Cubs

Cubs farm system begins post-Rizzo era

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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

Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason

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USA TODAY

Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason

The Cubs are just a couple of weeks away from a pivotal offseason that could see a lot of change coming to Chicago's North Side.

Then again, we thought the same thing a year ago and it turned out Theo Epstein's biggest move last winter was signing Daniel Descalso to a two-year deal.

But after missing the playoffs in 2019, the Cubs are now at a crossroads as an organization. 

The NBC Sports Chicago crew previewed the offseason on the latest CubsTalk Podcast with some bold predictions for the winter.

Listen here and check out the fearless calls below:

(Note: Rationale and more context on each bold prediction in the podcast.)

David Kaplan

1. Cubs are going to take a page out of the Yankees' book and retool on the fly rather than go all-in to contend in 2020.
2. Jose Quintana has thrown his last pitch as a Cub.
3. This will be the second-to-last offseason for Theo Epstein as the Cubs president of baseball operations.

Kelly Crull 

1. Cubs re-sign Nick Castellanos and trade away Kyle Schwarber.
2. Tyler Chatwood will be in the 2020 rotation.
3. John Lackey will be named quality assurance coach on David Ross's coaching staff. (Kidding, but only kind of...)

Tony Andracki

1. Before the Cubs play a Spring Training game, Javy Baez will sign an extension that will keep him in Chicago through at least 2023.
2. Willson Contreras will be traded this winter and the Cubs will get some much-needed pitching help in return.
3. Cubs sign Howie Kendrick this winter as the professional bat and lefty-masher they craved in 2019.
4. Ben Zobrist will return on a one-year deal and finish his playing career in a Cubs uniform.
5. David Bote, Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell will all be traded or non-tendered this winter as the Cubs remake their bench/depth.

Jeff Nelson

1. Willson Contreras will sign a contract extension.
2. Ben Zobrist will return as a player/coach.
3. Jose Quintana will be traded for minor league depth.
4. Terrance Gore will be signed to be the 26th man on the roster under the new rules.

Power Ranking Roundup: The bye week didn't do the Bears any favors

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USA Today

Power Ranking Roundup: The bye week didn't do the Bears any favors

The Bears didn't play last week, but did that stop them from falling in Power Rankings across The Web? It did not! Going into the bye on a loss never fails to stoke the panic. Here's what they're saying: 

NBC Sports Chicago -- #16
Their power rankings slide is because of how well other teams performed Sunday; Chicago doesn't feel like a top-15 team when compared to the rest of the NFL.

NFL.com -- #9
The Bears do have a player who's good at all that stuff when given a chance -- that would be running back Tarik Cohen, who already had nine such "big plays" through five games a year ago. In 2019? He has just one, despite being healthy and available each week. Bears coach Matt Nagy needs to get Cohen involved.

ESPN -- #16
Their vertical passing attack is limited with Mitchell Trubisky or Chase Daniel at quarterback. The offense has been equally ineffective on the ground. Chicago has gained eight or more rushing yards on just 10 running plays through five games.

Bleacher Report -- #10
Chicago had best make good use of this week off and get things figured out. Four of the team's next five games after the bye are against teams that made the postseason a year ago, including trips to face the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams.

Sports Illustrated -- #17
A Vikings win this week and strong starts from the Lions and Packers suddenly raises the stake Sunday’s game against the Saints. Unfortunately, New Orleans has a similarly great defense and a much better offense than the Bears.

CBS Sports -- #13
They come off the bye looking to generate more on offense. But it was the defense that also had some issues in London. That unit needs to pick it up as well.

USA Today -- #14
Coming out of bye, club currently just outside playoff picture hits brutal stretch with just two of final 11 opponents currently below .500.

Yahoo Sports -- #11
The Bears have only two games left against teams who are currently under .500. They face the Chargers and Giants, who are both 2-4 and not totally incapable. If the Bears make it back to the playoffs, it’ll be impressive.

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