Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: Twins make puzzling leap into Top 5

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MLB Power Rankings: Twins make puzzling leap into Top 5

June is upon us now, representing another "checkpoint" in the season. As the season wears on, you could say the cream is rising to the top...if by "cream" you mean "Minnesota Twins." Joe Mauer and Co. (is Mauer really even the face of the Twins anymore? If not him, then who?) are suddenly in first place in the AL Central, above even the high-flying Royals. 

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 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 2

Who needs Wainwright when you have Carlos Martinez? Cards are 9-2 when he starts.

2   3

Andre Ethier has a .914 OPS. Remember when he was considered washed up?

3 1

After his narrow escape Sunday at Wrigley Field, Wade Davis still hasn’t allowed a run in 22 innings this year. 

4   6

They begin June leading the AL Central after 20 wins in May. Now the real fun starts to see if they can hang on.

5 4

3-game losing streak can't keep them out of the Top 5.

6   5

As long as Dallas Keuchel starts every fifth game, they won’t go on many long losing streaks. 

7 7

Keys to success? How about a lineup that features 6 everyday players hitting .295 or higher (5 of which have OBPs over .369)?

8 11

They're still only two over .500 despite recent hot streak and the 4th-best run differential (+34) in MLB.

9 10

Bartolo Colon had a 6.00 ERA in May, but the Mets will probably keep him around just to keep things light in the clubhouse for when he does things like this

10 9

Cardiac Cubs lead MLB in walk-off wins and are 14-10 in one-run games.

11   13

Get the nod over Detroit for sweeping a four-game series against the Tigers over the weekend. 

12 8

All eyes are on Justin Verlander’s rehab stint (which didn’t start well) to see if he can be the solution to their pitching problems. 

13 12

Just like we all drew it up, the Rays, Twins and Astros are leading their respective divisions on June 1. 

14 14

In a weak AL East, this aging, flawed roster has a legitimate playoff shot — especially if Masahiro Tanaka returns strong to the rotation.

15 13

Josh Hamilton has a .273/.385/.636 slash line with two home runs through seven games. What a steal to get him. 

16 19

Corey Kluber is averaging more strikeouts and fewer walks per 9 IP than he did last year, when he won the Cy Young. 

17 18

Juan Uribe already has more homers in a Braves uniform than Nick Markakis.

18 20

Paul Goldschmidt is unreal right now - .354/.463/.680 slash line with 15 HRs and 8 SBs.

19 22

It's crazy to think Justin Upton is still only 27. He's doing everything he can (.913 OPS, 10 steals) to get Padres over .500, but it's just not working.

20   17

What looked like a stacked roster has been one of baseball’s biggest disappointments through two months. 

21 16

They’re not doing anything especially good or bad (hitting/pitching/fielding), which isn’t necessarily a detriment in the AL East. 

22 23 Video game offense + rough pitching = good run differential, sub-optimal record.
23 25

Tulo homering twice in one game is nice and all, but was it just a good game or a sign of things to come?

24 24

Position players have combined for -0.7 WAR, the worst in baseball. But Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton shouldn’t have negative WARs for much longer, you’d think. 

25 29

Should they trade Cueto? Uhhh...yeah. No brainer.

26 21

Not even re-signing Jon Lester could’ve saved this moribund pitching staff.

27 26

Good news for Scott Kazmir, who’ll have to be healthy and effective if they want to pull out of this deep hole they dug themselves.

28 28

Former Cubs prospect Justin Bour with homers in three straight games and now hitting cleanup behind Giancarlo.

29 27

7-game losing streak at the hands of Nationals, Mets and Rockies just icing on the cake in a lost season.

30 30

Lucroy returns, but does it even matter at this point?

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

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: