Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: Surging Astros not No. 1...yet

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MLB Power Rankings: Surging Astros not No. 1...yet

May is here and with it comes the biggest shocker of them all - the Houston Astros are a good team, you guys. Like, a REALLY good team. A 10-game winning streak was enough to bump Houston up to No. 2, but not enough to overcome the rallying St. Louis Cardinals, who retain the top spot even without Adam Wainwright.

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. 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

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

Matt Carpenter (14 2Bs, only 15 Ks) leading the charge as they once again rally following key injury.

2   11

They’re winners of 10 in a row and are projected by FanGraphs to finish with the most wins in the AL West (85). If they can add one more starter during the season, yeah, I’m buying them as a playoff contender. 

3   5

Through 80 2/3 innings, their bullpen has an ERA of 1.00. 

4   4

On a four-game winning streak as Clayton Kershaw goes for win No. 100 Monday night.

5 10

Relievers Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have combined for 48 strikeouts in 28 innings. 

6   2

Mets have fallen back to Earth a bit, dropping three straight series.

7 3

It’s still way too early, but for the first month of they season they’ve easily won the Yoenis Cespedes-Rick Porcello trade. 

8 6

They're so hot and cold - lost 7 of 8 before sweeping Colorado over the weekend.

9 8

Did you actually think the young guys would just have success without struggles?

10   17

Losing Ben Zobrist for four-to-six weeks is a tough blow. 

11   9

Does it help them sleep at night to know they just dropped three straight one-run, extra-inning games to the Cardinals? Probably not...

12   15

Did well to take two of three from Tampa in a “home” series at the Trop over the weekend. 

13 18

They've won 5 of 6 and actually seem to be hitting their stride.

14 12

Matt Moore continues working his way back from Tommy John and could be an awfully strong mid-season addition barring a setback. 

15 21

Dee Gordon leads Major League Baseball in WAR. I repeate: Dee Gordon leads Major League Baseball in WAR.

16 14

Jose Bautista won’t need a stint on the disabled list, which is welcome news for the Blue Jays and anyone who likes titanic home runs. 

17 16

Is Jered Weaver toast? His already-slow fastball is down to averaging 83.1 mph this year and he’s been rocked in six starts (6.29 ERA, eight home runs). 

18 26

Over .500 but doing it with some awfully shaky starting pitching. If they don’t hang around, they’ll give some AL Central contenders problems in August and September, though. 

19 22

Nelson Cruz has more home runs (13) than the White Sox as a team (12). 

20   7

Pablo Sandoval is fitting in well at Fenway, hitting .326/.400/.438 so far. 

21 23

Went 7-2 against L.A. teams in the last 10 days. Certainly helps their stock.

22 24 Horrible news about Homer Bailey. Shoulda just had Tommy John last year and been done with it.
23   20

Nick Markakis has been great atop the lineup (.394 OBP). Too bad he's slugging just .326...

24 28

Oddly enough, the only series they’ve won this year came against Houston (in the first series of the year). 

25 25

Paul Goldschmidt (.356/.448/.622) would be NL MVP every year if he was on any other team.

26 19

Have favorable matchups with Jeff Samardzija, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana facing the Tigers at home this week. Now would be a good time to start righting the ship. 

27 26

Fortunately for them, there’s no relegation in baseball and they can’t suffer the same fate of their Queens Park relatives in England.  

28 13

Ended the week on a 5-game losing streak, meaning they are officially off all contender lists.

29 30

They get 2 key guys back from injury (Gomez/Ramirez), win two divisional games on the road and THEN fire Roenicke? OK...

30   29

Chase Utley (.108 AVG - .087 BABIP) is the unluckiest player on Earth.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: