Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: Mets join rank of NL's elite

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MLB Power Rankings: Mets join rank of NL's elite

With two weeks of the MLB season in the books, we're starting to see some movement from teams we didn't expect to succeed and others we did. Like, for example, the Mets moving ahead of the Nationals -- who could've predicted that, even after two weeks?

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

If Shane Greene can keep up half the success he's already had (0.39 ERA in three starts), their rotation will be in awfully good shape.

2   2

Really hitting their stride now with a 7-game winning streak.

3   4

After something of a slow start, Cardinals imposed their will on CIN over the weekend.

4   5

Clay Buccholz has a solid FIP, but his ERA is concerning given it was over a run higher than his FIP last year.

5 17

8-game winning streak makes them the hottest team in baseball.

6   6

The beanball wars need to stop but this is a team that's been hit 14 times this year, second-most in the majors -- so I can understand why they're tired of getting thrown at.

7 8

A couple of close wins over Cubs shows they're already one of NL's elite.

8 3

Still middling around like a .500 team, but Harper is emerging as a true superstar, not just one with potential.

9 9

Lots of (seasoned) salt over Lawrie's slide this weekend in Kansas City.

10   7

I don't have a calculator handy but I think Nelson Cruz is on pace to hit a billion home runs this year.

11   11

Bryant's promotion just barely outweighs Lester's struggles on the positivity scale.

12   15

Thanks to a curious ejection, Ubaldo Jimenez still hasn't allowed a run this year (in 10 2/3 innings).

13 14

Offense starting to hit its stride coming off sweep of Brewers.

14 10

Will their video game offense be enough to overcome a shaky pitching staff?

15 13

Their lineup, so far, has been Mike Trout and eight other guys who aren't hitting. Erick Aybar, Matt Joyce and Chris Iannetta are all currently hitting below .190.

16 21

Somehow still 4 games over .500. Playing way over their heads right now.

17 27

+11 on run differential and sitting at 7-6 counts as second-biggest shocker in NL behind ATL.

18 25

Currently have the second-best staff ERA (2.81) in the American League.

19 23

Small sample size, etc., but through 12 games Alex Rodriguez has a .711 slugging percentage and more WAR (0.7) than he had in 44 games last year (0.5).

20   19

Kind of surprising to see Grant Balfour DFA'd, but he struggled this year and had a 5.00 ERA with 45 walks against 57 strikeouts since re-joining the Rays in 2014.

21 22

Luster wearing off from great start after being swept by Dodgers.

22 12 No Yan Gomes, and Carlos Santana is the only lineup regular with anything resembling a good stat line.
23   18

The talent -- and Carlos Rodon -- is here, but things just haven't clicked yet through 11 games.

24 16

Wallowing in a stretch having dropped 7 of 8.

25 26

Prince Fielder (.385/.439/.442) is doing some good things at the plate, but concerning that he hasn't homered yet.

26 30

Their position players have combined for an MLB-worst -0.6 WAR.

27 24

Lost 4 straight close games to the Mets and suddenly they're just 3-10 and in last place.Just took 2 out of 3 from the Dodgers and Archie Bradley is already making an impact.

28 20

Lost 9 of 10. Guess they really are only good in even years, huh?

29 28

Starting to play exactly like we all expected, but at least Odubel Herrera looks exciting.

30   29

Didn't think they'd be good this year, but also surprised they're MLB's worst team.

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

There's a legit case to be made that Ian Happ has been the Cubs' second-best hitter in 2018.

Yes, really.

Happ ranks second on the Cubs in OPS (.895), behind only Kris Bryant (.995) among regulars, though a recent hot streak has buoyed that overall bottom line for Happ.

Still, it's been a pretty incredible hot streak and it's propelled Happ back to where he began the season — at the top of the Cubs order. 

Happ has walked 10 times in the last 6 games and hammered out 3 homers in that span, including one on top of the Schwarboard in right field as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night.

Even more jaw-dropping: He's only struck out 5 times in the last 9 games after a dreadful start to the season in that regard.

"It was just a matter of time until things clicked a little bit," Happ said. "That's why we play 162 games and it's a game of adjustments. At the end of the day, it all evens out.

"Look at the back of Tony [Rizzo's] baseball card — it's the same thing every single year. That's how this thing goes. You're gonna have your ups and your downs and I'm just trying to be as consistent as I can. If I can level it out a little bit and be more consistent over a period of time, that'll be better for our team."

So yes, Happ is on the upswing right now and he'll inevitably have more slumps where he strikes out too much and looks lost at the plate.

Such is life for a 23-year-old who is still a week away from his 162nd career MLB game.

The league had adjusted to Happ and he had to adjust back, which he'd been working hard doing behind the scenes.

"I just try to get him to primarily slow things down," Joe Maddon said. "Try to get him back into left-center. And I did not want to heap a whole lot of at-bats on him. When you're not going good, if you heap too many at-bats on somebody, all of a sudden, that's really hard to dig out of that hole.

"So a lot of conversations — a lot of conversations — but nothing complicated. I like to go the simple side of things. I wanted him to try not to lift the ball intentionally, really organize his strike zone."

Maddon believes Happ had lost sight of his strike zone organization, chasing too many pitches out of the zone — particularly the high fastball.

Now, the Cubs manager sees Happ using his hands more and less of his arms in his swing, working a more precise, compact path to the ball.

The Happ experiment at leadoff was a disaster to begin the year — .186 AVG, .573 OPS and 22 strikeouts in 10 starts there — but all the same tools and rationale exist for why Maddon likes the switch-hitting utiliy player in that spot.

And that's why Happ was leading off Wednesday with both Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. getting the night off.

"We're gonna find out [if he can stick at leadoff]," Maddon said. "I just thought he's looked better. He's coming off a nice streak on the road trip. [Tuesday night], pinch-hitting. I know the home run's great and of course that's nice.

"But how he got to the pitch that he hit out, to me, was the important thing. Got the two strikes, took the two borderline pitches and then all of a sudden, [the pitcher] came in with a little bit more and he didn't miss it.

"That's the big thing about hitting well, too — when you see your pitch, you don't either take it or foul it off. You don't miss it. He didn't miss it."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Who has more fun on the diamond, Javier Baez or Yolmer Sanchez?

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Who has more fun on the diamond, Javier Baez or Yolmer Sanchez?

Ozzie Guillen and David DeJesus join Leila Rahimi on Wednesday's podcast. After Tuesday's game-winning hit and second self-inflicted Gatorade bath the guys wonder if anyone has more fun on the field than Yolmer Sanchez. Jim DeShaies joins the conversation and brings Javy Baez to the table.

Plus, Manny Mania continues to swirl in Chicago. Finally, what should be the White Sox plan for calling up their top prospects?

Listen to the full Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast right here: