Cubs

Say hello to the 2012 Home Run Derby champ

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Say hello to the 2012 Home Run Derby champ

From Comcast SportsNet
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Prince Fielder made a splash at the All-Star Home Run Derby. Eight of them. The Detroit slugger joined Ken Griffey Jr. as the only players to win multiple titles, thrilling the crowd at Kauffman Stadium with several shots into the right-field fountain and beating Toronto's Jose Bautista 12-7 in the final Monday night. "Just being mentioned with him is real special," said Fielder, who spent time at Griffey's house when he was a kid. "My dad would let me go over and play video games all day. He always took care of me when I was a kid." On a night when the Yankees' Robinson Cano was repeatedly booed and went homerless, Fielder put on the most powerful display among baseball's big boppers. Winner at St. Louis' Busch Stadium three years ago, Fielder had a total of 28 home runs over three rounds to cap the main event on the eve of the All-Star game. He hit the four longest drives of the night, including a pair at 476 feet. "They were far," he said. "That's not easy to hit it out there." While the ball stayed out of McCovey Cove during the 2007 Derby at San Francisco's AT&T Park and the right-field swimming pool last year at Chase Field in Phoenix, there was plenty of aquatic activity in Kansas City, second only to Rome for most fountains in cities around the world. After three splash shots among his five homers in the first round, Fielder started off the second round as the setting sun lit up clouds in a pretty pink behind the left-field wall. His mop of dreadlocks visible as he hit without a helmet, Fielder deposited four more balls into the 322-foot-wide water spectacular, which by then was illuminated in the twilight. He added another water drive in the final round, then leaned against one of his sons while he watched Bautista swing. "I'm a little disappointed," Bautista said. "I'm capable of doing more. I had a lot of fun doing it." When he won three years ago in St. Louis, Fielder's 23 homers included a 503-foot drive that disappeared between two sections of bleachers in right-center. Griffey won titles in 1994 at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, 1998 at Denver's Coors Field and 1999 at Boston's Fenway Park. Cano set a final-round record of 12 en route to last year's title in Phoenix, where he hit 32 overall. This year he was the object of loud booing throughout by fans upset he didn't select the Royals' Billy Butler after promising to take a hometown player for his derby team. Fans chanted "Bil-ly Butler!" in between their boos. When it was over, Cano got hugs from Boston's David Ortiz and Yankees teammates Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia. "I was criticized before I got here. If you play for the Yankees you get booed everywhere you go," Cano said. It was the 17th time a player went homerless in the Derby, the first since Detroit's Brandon Inge in 2009. "that was the most interesting reaction to a home rum derby i've ever seen, but the fans were excited which is all that counts," Granderson tweeted. Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutchen (four each) and Matt Kemp (one) also were dropped after the first round. Carlos Beltran (12) was dropped after the second round, when Mark Trumbo and Bautista were tied with 13 apiece, leading to a swingoff won by Bautista 2-1. Trumbo and Bautista each managed to put a drive into the small fountain beyond the left-field wall. Trumbo also hit a pair of shots over the Royals Hall of Fame in left, toward Interstate 70.

Where Cubs stand in updated All-Star voting

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USA TODAY

Where Cubs stand in updated All-Star voting

The Cubs were swept in four games at the hands of the Reds. The news on the All-Star ballot hasn’t been kind as well.

Starting positions for Cubs players at the 2018 MLB All-Star game is looking a little bleak. But catcher Willson Contreras is still in striking distance.

MLB updated its third round of All-Star ballots for the National League. Dating back a week ago, Contreras was behind Giants catcher Buster Posey by 90,000 votes. As of now, that number is quite similar with Posey up 92,000 votes.

For other Cubs players, the margins have continued to grow in the wrong direction as the week has gone along.

The race for first base is a clear cut path for Braves first basemen Freddie Freeman. With nearly 2,200,000 votes to Freeman’s name, he’s ahead of Anthony Rizzo by nearly 1.3 million votes. At this point last week, Rizzo was down 870,000 votes.

The race for second base is a bit closer. Javier Baez has complied 1,186,243 votes, but he still trails Braves’ Ozzie Albies by 222,000 votes.

But Baez shouldn’t be too comfortable. Reds second basemen Scooter Gennett is just 19,000 votes behind him. Gennett could leap frog Baez, with still 10 days left to vote.

If Baez can get his name ahead of Albies, he’d become the second Cub to start at second base for the second time in three years, when Ben Zobrist started in 2016.

Kris Bryant, who has struggled this year offensively, is still struggling in the Midsummer Classic standings. Rockies third basemen Nolan Arenado leads Bryant by 646,400 votes, compared to 447,000 votes last week.

Rounding out the infield with Addison Russel at shortstop, he still sits in third place, trailing Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson and Giants Brandon Crawford.

In the outfield, it is more of the same for Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, and Ben Zobrist. Heyward sits in seventh place with 750,688 votes. Schwarber in eighth has 706,374 votes, and Zobrist has 694,377 votes in ninth.

Even though the Cubs probably won’t see multiple starters on the field this time around, it doesn’t mean they won’t have a chance to be selected as reserves.

Cub faithful still has time to get their players to the All-Star game. Voting ends July 5 at 11 p.m. CT.

The next wave of Blackhawks defensemen is coming

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USA TODAY

The next wave of Blackhawks defensemen is coming

It seems like yesterday the Blackhawks were scraping for young, impact defensemen prospects. Just one, even.

Oh, how that's changed significantly over the last 12 months.

In 2015 and 2016, the Blackhawks did not own a first-round pick. And before that, they hadn't drafted a defenseman in the first round since Dylan Olsen — 28th overall — in 2009. Luckily, they had already hit on Duncan Keith (second round in 2002) and Brent Seabrook (first round in 2003) in back-to-back drafts, and two years later on Niklas Hjalmarsson (fourth round in 2005).

That was a long time ago. Keith is turning 35 in July and Seabrook turned 33 in April. The Blackhawks have gotten that second wave of talent up front with Alex DeBrincat, Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Dylan Sikura. The same can't be said for the defense.

But it's coming.

Since last June, the Blackhawks have added defensemen Henri Jokiharju, Ian Mitchell, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin to their pipeline and used each of their three first-round picks in the past two drafts to do it. Mitchell was the lone second-round pick, and he had an oustanding freshman season at Denver, meaning he could be ready sooner than later — probably after his sophomore campaign.

Despite the need for defensemen, the Blackhawks never wavered on their draft approach and the desire to add instant help didn't impact how they went about this past weekend. Draft the best player available and you can't go wrong.

The good news for the Blackhawks is, the players that were rated highest on their board when their picks rolled around were positional needs. How fitting.

"Coming into the draft, we're just looking for the best value players we have; guys ranked the highest at their spots," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said on drafting Boqvist and Beaudin. "It just so happened they're both defensemen, which is great because that's a very important position. I think they're the highest valued assets.

"Calling around this week about potential trades and looking for players and they're the hardest things to find. We didn't draft them just because they're defensemen. We like both of their style of play, their skill set. I think they both play the modern NHL game. Both have bright futures."

There are high hopes for all four of them.

Then you look deeper inside the organization and you'll find Gustav Forsling, who was once considered the Blackhawks' top defensive prospect and currently finds himself in the five-spot. Yet, he's the most NHL ready and could have a full-time role with the Blackhawks next season.

Peel the next layer and you'll see Blake Hillman, who showed promise and great situational defensive awareness in his brief stint last season. Dennis Gilbert, who brings size and physicality, offers a different element and will continue his developement with the Rockford IceHogs. And then there's Lucas Carlsson and Carl Dahlstrom, both of whom could make things interesting in training camp.

Suddenly, the Blackhawks are faced with having, what you would call, a good problem to have by putting together one of the best young defensive farm systems in the league.

Now, that's not to say that each of these guys are going to pan out the way the Blackhawks are hoping they will. But you're increasing your chances by collecting a number of players with high-end talent and creating competition.

The real question is when they'll all be ready.

While there may be temptation to push them along to help the Blackhawks in the short term, it's important to resist that because the future on the back end looks promising if they each grow at their own pace.

Boqvist has the potential to be Erik Karlsson as a best-case scenario. Even if he can be half of that, that's a win. Jokiharju's ceiling is whatever he wants it to be, and throwing Boqvist into the mix perhaps alleviates some pressure off his shoulders. Beaudin and Mitchell each have top-four potential and should develop as such.

Knowing what they could be capable of with proper development, there shouldn't be any reason to rush it. Just be excited they're on the way.