BA's Jim Callis on Cubs' draft options


BA's Jim Callis on Cubs' draft options

Baseball America's Jim Callis joined David Kaplan on WGN Radio Sunday afternoon to discuss Cubs draft storylines.

This is Theo Epstein and Co.'s first draft with the Cubs and they will be selecting sixth overall on Monday.

"I think they'll get a player comparable to what they got last year at No. 9," Callis said, referring to the Cubs' selection of Javier Baez ninth overall in 2011. "Last year was a deeper draft, but they should get a good player. Even in a down draft, you're better off picking at the top, even with the new rules in spending. At least you get to pick the cream of the crop."

In a best-case scenario, Callis thinks Kevin Gausman, a right-handed pitcher out of LSU, would be the ideal choice for the Cubs, but Callis doesn't see him getting past Baltimore at No. 4 or Kansas City at 5.

Callis believes the Cubs will wind up taking Albert Almora, a high school outfielder out of Florida.

"He's less toosly than projected first overall pick, outfielder Byron Buxton, but he still has a lot of plus-tools and he's more polished," Callis said. "The ceiling is not quite as high as Buxton's, but the floor is higher. There's less risk. He's a player with a lot of tools and a lot of aptitude, which is a tremendous combination."

Some other options for the Cubs include shortstop Carlos Correa and high-school left-hander Max Fried.

"Gun to my head, I might take Correa," Callis said. "If you dream on him, you could see Troy Tulowitzki with Correa. Max Fried is the best high-school pitcher in the draft and he's left-handed...It's a tough call, but that's a pleasant problem to have. At least you have three very attractive options there. If you were picking 11th or 12th in the draft, you'd be looking at a totally different type of player."

Jason McLeod and Tim Wilken have been running the show for the Cubs in terms of scouting and development and Callis heaped praise down on the duo.

"That's a tremendous combination," he said. "I really think Jason is one of the best scouting directors in the league. You look at his track record in Boston, his two years in San Diego, I think you're looking at a guy who's gonna be a GM someday.

"And then you're talking about Tim Wilken. If you're looking for scouting directors to put together resumes, Tim probably has the best resume of anyone. He's been doing it for a awhile. He had a ton of success in Toronto. He had some success in Tampa Bay when he ran some drafts there. That's a dream team pairing."

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.