then that's fine, too. My guess is he might politely ask for a trade if he's not guaranteed more than that. I see him moving on. And the Cubs will get some value considering his finish here.
Jesse Rogers: Haven't heard anything new on Jason Motte. It's getting late, so not sure he'll be ready for the playoffs. I think it is time to try Neil Ramirez in a bigger role. He's earned that right. It seems like Maddon is warming to it as he keeps passing every test. It's definitely something to keep an eye on in the final two weeks.
Given how he's juggling lineups, who can we assume would start in a wild card game? #CubsChat— Ryan (@ryanhaydon) September 22, 2015
Jesse Rogers: Well, go back and look at who started the last time Gerrit Cole was on the mound. We know Rizzo, Bryant, Russell, Fowler and Montero will be in there. Coghlan and Schwarber have a good chance as well. It will be something like that depending, again, on who might be hot at the time. More than likely it will fall on the matchup though. Baez and Castro are also in the mix. So I guess my answer is I can't tell you today unless we just go off of the last game against Cole. (Assuming it's Cole).
How about Baez filling the Zobrist role next year? #cubschat— Keith Lewandowski (@chipdowski) September 23, 2015
Jesse Rogers: Yeah, it's possible. I'd even like him to get some work in the outfield, specifically center. Next year will be very interesting. There's no reason Maddon can't play the whole year like he's played September here. Guys getting rest, moving around the infield and outfield while creating plenty of depth in case of injury. It might not mean the traditional amount of at-bats but keeping guys fresh is an under-appreciated aspect in the game today. He'll have the depth to do it.