Cubs

NBC Sports Chicago to carry expanded, multi-platform 2018 Cubs Convention coverage

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NBC Sports Chicago to carry expanded, multi-platform 2018 Cubs Convention coverage

5:00 PM -- Special edition of “SportsTalk Live” from Cubs Convention

Hosted by David Kaplan, featuring NBC Sports Chicago Cubs beat reporter Kelly Crull, a panel of Cubs experts, and Cubs players!

6:00 PM -- LIVE Cubs Convention “Opening Ceremonies” coverage

Hosted by Kaplan, featuring Crull and additional Cubs experts, along with live interviews with numerous Cubs players, coaches, and front office execs!

7:30 PM -- Exclusively on Facebook Live -- “Friday Night with Ryan Dempster”

Hosted by the former Cubs fan favorite and featuring numerous interviews/variety show antics with current Cubs players!

NBC Sports Chicago live stream available 24/7 on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app

Complete Cubs Convention coverage throughout the weekend on www.NBCSportsChicago.com’s ‘CubsTalk’ section via reports from Kaplan, Crull, and Cubs digital reporters

Tony Andracki & Vinnie Duber, which will include even more player/coaches/front office interviews, along with panel discussion highlights and much more!

Social media highlights on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to include the latest Convention news, live streaming segments, and special NBC Sports Chicago prize giveaway details! 

Chicago, IL (January 10, 2018) – NBC Sports Chicago, the multi-platform home for the most games and the most comprehensive coverage of the defending NL Central Division Champion Chicago Cubs, is ready to start up the highly-anticipated 2018 MLB season in a big way with expanded, live Opening Night coverage from the “2018 Cubs Convention,” which is being held downtown this weekend (January 12-14) at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

On Friday, January 12 beginning at 5:00 PM CT, NBC Sports Chicago’s live coverage of the 2018 Cubs Convention begins with a special remote edition of SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado, which will take place on the floor of the convention center.  This special edition of SportsTalk Live will feature host David Kaplan, along with NBC Sports Chicago Cubs beat reporter Kelly Crull and a panel of Cubs experts discussing the team’s run to a third-straight NLCS appearance last season, all the off-season moves and acquisitions, along with the key factors needed to bring another World Series title to the northside in 2018.  In addition, special guest interviews with Cubs players are also scheduled during the one-hour show.

Then, starting at 6:00 PM, viewers can look forward to every thrill-packed moment of the convention’s Opening Ceremonies featuring live introductions of Cubs players/coaches/front office executives, video montages, and much more.  NBC Sports Chicago’s 2018 Cubs Convention Opening Ceremonies coverage will be hosted by Cubs Pre/Post Game Live host David Kaplan, featuring beat reporter Kelly Crull, along with live interviews with Cubs players, coaches, and team VIPs.  NOTES: NBC Sports Chicago’s coverage of the Opening Ceremonies will also be made to fans via “Facebook Live” (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago).  In addition, live stream of SportsTalk Live and the Opening Ceremonies will also be available at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers. 

ALSO -- Fans are also in for a special treat at 7:30 PM as NBC Sports Chicago will provide fans with a “Facebook Live” (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) exclusive presentation of Friday Night with Ryan Dempster, a Cubs Convention primetime special featuring the animated former Cubs fan favorite hosting his own talk/variety show showcasing Cubs players/coaches/front office execs in this fun and entertaining live event. 

Throughout the weekend, fans can look forward to even more comprehensive Cubs Convention coverage on NBCSportsChicago.com’s CubsTalk section (NBCSportsChicago.com/Cubs) featuring additional players/coaches/front office executive interviews, feature stories, fan reaction, photos, videos and much more provided via Kaplan (@thekapman), Crull (@Kelly_Crull), NBCSportsChicago.com Cubs digital baseball reporters Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) & Vinnie Duber (@VinnieDuber), along with the NBC Sports Chicago team of behind-the-scenes Cubs experts (@NBCSCubs). 

From a social media standpoint, NBC Sports Chicago will also deliver a number of additional on-site Facebook Live interviews and special segments throughout the weekend, along with Convention “Sights & Sounds” highlights provided via Snapchat (‘nbcschicago’), along with additional coverage/photos/quick video offerings from ‘NBCSChicago’ through Instagram and Instagram Stories

Plus, Cubs fans can look forward to a brand new “Cubs Talk” Podcast presented by Wintrust featuring the hottest Cubs Convention topics and special guest interviews. Fans can download all of NBC Sports Chicago’s podcasts at NBCSportsChicago.com/podcasts and simply subscribe to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.

Fans attending Cubs Convention this weekend can also stop by NBC Sports Chicago’s “Authentic Fan” booth, which will feature a number of special Cubs-themed giveaways including a winter hat, sunglasses, pop sockets, decals, cheer cards and much more (while supplies last).  Plus, fans are urged to utilize the social media hashtag #AuthenticFan throughout the weekend as a number of lucky fans will be “authentically surprised” with special Cubs giveaways and experiences. NBC Sports Chicago’s dedicated Cubs Twitter handle (@NBCSCubs) will also provide up-to-the-minute NBC Sports Chicago “Authentic Fan” booth activities throughout the weekend.

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

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USA TODAY

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

Could 2018 be the year that the Cubs finally see a top pitching prospect debut with the team? 

Thursday, MLB.com released its list of the Cubs' 2018 Top 30 Prospects, a group that includes six pitchers in the Top 10. The list ranks right-hander Adbert Alzolay as the Cubs' No 1. prospect, projecting him to debut with the team this season. 

Alzolay, 22, went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee last season. He also struck out 108 batters in 114 1/3 innings, using a repertoire that includes a fastball that tops out around 98 MPH (according to MLB.com).

Following Alzolay as the Cubs' No. 2 overall prospect is 19-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan. Ademan hit .267 in just 68 games between Single-A Eugene and Single-A South Bend, though it should be noted that he has soared from No. 11 in MLB.com's 2017 ranks to his current No. 2 ranking. He is not projected to make his MLB debut until 2020, however.

Following Alzolay and Ademan on the list are five consecutive pitchers ranked 3-7, respectively. Oscar De La Cruz, No. 3 on the list, slides down from his 2017 ranking in which MLB.com listed him as the Cubs' top overall prospect. De La Cruz, 22, finished 2017 with a 3.34 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) between the Arizona League and Single-A Myrtle Beach.

De La Cruz is projected to make his MLB debut in 2019, while Jose Albertos (No. 4), Alex Lange (No. 5), Brendon Little (No. 6) and Thomas Hatch (No. 7) are projected to make their big league debuts in 2019 or 2020. All are right-handed (with the exception of Little) and starting pitchers.

Hatch (third round, 2016) and Lange (30th overall, 2017) and Little (27th overall, 2017) were all top draft picks by the Cubs in recent seasons.

Having numerous starting pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues represents a significant change of pace for the Cubs. 

Since Theo Epstein took over as team president in Oct. 2011, a plethora of top prospects have debuted and enjoyed success with the Cubs. Majority have been position players, though.

The likes of Albert Almora, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell all contributed to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Similarly, Ian Happ enjoyed a fair amount of success after making his MLB debut last season, hitting 24 home runs in just 115 games.

Ultimately, Alzolay would be the Cubs' first true top pitching prospect to make it to the big leagues in the Theo Epstein era. While him making it to the big leagues in 2018 is no guarantee, one would think a need for pitching will arise for the Cubs at some point, whether it be due to injury or simply for September roster expansion.

The Cubs have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years in terms of their top prospects succeeding in the MLB. If the trend continues, Alzolay should be a force to reckon with on the North Side for years to come.