Addison Russell Puts the Exclamation Point on Opening Night

Russell Dinger 2016

There was a buzz all day around Wrigley, the renovations on display, the excitement of a team favored by many to win a World Series, celebrating an NLCS appearance from last year, there was no possible way the Cubs could match that buzz right? Wrong. For the majority of the night it seemed like the Cubs were destined to fall flat, in fact they were getting no-hit deep into the seventh inning before a David Ross single gave them some life. Brandon Finnegan kept the Cubs off balance all night but ran out of gas after 7 and 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball; it was a brilliant performance, but ultimately a no decision. After the David Ross single in the 7th, Matt Szczur followed with a walk, and two batters later Jayson Heyward had his first big moment in a Cubs uniform. Tony Cingrani left an 0-2 fastball out over the plate and Heyward laced it into right for a two-run single and the once flat Cubs seemed to have grabbed all the momentum heading to the 8th.

Ben Zobrist walked with one out in the 8th, and Jorge Soler was then hit by a pitch to set the stage for the youngest player of the group, Addison Russell. Russell wasted no time as he launched the first pitch he saw deep into the night to give the Cubs a 5-3 lead, and that’s how this one would end. A season that has exceeded even the highest of expectations so far just added another chapter. Lost in the late game heroics was the work of Jon Lester, he clearly didn’t have it last night, but was able to keep the Cubs within three through six innings as he picked up another quality start. No baseball today as we all recover from what was a long day of excitement yesterday; the Cubs are 6-1.

4-11hitting

4-11 pitching

Nameplate 1 

Spring Gameday; March 4, 2016 (Lineups, Broadcast Info)

Gamedeay header

Baseball during the day is so very nice, even if it doesn’t count yet.  Pierce Johnson takes the mound for the Cubs today as they open their home portion of the spring schedule.  Here is how they will line up, I believe the game is on MLB.tv with a subscription, and Cubs.com has the audio.

  1. Fowler CF
  2. Zobrist 2B
  3. Heyward RF
  4. Baez 1B
  5. Victorino DH
  6. Russell SS
  7. La Stella 3B
  8. Ross C
  9. Perez LF

SP – Pierce Johnson

On a personal note, Pierce Johnson is one of my favorite players, rooting hard for him.  Go Cubs!

Nameplate 1

Fantasy Baseball 2016: The Cubs Infield Rankings from Baseball Prospectus

Russell Hi

There are plenty of reasons why I love this time of year. The weather is starting to warm up (marginally), spring training is just kicking off, and fantasy baseball is emerging from its off-season hibernation.

If you are in to fantasy baseball then I suggest you keep reading because I will provide some knowledge from one of the best brains in the game, Mr. Bret Sayre from Baseball Prospectus; follow him on twitter @dynastyguru). Bret specifically focuses on dynasty league rankings so you can expect that these rankings were put together with the idea that you might be freezing/keeping these players after this year. Typically that could mean that a player with a better future ahead of him might be more valuable in the long run than a player expected to achieve greater success in 2016. That’s just a heads up as some of you might notice that these rankings could be a little different than your average run of the mill fantasy baseball rankings. Because this is a Cubs blog we are going to focus on where Bret has said Cubs in his rankings, get excited!

** Rankings listed next to player are the positional ranking, not overall player ranking. Notes about the ranking are my own.

Catcher

2. Kyle Schwarber – All the way up to second, that’s pretty awesome. Obviously a popular topic is whether or not Schwarber will stick at catcher, regardless Schwarber should have eligibility at C heading into this year’s draft. If he does stick at catcher or at least has the eligibility there then his value is through the roof compared to if he was strictly an outfielder. His value would still be high, but you aren’t going to see the numbers he is going to put up from the position behind the plate typically.

14. Miguel Montero – Miggy falls just outside the normal range for your everyday starting catcher (typically top 10-12 are going to be your #1). It’s not a bad value for Miggy as he is still going to get a large amount of playing time in the middle of a lineup that looks to be very dangerous heading into 2016.

31. Willson Contreras – The Cubs number one prospect is getting some love from Bret and looks like someone to target late in drafts because of his future value behind the plate.

First Base

2. Anthony Rizzo – Only Paul Goldschmidt ranks ahead of Rizzo which seems reasonable giving how awesome that guy is. I love the ranking for Rizzo and it makes a lot of sense because he seems to be getting better with each season and now sits in the middle of a lineup that is ripe for production for the foreseeable future. Entering his age 26 season Rizzo looks to improve upon some gaudy numbers from last year, (38 doubles, 31 homers, 101 RBI, 17 stolen bases, 78 walks, 94 runs).

23. Dan Vogelbach – I’m not surprised that Vogelbach continues to receive favorable rankings in the dynasty leagues. The big man at first base is a threat across the board but he’ll probably have to find another team to play for in the National League, or move to the American League as first base/DH are his only options.

Second Base

9. Javier Baez – Baez has always been an intriguing option but this year his value takes a bit of a hit because of the acquisition of Ben Zobrist and the versatile Cubs roster. That doesn’t mean that Baez is void of value, he made improvements to his game last year and has been rumored to play a little CF this year. The more time on the field the better for Baez and his owners moving forward.

18. Ben Zobrist – The newcomer to the Cubs has never really had a ton of value at one position because he is so versatile. Teaming up with Joe Maddon this year means that Zobrist will be utilized to his full potential wherever the Cubs skipper needs him. Because of that I expect him to be in the lineup the majority of time which will give Zobrist plenty of value to be drafted as a utility/bench guy this year.

32. Arismendy Alcantara – Yes, he does still exist! Alcantara has been floating around these lists for a few years and is kind of the forgotten man in the Cubs organization. He still has a World of talent but needs to prove he belongs on the field as the next wave of Cubs prospects are nipping at his heels.

Third Base

2. Kris Bryant – Depending on what kind of league you play in Bryant might be the number one overall pick. No one in the game can match the pure power that he has, but he comes in on this list right behind Manny Machado. The fact that 2015 could be the bottom of the barrel in terms of production is enough to invest highly in Bryant as the cornerstone of your fantasy franchise.

34. Jeimer Candelario – The thing that has impressed me with Candelario is that he is a prospect that has seen a fair amount of failure only to learn from it and get better. Candelario has made some solid strides in the past year or so which gives him some value moving forward.

Shortstop

4. Addison Russell – I still contend that when it is all said and done Addison Russell might be the best of the bunch when it comes to the recent group of Cubs prospects. Russell does everything well, and flashed brilliance in 2015 before seeing his season end early in the playoffs due to an injury. I see no reason why Russell can’t get better with experience as he has shown the ability to make adjustments through his minor league career.

25. Gleyber Torres – Don’t look now but the Cubs have another shortstop that is making noise in the minors. Torres is the next big thing coming out of the Cubs’ system and he could be ready to make some sort of impact earlier than initially expected as he made it all the way to High-A Myrtle Beach last year as an 18 year old. Torres is definitely a guy that I would have no problem stashing in a minor league spot and waiting to see that investment pay off in a big way.

Once the full outfielder rankings, and pitching rankings are released I will put something similar together for you.  Thanks for reading!

Nameplate 1

Afternoon Delight: No Reason to Fear Astronomical Expectations

Soler Meme

I’ve been on this Earth for 33 years, and for the better part of my time here I have been a Cubs fan, so disappointment comes with the territory.  With that disappointment comes hope that is usually misguided, and a catch phrase of “wait till next year” drives that misguided optimism year after year.  The National narrative doesn’t help things with a constant “don’t worry, the Cubs will screw it up because they’re the Cubs” refrain.  That repetitive opinion starts to creep into our subconscious; maybe all those experts are right, nothing good ever happens.  It was even evident last year during what I can say was honestly the most enjoyable baseball season of my life, there was doubt.  A daily rollercoaster of emotions based on whether or not the Cubs won.  What did the Giants do?  Look out for the Nationals, they’re getting hot.  The Diamondbacks are making a run; did you see the schedule down the stretch?  Its typical pennant race behavior which I totally get, but something about last year changed my views on hope, it made me realize something important and fun… it’s real.

I got into a number of discussions last year on the inter-webs about this very thing and it was startling how many people, good baseball people, hoped that other teams would take care of the Cubs’ business for them.  In the past I would be right there with them, but the leadership group of this organization, the players, and their overall attitude towards winning, and competing made it very clear to me that I no longer had to worry about that.  This Cubs team was going to leave everything on the field and for the most part the opponent couldn’t keep up.  It was never more obvious than during that four game series against the Giants at home.  We all thought that Hector Rondon and a rare bout of wildness was going to derail the game, and the season, it was over.  Then it wasn’t, Rondon wiggled off the hook, and the Cubs pounded the Giants right out of the wild card lead into an October without playoff baseball.

A postseason of Cardinals’ devil magic followed.  2016 was full of horrible losses to the Cardinals, it was impossible to ignore those losses heading into the NLDS.  The reason for most losses was the dreaded Cardinals’ devil magic because it was more fun to talk about that then talk about how the Cardinals made their own breaks or came up with a clutch hit or two.  Things went wrong in Game One for the Cubs as worries of the unbreakable Cardinals, and the “too young to be here” Cubs were coming to fruition.  Then Javier Baez massacred a mistake from John Lackey en route to Dingerpalooza 2015 taking place at Wrigley…. Hello NLCS!

I would say that a large number of people converted over to less fatalistic thinking as the season came to a close against the Mets.  The Cubs were getting beat by the Mets because the Mets were a good team, and the Cubs couldn’t get out of their own way.  I was pretty excited to see a lot of fans recognize what was going on; it wasn’t the Cubs blowing an opportunity as only the Cubs could do.  It was the Cubs just losing a game and losing a series in the infancy of their window of opportunity to win a World Series.

So now the Cubs are on the brink of starting the 2016 season with the highest expectations possible.  The organization identified needs heading into the off-season and sent a powerful message to this fan base and the rest of baseball that they are not going anywhere by bringing in Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey.  The players have clearly bought into what Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, and Jed Hoyer are selling.  I suppose it’s okay that some fans are still overcome with worry when they see the Cubs as World Series favorites.  I’m just glad that the players taking the field are embracing it, and ready to win a World Series, not because of any curse or because of the losing History, but because they expect to.

Nameplate 1

Spring Fever – March 11, 2015 (Cubs Lineup, Broadcast Info)

Lester ST

The Cubs will win today…. or they won’t, it doesn’t really matter at this point, but it would be fun to see a “W.”  Jon Lester makes his second appearance of the spring today as the Cubs take on Zack Greinke and the Dodgers.  First pitch today is at 3:05 PM CST, and can be seen on MLB.tv if you have a subscription, and the game is also on MLB Network if you have that.  Here is how the Cubs will lineup today…

1. Fowler – CF
2. Rizzo – 1B
3. Castro – SS
4. Montero – C
5. Coghlan – LF
6. Olt – 3B
7. Sweeney – RF
8. Alcantara – 2B
9. Baxter – DH

Impressions?  Well, Rizzo is back in the second spot, I still don’t think he will end up there, but he’s been there more often than not this spring.  Arismendy Alcantara is clearly the “Ben Zobrist” of the Cubs in Maddon’s eyes, and that’s a pretty great thing.  Let’s see if Mike Olt can continue his hot spring as he battles for a roster spot, I hope he does.

Geo header