Minor league updates on Rizzo, Jackson, Jokisch


Minor league updates on Rizzo, Jackson, Jokisch

Fresh off of the first Epstein-Hoyer Draft, what better time to take our weekly look at the Cubs top minor league prospects in this weeks minor league wrap up.Yes, you guessed it. Anthony Rizzo had another stellar week for the Iowa Cubs. In limited action this week (4 games), the Cubs crown jewel went 6-for-12 (.500) with four runs, three doubles and an RBI. He did not strike out once in his 12 at-bats.Rizzo also deserves to be applauded not only for his play, but for his attitude during this arduous process. Somehow he has remained focused even in the face of constant talk of being called up. The unflappable 21-year-old brings a passion to the club house every day, and it hasnt gone unnoticed. Rizzo was named Cubs Minor League player of the month for the second time in a row in May. He hit .326 with nine doubles, a triple and 10 home runs. His 23 RBIs and .758 slugging percentage are even more reason to deem this the summer of Rizzo. You take your victories where you can get them, right?Brett Jackson continued his resurgence from mediocrity this week by going 10-for-25 (.400) with two homers, four RBIs and a.459 on-base percentage. To borrow a phrase from football coach Dennis Green, maybe he is who we thought he was. Jacksons production has sky-rocketed in the past two weeks, raising his batting average 33 points to .261. His recent climb has to be reassuring for Cubs scouts who labeled Jackson the top prospect in the organization at the beginning of the year.

The Tennessee Smokies called up Eric Jokisch from single-A Daytona last week, and he has proceeded to show us why. Jokisch looked untouchable in both starts last week. On Thursday he went 6.1 innings, allowing one run on one hit with a .053 batting average against. It was his six walks that led to the run, and ultimately a no decision for Jokisch. In his second start last week, the left-hander left nothing to chance, going seven innings while allowing no runs on five hits on his way to the win. Jokisch appears to be hitting his stride at the perfect time for the sub-.500 club searching for wins.Trey McNutt also continued his steady climb back to .500 this week after having a rough start to the season. McNutt was 1-for-1 last week in his only start. He surrendered a single run and was stingy on the bump, allowing only four hits in six innings. McNutt is now 3-4 and looks to be approaching mid-season form in his last few starts.

There have been few highlights this season for Single-A Daytona, but Cubs first baseman Greg Rohan has given fans something to cheer about. Rohan went 12-for-31 (.387) last week in seven games played. He also amassed six RBI's and a home run on his way to a .428 on-base percentage. Most impressively, Rohan peppered both outfield gaps for five doubles last week. He is finding his way on base by any means necessary and not only that, he is scoring at a consistent rate (33 runs scored on the season).In his first full week with Class A Peoria, Javier Baez did not disappoint. The Puerto Rican-born shortstop was 7-for-12 (.318) with five runs, five RBIs and two round trippers. Baez looks very comfortable in his role with the Chiefs, but if he continues to produce dont be surprised if he takes his next step forward in the system sooner rather than later.Joe Musso contributed to this report

NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall

USA Today

NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall

Take a look over the NFC landscape and try to find me a team that can compete with the Rams. 

Packers? Held back by Rodgers' knee and Rodgers' coach. Saints? Might not even win their own division. Washington? Does Alex Smith really scare anyone in the playoffs? 

The Rams have one of the easier paths to the Championship Round/Super Bowl that we've seen in some time. Will it likely stay that way? Probably not. But there's a difference between parity and mediocrity and right now the NFC is toeing the line HARD. 

Outside the NFC's "elite", how did your team do this week? 

You can take a look here and see where they landed. 

Shaquille Harrison could improve the efficiency of Bulls bottom five defense

Shaquille Harrison could improve the efficiency of Bulls bottom five defense

The Phoenix Suns released guard Shaquille Harrison last week, and although it is not a move that will send shockwaves through the league, the Bulls picking up Harrison could be the exact type of move to help solve what ails them.

At 6-foot, 4-inches and with a long wingspan, Harrison would step in and likely be at least the second-best perimeter defender on the team behind Kris Dunn. And he is the type of player, when combined with a talent like Wendell Carter Jr. and/or Dunn, could help form the type of lineup that could have a transformative effect on the overall team defense.

Last season Harrison had a defensive rating of 109, this despite the fact that the Sun—as a team—had a defensive rating of 113.51, over four points worse than when Harrison was on the floor.

His best skill is his ability to “get skinny” around a screener, meaning that on defense, Harrison is adept at angling his body to get around players trying to screen him off his man:

The Bulls need more players who show Harrison’s effort level when navigating screens on defense, not just because it will make life easier on their rim protectors, but because they also need to make sure they continue adding players who lead by example on that end of the floor. A team as young as the Bulls needs to collect young talent who pride themselves on defense, and Harrison fits the part.

When it comes to offense, Harrison doesn’t have the most impressive profile, but his play on that end of the floor is similar to former Bull David Nwaba. Harrison is not even an average 3-point shooter  (23.1 percent from 3-point range), but he makes up for it in other ways.

His rebounding is an area of strength, and fitting in with his preference to bring physicality to his matchup, he is adept at getting to the free throw line.

Last year Harrison’s 30.6 percent free throw attempt rate would’ve been a top-five mark on the Bulls. But his low usage rate (18 percent) will likely be lower in Chicago, so the free throw numbers may fall. But with so many score-first players on the roster, Harrison will still be able to crash the glass against the many guards who forget to box out their man.

Offensive rebounding will be less of a focus for a Bulls team that wants to preach getting back on transition defense, but Harrison gives Fred Hoiberg a special player that can do both. Harrison will run back on defense to help create the “shell” that the best teams create to cut off easy forays to the rim, and then when his team gets the ball back and is on the fastbreak, he brings value as the “trailer” (trailing man on a fastbreak) even without shooting ability:

This signing could end up being a big one for the Bulls, however small it may seem now.

Around the league, more and more teams are starting to invest resources in multiple ball-handler offenses that negate the differences between point guard and shooting guard, making versatile back court defenders a must.

This will be evident when the Bulls take on the Dallas Mavericks in game No. 3 of the regular season, as Rick Carlisle's Mavericks feature Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic in an explosive offense that doesn't have a defined "lead" guard.

The Bulls will continue to attempt to curtail offense with a high-scoring back court duo when they take on the Charlotte Hornets in a back-to-back on October 26 and 27. If Harrison is worked into the rotation by then, expect to see Harrison and Dunn on the floor together to match up with Doncic and Smith respectively, but have the flexibility to switch defensive assignments on the fly. If Chicago's perimeter defense starts to offer significantly more resistance, it will allow quicker improvement from Carter and the rest of the Bulls bigs on the interior.

With Zach LaVine currently in the top-five in the NBA in points per game, Dunn returning and Lauri Markkanen getting healthy, the Bulls front office is slowly approaching the point where their team has enough players who are considered possible focal points of an offense.

To become a championship contender, you need to have that one player who is unequivocally a superstar capable of a heavy workload, and only time will tell if the Bulls already have that player or need to acquire him. But the other important factor in building a championship roster is having the elite-level role players who do the little things that make life easier for their teammates in all phases of the game, and Shaq Harrison is excellent prospect who fits that exact mold.