Blackhawks

Cubs farm system begins post-Rizzo era

782972.png

Cubs farm system begins post-Rizzo era

As hard as it is to believe, the Cubs minor league system will continue to play games even without the first half juggernaut that was Anthony Rizzo. The post-Rizzo era began Tuesday, leaving a massive void to be filled by other prospects vying for a spot in the bigs.

Iowa third baseman Josh Vitters saw this opening and absolutely tore into it last week. The 22-year-old standout went 12-for-26 (.462) on his way to extending his hit streak to 10. He also managed to score five runs, tally four RBIs and hit two homers. Not only has Vitters been hitting the leather off of the ball, he is recording quality at bats and getting ahead in counts. His patience and even keel plate approach led him to a .474 on base percentage and 1.29 OPS for the week. The absence of the Rizz Kid leaves a number of question marks in Iowa but Josh Vitters appears to have the answers.

Just when Brett Jackson looked like he was about to break through, he returned to his free swinging ways. The once top prospect's stock has plummeted over the past two months and he has done nothing to fix it. Last week, Jackson went 6-for-26 (.231) with four runs and a home run in three consecutive games. Sounds pretty decent right? Wrong. Over a seven-game span, Jackson struck out 14 times, making 19 K's in his last 10 games. He is striking out at an alarming rate and no one seems to have a solution. This is not just a slump, this is a problem.

Highly touted Double A prospect Junior Lake has had a relatively productive year thus far. He is hitting .300 with four round trippers and 12 RBIs. Although his run production is not where scouts would like it to be, he is finding ways to capitalize in key situations. Last week Lake went 8-27 (.296) with two runs and two RBIs. On top of that, Lake swiped five bags in 10 days taking his season total to eight. If Lake can add speed to his arsenal of weapons, it could be the catalyst that takes him to the next level.

Tennessee Smokies pitcher Eric Jokisch came into Sunday's game 3-0 and had every intention standing pat. He was scheduled to rest but when Smokies starter Trey McNutt was pulled after two innings of work, skipper Buddy Bailey turned to Jokisch for help. 5.2 innings, 10 runs and nine hits later, Jokisch was the one pleading for help. He appeared uncomfortable and rattled the entire time he was on the mound. I will give him the benefit of the doubt due to the unlikely circumstances but this was not the Eric Jokisch we have gotten used to watching this year. It will be interesting to see how he responds to his first loss in his next start.

Daytona Cubs first baseman Greg Rohan is exceeding everyone's expectations this season. He has cooled off in the last few weeks but Wednesday was a turning point and one of those games you do not forget. He went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs. This explosion puts him at 63 RBIs on the season, 12 more than anyone else in the entire Florida State League.

Javier Baez, shortstop for the single-A Peoria Chiefs, continues to struggle to get acclimated to professional baseball. His hitting plight has been peppered with moments of brilliance but his 2-for-18 (.111) week suggests otherwise. He tallied two runs and no walks on the week with an on base percentage of .090. His approach at the plate seems undisciplined and until he strategizes his approach his numbers will continue to plummet.

Joe Musso contributed to this article

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

2-21_forsberg_usat.jpg
AP

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

0109_zach_lavine_bulls.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times), Hub Arkush (ProFootball Weekly) and Jason Goch (SB Nation) join Kap on the panel.

The guys debate which team will finish with a higher draft pick when the season ends: Bulls or Blackhawks?

Plus, hear their reaction to the MLB’s new pace-of-play rule change.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: