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Know Your Foe: New look Chicago Cubs come to Coors Field for home opener

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With a new manager and some emerging young players, the Cubs make their lone visit to Denver this season.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a sweep of the Brewers in Milwaukee, the Colorado Rockies will welcome the Chicago Cubs for their first home series of 2015.

With the Cubs comes a new face in the dugout in manager Joe Maddon, who came to the north side of Chicago from the Rays in the offseason after Rick Renteria was fired. Cubs president Theo Epstein now has his marquee manager to go with a bevy of prospects that have arrived recently or will be arriving soon. Maddon, along with some on-field additions, made the Cubs the talk of the 2014-15 offseason and for the first time in several years, they have expectations to live up to in 2015.

Hitters to watch

As of now, the headliner for the Cubs offense is first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The 25-year-old Rizzo hit .286/.386/.527 last season in 140 games, clubbing 32 home runs and 61 extra-base hits en route to 5.1 rWAR in 2014. His 153 wRC+ in 2014 was the best among National League first baseman and was second among all first baseman behind only Jose Abreu. Rizzo was hitless in Chicago's first two games against St. Louis and sports an OPS of just .663 in his career against the Rockies and just .657 at Coors Field. Nevertheless, he is the Cubs' most dangerous offensive weapon.

Joining Rizzo in the Cubs' lineup is rookie right fielder Jorge Soler. The 23-year-old Cuban defector made his big league debut last season, hitting .292/.330/.573 with five home runs in 97 plate appearances after raking at three minor league levels to the tune of an 1.132 OPS and 15 home runs in just 200 at bats.

Also of note is the man at the top of the Cubs' order, former Rockie Dexter Fowler. Fowler was traded to the Cubs from Houston in the offseason after posting a .774 OPS in his lone season with the Astros.

Notable by his absence is third baseman Kris Bryant, who was rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the game coming into 2015 after hitting 43 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. Despite the nine long balls he hit in spring training, Bryant is starting the season in Iowa.

Chicago Cubs 2014 offensive statistics
Name G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
Anthony Rizzo 140 616 32 89 78 5 11.90% 18.80% 0.24 0.311 0.286 0.386 0.527 0.397 153 -0.6 36.1 -3.8 5.6
Luis Valbuena 149 547 16 68 51 1 11.90% 20.70% 0.186 0.294 0.249 0.341 0.435 0.342 116 0.6 10.3 -1.1 2.8
Starlin Castro 134 569 14 58 65 4 6.20% 17.60% 0.146 0.337 0.292 0.339 0.438 0.341 115 -4.7 4.9 2.4 2.7
Welington Castillo 110 417 13 28 46 0 6.20% 24.50% 0.153 0.288 0.237 0.296 0.389 0.306 91 -1.9 -6.2 15.3 2.4
Chris Coghlan 125 432 9 50 41 7 9.00% 18.80% 0.169 0.337 0.283 0.352 0.452 0.353 123 2.3 13.6 -5.4 2.3
Emilio Bonifacio 69 298 2 35 18 14 5.40% 16.40% 0.094 0.333 0.279 0.318 0.373 0.305 91 3.6 0.4 8.5 2
Travis Wood 41 66 3 9 10 0 1.50% 25.80% 0.196 0.278 0.232 0.271 0.429 0.309 93 0 -0.5 6.8 0.9
Jorge Soler 24 97 5 11 20 1 6.20% 24.70% 0.281 0.339 0.292 0.33 0.573 0.386 146 0.2 5.2 -1.6 0.7
Darwin Barney 72 217 2 18 16 1 4.10% 14.30% 0.098 0.262 0.23 0.265 0.328 0.26 60 1 -8.8 7.1 0.5
Justin Ruggiano 81 250 6 29 28 2 7.20% 28.00% 0.147 0.375 0.281 0.337 0.429 0.337 113 -1.1 2.4 -5.9 0.4
Arismendy Alcantara 70 300 10 31 29 8 5.70% 31.00% 0.162 0.266 0.205 0.254 0.367 0.275 70 2.9 -7.2 1.8 0.4
Jake Arrieta 26 47 0 3 3 0 4.30% 34.00% 0.103 0.304 0.179 0.22 0.282 0.223 35 0 -3.5 4.8 0.3
Jeff Samardzija 17 38 0 3 3 0 0.00% 26.30% 0.088 0.231 0.176 0.167 0.265 0.181 6 0 -4 3.9 0.1
Edwin Jackson 29 44 0 2 0 0 0.00% 47.70% 0.05 0.368 0.175 0.175 0.225 0.176 2 0 -4.9 4.5 0.1
Ryan Sweeney 77 226 3 22 20 0 6.60% 14.60% 0.087 0.285 0.251 0.304 0.338 0.285 77 0.6 -5.2 -0.6 0.1
Kyle Hendricks 14 30 0 1 1 0 10.00% 36.70% 0 0.231 0.125 0.222 0.125 0.176 2 0 -3.3 3.1 0.1
Brian Schlitter 61 1 0 0 0 0 0.00% 0.00% 0 1 1 1 1 0.892 491 0 0.4 0.1 0.1
Felix Doubront 4 8 0 0 0 0 12.50% 62.50% 0 0.5 0.143 0.25 0.143 0.198 17 0 -0.8 0.8 0
Dan Straily 7 2 0 0 0 0 50.00% 50.00% 0 0 0 0.5 0 0.345 118 0 0 0.2 0
Dallas Beeler 2 4 0 0 0 0 0.00% 50.00% 0 0.5 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.223 34 0 -0.3 0.4 0
Chris Valaika 44 131 3 10 13 1 5.30% 26.70% 0.107 0.298 0.231 0.282 0.339 0.276 71 -0.7 -5 1.2 0
Rafael Lopez 7 14 0 0 1 0 14.30% 28.60% 0 0.25 0.182 0.286 0.182 0.226 36 0 -1 0.5 0
Jason Hammel 17 39 0 2 3 0 2.60% 35.90% 0 0.238 0.143 0.167 0.143 0.143 -20 0 -5.3 4 0
Justin Grimm 73 2 0 0 0 0 0.00% 100.00% 0 0 0 0 0 0 -100 0 -0.5 0.2 0
Chris Rusin 4 3 0 0 0 0 0.00% 33.30% 0 0 0 0 0 0 -100 0 -0.7 0.3 0
Jacob Turner 8 10 0 0 0 0 0.00% 70.00% 0 0.333 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.089 -57 0 -1.8 1 0
Eric Jokisch 4 5 0 0 0 0 0.00% 20.00% 0 0 0 0 0 0 -100 0 -1.2 0.5 -0.1
Matt Szczur 33 66 2 6 5 0 6.10% 16.70% 0.129 0.245 0.226 0.273 0.355 0.28 74 0.7 -1.2 -1.4 -0.1
Tsuyoshi Wada 13 24 0 0 0 0 4.20% 41.70% 0 0.1 0.05 0.095 0.05 0.075 -66 0 -4.5 2.5 -0.1
Carlos Villanueva 42 13 0 0 0 0 0.00% 46.20% 0 0 0 0 0 0 -100 0 -3.2 1.3 -0.2
Eli Whiteside 8 26 0 0 2 1 0.00% 30.80% 0.04 0.167 0.12 0.115 0.16 0.118 -37 0.2 -3.8 -0.1 -0.3
Logan Watkins 31 68 1 10 6 1 1.50% 23.50% 0.092 0.313 0.246 0.269 0.338 0.264 62 0.7 -2.2 -3.1 -0.4
Mike Olt 89 258 12 23 33 0 9.70% 38.80% 0.196 0.203 0.16 0.248 0.356 0.27 66 -0.3 -10.1 -2.7 -0.6
Ryan Kalish 57 130 0 13 5 3 6.20% 21.50% 0.099 0.323 0.248 0.295 0.347 0.282 75 -0.3 -3.9 -7.5 -0.8
Nate Schierholtz 99 341 6 29 33 4 5.30% 22.30% 0.109 0.228 0.192 0.24 0.3 0.242 47 0.4 -19.8 1.9 -0.9
Javier Baez 52 229 9 25 20 5 6.60% 41.50% 0.155 0.248 0.169 0.227 0.324 0.248 51 0.8 -11.7 -3 -0.9
John Baker 68 208 0 9 15 0 9.10% 27.90% 0.038 0.278 0.192 0.273 0.231 0.23 39 -1.1 -15.3 0.8 -0.9
Junior Lake 108 326 9 30 25 7 4.30% 33.70% 0.14 0.293 0.211 0.246 0.351 0.264 62 1.7 -12.2 -6 -0.9

Pitchers to watch

Thanks to a rainout on Tuesday, the Rockies will miss both Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta this weekend, leaving them to face the back end of the Cubs' rotation. Travis Wood, Friday's starter, led the Cubs with 173 2/3 innings pitched in 2014, posting a 5.03 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in his 31 starts.

He will be followed by former Rockie Jason Hammel, who made 17 starts with the Cubs last season before being traded to Oakland. Hammel had a 2.98 ERA with the Cubs last season and a 3.47 ERA overall. Closing out the series is 24-year-old Kyle Hendricks, who had a 2.46 ERA in 80 1/3 innings last season, including a performance at Coors Field on August 7 that saw him allow two runs, one earned, on five hits in eight innings.

Third-year closer Hector Rondon will be called upon to save games for the Cubs after converting 29 of 33 save opportunities in 2014. He is joined in the bullpen by hard-throwing righties Pedro Strop and Jason Motte. Phil Coke will be called upon to face lefties out of the bullpen.

Chicago Cubs 2014 pitching statistics

Name W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP WAR
Jake Arrieta 10 5 0 25 25 156.2 9.59 2.36 0.29 0.274 74.20% 49.20% 4.50% 2.53 2.26 2.73 5.1
Jeff Samardzija 2 7 0 17 17 108 8.58 2.58 0.58 0.305 72.90% 52.50% 8.50% 2.83 3.1 3.19 2.2
Jason Hammel 8 5 0 17 17 108.2 8.61 1.9 0.83 0.272 78.40% 41.50% 9.30% 2.98 3.19 3.21 2.1
Hector Rondon 4 4 29 64 0 63.1 8.95 2.13 0.28 0.286 71.70% 49.20% 4.10% 2.42 2.26 2.81 1.6
Kyle Hendricks 7 2 0 13 13 80.1 5.27 1.68 0.45 0.271 78.50% 47.80% 4.90% 2.46 3.32 3.92 1.6
Travis Wood 8 13 0 31 31 173.2 7.57 3.94 1.04 0.32 66.50% 34.40% 8.80% 5.03 4.38 4.51 1.3
Carlos Villanueva 5 7 2 42 5 77.2 8.34 2.2 0.7 0.342 67.30% 41.30% 6.50% 4.64 3.13 3.61 1.2
Pedro Strop 2 4 2 65 0 61 10.48 3.69 0.3 0.268 75.50% 55.00% 6.90% 2.21 2.66 2.82 1.1
Tsuyoshi Wada 4 4 0 13 13 69.1 7.4 2.47 0.91 0.296 77.00% 35.90% 8.20% 3.25 3.75 3.96 0.9
Neil Ramirez 3 3 3 50 0 43.2 10.92 3.5 0.41 0.262 81.90% 26.00% 3.80% 1.44 2.61 3.48 0.8
Edwin Jackson 6 15 0 28 27 140.2 7.87 4.03 1.15 0.352 61.80% 39.40% 11.90% 6.33 4.45 4.12 0.7
Justin Grimm 5 2 0 73 0 69 9.13 3.52 0.52 0.294 68.70% 49.50% 6.10% 3.78 3.2 3.63 0.6
Brian Schlitter 2 3 0 61 0 56.1 4.95 3.04 0.32 0.298 65.60% 59.90% 5.70% 4.15 3.61 3.92 0.3
Wesley Wright 0 3 0 58 0 48.1 6.89 3.54 0.37 0.309 75.50% 52.10% 5.70% 3.17 3.44 3.8 0.3
Blake Parker 1 1 0 18 0 21 10.29 1.71 1.29 0.35 63.00% 31.70% 10.30% 5.14 3.28 3.12 0.2
Dallas Beeler 0 2 0 2 2 11 4.91 5.73 0 0.303 70.60% 58.10% 0.00% 3.27 3.95 4.96 0.1
Felix Doubront 2 1 0 4 4 20.1 3.54 3.1 0.89 0.286 76.30% 44.80% 9.50% 3.98 4.66 4.65 0.1
Dan Straily 0 1 0 7 1 13.2 8.56 5.93 0.66 0.396 35.00% 33.30% 4.80% 11.85 4.38 5.32 0.1
Jacob Turner 2 4 0 8 6 34.2 4.41 2.6 1.04 0.322 53.90% 43.90% 10.50% 6.49 4.52 4.37 0
Chris Rusin 0 0 0 4 0 12.2 5.68 3.55 0.71 0.341 56.10% 47.70% 6.70% 7.11 4.08 4.52 0
John Baker 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 9 0 0 100.00% 50.00% 0.00% 0 6.13 7.37 0
Kyuji Fujikawa 0 0 0 15 0 13 11.77 4.15 1.38 0.432 77.60% 43.60% 15.40% 4.85 4.36 3.6 0
Arodys Vizcaino 0 0 0 5 0 5 7.2 5.4 1.8 0.286 75.80% 40.00% 16.70% 5.4 5.93 4.82 0
Zac Rosscup 1 0 0 18 0 13.1 14.18 8.1 1.35 0.387 51.70% 28.10% 13.30% 9.45 4.63 4.07 -0.1
James Russell 0 2 1 44 0 33.1 7.02 4.32 0.81 0.219 73.40% 40.90% 7.70% 3.51 4.27 4.55 -0.1
Eric Jokisch 0 0 0 4 1 14.1 6.28 2.51 1.88 0.306 89.90% 51.00% 23.10% 1.88 5.3 3.7 -0.2
Jose Veras 0 1 0 12 0 13.1 8.78 7.43 1.35 0.286 60.30% 51.40% 20.00% 8.1 6.28 5.26 -0.3
Pitching matchups

Friday, April 10: Travis Wood vs. Tyler Matzek

Saturday, April 11: Jason Hammel vs. Kyle Kendrick

Sunday, April 12: Kyle Hendricks vs. Jordan Lyles

Read more about the Cubs at Bleed Cubbie Blue, SB Nation's Cubs blog.