Cubs

MLB draft: Cubs looking to make a splash with No. 9 pick

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MLB draft: Cubs looking to make a splash with No. 9 pick

WASHINGTON – Jason McLeod likes to call the draft his Super Bowl, but the Cubs executive who oversees scouting and player development thinks this could be the last time he picks this high for a long time.  

“I (bleeping) hope so,” McLeod said with a laugh. “The approach doesn’t change, (but) hopefully we’re picking in the 20s – late 20s.”

That’s why the Cubs went into Sunday’s meetings in Chicago with Brady Aiken still on their board, not ruling out the 18-year-old lefty they ranked as the nation’s best amateur player in last year’s class.

That would be a high-risk, high-reward gamble with Aiken recovering from Tommy John surgery after getting drafted No. 1 overall and failing to reach an agreement with the Houston Astros.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

But the Cubs understand they have a unique opportunity with the No. 9 pick on Monday night, knowing they won’t have the same access to premium talent if the major-league team becomes competitive for the next several years.

McLeod grew up in San Diego – where Aiken starred at Cathedral Catholic High School – and used to work for the Padres. The Cubs are plugged into the baseball community there and feel like they have a strong relationship with the Aiken family. But everything hinges on the medicals. 

Taking those injury concerns into account, the Theo Epstein administration has taken position players with their first pick in each of the last three drafts – outfielder Albert Almora (No. 6), third baseman Kris Bryant (No. 2) and catcher Kyle Schwarber (No. 4).

Two players who definitely fit that Cubs Way profile – Vanderbilt University shortstop Dansby Swanson and Louisiana State University shortstop Alex Bregman – won’t last until the ninth pick. University of Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi is on the radar and could be there for the taking.

[MORE: Cubs could think big with Kyle Schwarber at DH]

The Cubs have also analyzed two prep players who project as corner outfielders: Kyle Tucker (Plant High School/Tampa, Florida) and Trenton Clark (Richland High School/North Richland Hills, Texas).

“You look at the last three years, it just really lined up as we took what we thought was the best player available,” amateur scouting director Matt Dorey said. “It just happened to be a hitter. This is such a unique year because of the volatility with the injuries and we’re just picking later. Our pool had remained open longer throughout the scouting year for this pick.

“We’ve kept our peripheral open longer and we’ve had more players come into our mix. It was a really good opportunity to kind of keep our window open to listen to our scouts and not just laser focus in on one or two guys.”

If the Cubs try to make a below-slot deal ($3.351 million) and spread the money around in later rounds, University of Cincinnati outfielder/second baseman Ian Happ has been one name mentioned.

Daz Cameron – whose father Mike played 17 years in the big leagues – is committed to Florida State University and represented by super-agent Scott Boras. The 18-year-old outfielder might be a difficult sign for the Cubs compared to a team like the Astros, who have two top-five picks and more than $17 million in their bonus pool after whiffing on Aiken.

[ALSO: Why the Cubs once passed on Addison Russell]

“It’s dangerous ground to try to play the draft outside of just really evaluating and lining up the best player and eliminating all the other variables,” Dorey said. “In terms of the sign-ability, all that stuff should not come into play when you go out and scout and line up your main board. That’s really our philosophy, and as it’s worked out the last few years, it just happened to be a hitter.”    

The Cubs are running through the scenarios, anticipating three top pitchers to be gone by the time they select: University of Illinois closer Tyler Jay; Vanderbilt right-hander Carson Fulmer; and UC-Santa Barbara right-hander Dillon Tate.

If the Cubs ultimately decide to go in that direction, Missouri State University right-hander Jon Harris would be an option.

“It’s really, truly going to be the best player available,” Dorey said, “especially in this type of draft where there hasn’t been anybody that really separated themselves early and held that status all the way through the year as the true ‘1-1.’ There’s been literally multiple guys that everybody has predicted will go in that pick.

“We can make educated guesses about what other teams are doing ahead of us, but we’re so at the mercy of what happens before us. We’re just going to be prepared for a lot of guys. And then when it gets down to our pick, be in a really good position to take the best guy for the Chicago Cubs.”

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

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NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

A Cubs pitcher taking in a Blackhawks game in a suite is nothing special, but doing so with a World Cup winner is... different.

Kyle Hendricks was spotted by the cameras of Thursday's Blackhawks-Coyotes broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago. The guy he was standing next to was none other than Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup with Germany and Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Hendricks is known for being reserved on the mound and in his interviews with the media. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger was filmed yelling "Bear Down" in the hallway of Toyota Park after a Fire practice earlier in the day.

There's no telling what inspired Schweinsteiger to do this, but he has definitely embraced Chicago sports teams since joining the Fire in March of 2017.

Makes you wonder what Hendricks and Schweinsteiger were talking about. Best places to get brats in Chicago?

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...