Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: Where do Cubs sit entering final week?

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MLB Power Rankings: Where do Cubs sit entering final week?

The Cubs are having their best season in years and enter the week with their magic number for clinching a wild card berth at five. But unless something changes with this weekend's critical series against Pittsburgh, they're the third-best team in the National League Central -- which is far less a knock against the Cubs and more a compliment to baseball's best division. It's certainly led to an interesting wild card race, much better than the mediocre hellscape of the race for the American League's No. 2 wild card spot.

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 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21 | Week 22 | Week 23

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

Is their deal with the devil finally over?

2   3

So this Gerrit Cole dude is pretty good, huh?

3 5

They're the first team since the 2006 White Sox with three players with 35 or more home runs (Donaldson/Bautista/Encarnacion, Konerko/Dye/Thome).

4   3

Jake Arrieta is an alien. Has to be.

5 4

Wade Davis, who will close in the postseason, has actually lowered his ERA from 1.00 in 2014 to 0.97 in 2015.

6 7

With great starting pitching, a solid bullpen and a lineup featuring Cespedes-Wright-Duda, this Mets team could be scary in the postseason.

7 8

The biggest question is if Masahiro Tanaka will return to the Yankees rotation this week to tee him up for the Oct. 6 wild card game.

8 6

Would argue they're the least intimidating of any NL playoff team, despite scary-high payroll.

9 9

Two and a half games up on Houston, three up on Los Angeles entering the season's final week. Not safe, but close.

10 13

Gunning for the wild card, but have a four-game series against Texas to end the season.

11 10

Their bullpen has a 6.21 ERA in September, which is no way to try to hang on to a playoff spot.

12 11

Technically, they woke up Monday morning with a 0.1 percent chance of making the postseason.

13 14

Even if they don't make the playoffs, this team (and Paul Molitor) deserves a ton of credit for being in contention every week of the season.

14 12

Both Matt Williams and Jonathan Papelbon need to get out of DC now. This has gotten completely out of hand.

15 15

Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are a rock-solid 1-2 duo around which to build.

16 20

David Ortiz earned his [expletive].

17 17

If Manny Machado gets two more steals, he'll be the first player with 30 HR, 20 SB and .800+ OPS before turning 24 since Mike Trout in 2012.

18 20

Ender Inciarte (.304 AVG, .743 SLG, 21 steals) flying under the radar just like David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and most of this D-Backs team.

19 19

Chris Archer's rough September (6.58 ERA in five starts) shouldn't take away from what's been a spectacular season for the 27-year-old.

20 23

This is the most exciting thing to happen at Petco Park all season.

21 16

We had them ranked No. 4 as the top AL team before the season. Uhhh...

22 21 For all the offseason buzz, they didn't fix a defense that was the third-worst in baseball by UZR last year. This year: Dead last.
23 22

Victor Martinez has been worth -1.9 WAR this year, and still has three years left on a $68 million contract. Yikes.

24 25

They've had four winning streaks of at least three games in September already. Odd.

25 28

We are all witness to Nolan Arenado's breakout season (41 HR, 126 RBI, .888 OPS).

26 24

The Tim Hudson-Barry Zito matchup on Saturday was awesome, even if the game ended with a 14-10 score.

27 27

Rallied for seven runs on Trevor Rosenthal and the Cardinals in the ninth inning Sunday, proving Brewers can definitely play spoiler in this final week.

28 26

You better believe they're going to want to impact the playoff race with series against Cubs and Pirates this week.

29 29

Swept out of Miami just another dark chapter in this sad season.

30 30

At least they don't have to worry about Papelbon anymore?

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: