Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: Giants surge past Cubs, toward Dodgers

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MLB Power Rankings: Giants surge past Cubs, toward Dodgers

With the nonwavier trade deadline on Friday, expect plenty of movement from the teams fighting to be at or near the top of the American and National Leagues. We've already seen Scott Kazmir go from Oakland to Houston and Johnny Cueto head from Cincinnati to Kansas City. Who else could trade places and affect pennant races in August and September?

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay with us every Monday from here through October for a fresh set of rankings.

Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

What is wrong with Matt Carpenter? He's hitting .206 with a .649 OPS since May 2.

2   3

Johnny Cueto (2.62 ERA/3.13 FIP) is a much-needed addition to a rotation with a 4.26 ERA/4.18 FIP.

3 2

Love the addition of Aramis Ramirez. Low-risk, high-reward option.

4   4

Lead is dwindling over the Giants now, only one game up in the NL West entering play Monday.

5 11

Hottest team in baseball with wins in 11 of last 12 games.

6 6

Mike Trout leads baseball with 31 home runs and 6.3 WAR. This is special stuff we’re witnessing for the fourth straight year.

7 7

Your A-Rod update: He’s on pace to hit 30+ home runs with 3+ WAR and turned 40 on Monday.

8 10

In a weak American League, the Keuchel-Kazmir 1-2 punch should be enough to get them to at least the wild card game.

9 5

Bryce Harper has just 3 HRs since June 21. Pathetic.

10 9

With the AL East cannibalizing itself and preseason darlings in the White Sox and Mariners not making a move yet, they’re in a good position even if they don’t play especially well down the stretch.

11   8

A three-game sweep at the hands of the Phillies is awful, yes, but it's not time to panic just yet.

12 12

This lineup could really use David Wright, but nobody seems knows what is going on with him or if he'll ever even play again. Strangest injury ever.

13 15

They haven’t made the playoffs since 1993, and you’d think that’d be enough motivation for them to add a pitcher before Friday, right?

14 14

Ubaldo Jimenez in two starts out of the All-Star break: 7 IP, 15 H, 14 ER, 4 HR. Buck, your starter, woof. 

15 12

#TheReturn of Matt Moore hasn’t gone well: 5 GS, 23 2/3 IP, 7.61 ERA/5.35 FIP.

16 21

Trading for Cole Hamels would be a forward-thinking move, but if Minnesota stumbles, maybe it pushes them closer to that second wild card spot.

17 16

A barren farm system, a team in freefall, an free-agent-to-be ace…everything about this situation screams “sell!” but who knows if a win-now franchise will actually follow through on that.

18 24

They should absolutely sell this week, but not Tyson Ross. Keep him around.

19 20

After obliterating Cleveland, they enter the week five games behind Minnesota for a playoff spot. For as badly as they’ve played this year, all hope isn’t lost.

20 17

Hope they get rid of an outfielder this week so they can play David Peralta more.

21 23

Robinson Cano’s encouraging July (6 HR, .337/.384/.609) could be a good sign toward them finally digging out of their first-half hole.

22 22 Adrelton Simmons is off limits, you guys. Don't even bother asking.
23 18

Nobody’s held accountable” doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of Terry Francona and another disappointing year on Lake Erie.

24 26

Like the return on the Cueto trade. Loaded up on high upside pitching arms.

25 25

Former White Sox IF Marcus Semien doesn’t look like the answer: .249/.293/.378, 0.5 WAR and 28 errors.

26 19

The lone pitching bright spot, Clay Buchholz, got a PRP injection from Dr. James Andrews and might as well be shut down at this point.

27 27

They should trade Tulo and CarGo and rebuild from there.

28 28

Not sure why they would get rid of Carlos Gomez at this point, but they also don't appear to have any sort of championship window anytime soon.

29 29

If they trade Dan Haren and Mat Latos, who will they form a rotation with?

30 30

Part of me wants that to be it for Cole Hamels in Philly, just so he goes out on a no-hitter. How awesome would that be?

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Who was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick with the Cubs?

The answer to that trivia question will always and forever be Albert Almora Jr. picked sixth overall in the 2012 amateur draft.

In some ways, the young outfielder from Florida became the forgotten man in the stable of can’t-miss prospects that Epstein and top lieutenants Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod amassed since their arrival over six years ago. While players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ zoomed through the minor leagues on their way to the majors, Almora took a different path – one that included seven different stops over parts of five developmental seasons before he broke into the big leagues during the 2016 season.

But Almora’s road to the majors began years before he was selected by the Cubs, when he began playing for Team USA as a 13-year-old. Over the next several years, Almora played for the Red, White & Blue seven times, his final appearance coming in 2015. The seven appearances are the most in the history of USA Baseball, and Almora recognizes the impact his time with the national squad had on his playing career.

“[It was] one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "Every year I had something special to play with, unbelievable guys, went to crazy places, and out of those six years, five of them came with a gold medal so that was pretty special as well. Also, that helped me in my baseball life, how to experience things and learn from those type of experiences.

“I’m a Cubbie and that’s what’s on my chest right now, but Team USA will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Almora carries those national team experiences with him every day, his main focus coming into the 2018 season is becoming a consistent difference-maker. Almora made only 65 starts during the 2017 campaign, and 63 percent of his at-bats last year came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit a robust .342. That led to a platoon role in a crowded outfield, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all taking turns on the merry-go-round. But with the departure of Jay, Almora believes his time is near.

“I have the most confidence in myself that I can play every day, but I try not to think about that kind of stuff because it’s out of my control," Almora said. "All I control is like last year what I did; whenever I was given an opportunity, I tried to do my best and help the team win.”

Almora’s ultimate role on the 2018 Cubs remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Theo’s first Cubs pick will earn whatever role he ends up with, and the foundation of Almora’s journey to Clark and Addison was laid many summers ago during his time with Team USA.

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

News broke to Willson Contreras that the league will be limiting mound visits this upcoming season, and the Cubs catcher —notorious for his frequent visits to the rubber — is not having it.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If you have to go again and pay the price for my team, I will," he said.

The new rules rolled out Tuesday will limit six visits —any time a manager, coach or player visits the mound — per nine innings. But, communication between a player and a pitcher that does not require them moving from their position does not count as a visit.When a team is out of visits, it's the umpire's discretion to allow an extra trip to the mound.

But despite the new rules, Contreras is willing to do what's best for the team.

“There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? They cannot say anything about that. If you’re going to fine me about the [seventh] mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”