Good catch: Cubs keeping Schwarber behind dish

With offensive prowess not in question, backstop polishing skills at position

Good catch: Cubs keeping Schwarber behind dish

MESA, Ariz. -- There's no doubt that Kyle Schwarber can hit, but there were questions as to where he should play. Not anymore. After some intense lessons this summer, the Cubs want Schwarber to keep his focus on catching, and that's good news for their first-round pick.

"I did have some second thoughts deep inside me if I could [catch], but now I don't," Schwarber said during a break in instructional league earlier this month. "I know I can keep working at it, and hopefully make it work one day."

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Russell homers in his final Fall League at-bat

Highly touted prospect's stay in Arizona ends after 10-game stint

Russell homers in his final Fall League at-bat

MESA, Ariz. -- Addison Russell's stint in the Arizona Fall League came to an abrupt end Thursday, but he made sure to leave a lasting impression.

In his final AFL at-bat, Russell, the fifth-ranked prospect in baseball, hit a towering two-run homer to left that helped seal Mesa's 7-3 victory over Scottsdale.

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William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tip for making the bigs: Room with Giansanti

Cubs Minor League outfielder has seen seven former roommates called to the Majors

Tip for making the bigs: Room with Giansanti

CHICAGO -- Want to get to the big leagues? You need to room with Cubs prospect Anthony Giansanti.

Think we're kidding? Javier Baez, Eric Jokisch, Matt Szczur and Rafael Lopez all made their Major League debuts this season with the Cubs, and all are former Giansanti roomies. Logan Watkins, Mike Olt and the Marlins' Justin Bour also were in the big leagues, and also once shared living space with Giansanti.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Prospect Russell rakes in Fall League victory

Shortstop knocks in three runs, including a two-run homer, helping Mesa earn win

Prospect Russell rakes in Fall League victory

SURPRISE, ARIZ. -- The 2014 season provided its fair share of hurdles for Addison Russell to overcome.

Not only did the No. 5 overall prospect, according to MLBpipeline.com, miss several weeks with a hamstring injury, but he also had to adjust to playing on multiple teams in multiple leagues.

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William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Crews begin bleacher, infrastructure improvements

First phase of Wrigley renovations set for completion by Opening Day

Crews begin bleacher, infrastructure improvements

CHICAGO -- If you walk by Wrigley Field, you'll notice a large gap in the left-field wall. And soon there will be one in right field as well. Crews are taking down the left- and right-field bleachers as part of the four-year, $575 million Wrigley Field renovation project.

The first phase of the privately funded project, to be completed this offseason, is infrastructure work. The ballpark's structural steel and foundation will be strengthened and much of the concrete in the bleachers will be replaced. The first phase also includes the expansion and improvement of the bleachers, which were updated after the 2005 season.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cubs prospect Vogelbach heating up in Arizona

Mesa collects second straight win; Berti, Kieboom go deep in eighth

Cubs prospect Vogelbach heating up in Arizona

After winning just one game in the first week of the Arizona Fall League, Mesa broke out of its slump Wednesday with a victory at Peoria. The Solar Sox built on that success Thursday night, defeating the Javelinas, 6-2, for their second win in a row.

First baseman Dan Vogelbach, the Cubs' No. 10 prospect, has mirrored Mesa's season. He went 1-for-11 with three walks and seven strikeouts in his first four games of the AFL, before collecting two hits and his first RBI on Thursday.

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Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Highly touted Russell makes appearance at second in AFL

Cubs want shortstop, No. 2 prospect to be versatile

Highly touted Russell makes appearance at second in AFL

MESA, Ariz. -- The scouts noticed, as did the 400-plus fans at Scottsdale Stadium and any diligent Cubs aficionados who checked the box score. Highly regarded shortstop Addison Russell started at second base this week.

Russell moved to the other side of the infield for the Mesa Solar Sox on Monday in Arizona Fall League play, and he caught two popups and handled three groundouts. No errors, no hoopla. The 20-year-old infielder also had a hit in that game, one of three he's recorded so far in 15 at-bats over four AFL games.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Theo says Cubs' goal is to win division in '15

State of the club is discussed at presentation with season-ticket holders

Theo says Cubs' goal is to win division in '15

CHICAGO -- During end-of-the-season reviews with players, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein noticed there was a different tone. Nearly every player was excited about the 2015 season, and eager to get started.

Maybe that's because the Cubs are at a transition point in their rebuilding process, Epstein said. Now, with the influx of talented young players, they're ready to compete.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Ceremony begins Wrigley restoration, expansion

Ceremony begins Wrigley restoration, expansion

CHICAGO -- The Cubs hosted Commissioner Bud Selig, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 350 distinguished guests on Saturday for the official groundbreaking ceremony of the renovations to 100-year-old Wrigley Field.

Selig, whose tenure began in 1992 and will end on January 25, called Wrigley one of the game's great cathedrals. He also praised the Cubs for their efforts to restore the century-old stadium.

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Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cubs' prospect Edwards solid in Fall League action

Mesa gets back on track in Fall League action behind long ball, solid mound effort

Cubs' prospect Edwards solid in Fall League action

SURPRISE -- After dropping each of their past two Arizona Fall League games, the Mesa Solar Sox are back in the win column following a 5-2 victory over the Peoria Javelinas on Wednesday.

The Solar Sox, who have won both matchups against the Javelinas this season, powered their way to victory with four extra-base hits.

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William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Chicago native Mallee realizes dream with Cubs

Hitting coach was instrumental in helping young Astros players improve

Chicago native Mallee realizes dream with Cubs

HOUSTON -- When John Mallee was a young hitting coach in Class A in 1996, he was driving past Wrigley Field in his native Chicago and told his father he would one day coach on that field while wearing a Cubs uniform. The dream has come true.

Mallee, who spent the previous two years as Houston's hitting coach and helped Jose Altuve win a batting title this year, accepted the position to be the Cubs' hitting coach Thursday, giving him the opportunity to live near his home. Mallee is a Chicago native and his family lives in nearby northern Indiana in the offseason.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Here's the skinny: Edwards eager to learn, progress

Cubs prospect gaining innings in AFL with eye on jump to bigs in 2015

Here's the skinny: Edwards eager to learn, progress

MESA, Ariz. -- Let's get the weight issue out of the way: C.J. Edwards does not weigh 155 pounds. The skinny Cubs pitching prospect is now 170 pounds and a few ounces. He hasn't exactly bulked up, but the right-hander is working on it.

"If it comes, it comes," he says. "If it doesn't, it doesn't."

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cubs announce 2015 Spring Training schedule

Chicago's Cactus League slate to open with split-squad action vs. A's, Giants

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs will open Cactus League play on March 5 with split-squad games against the Athletics at Cubs Park and against the Giants in Scottsdale, beginning their second Spring Training at their new facility.

The club's 29-game Cactus League schedule includes 15 games at Cubs Park and 14 road games. The team may add additional games in the future.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cubs hitting coach Mueller steps down

Former batting champ helped Rizzo, Castro bounce back this year

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cubs are looking for a hitting coach with Major League experience at that job to replace Bill Mueller, who has resigned after one year with the team.

Mueller, a former batting champion who helped Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro get back on track last season, kept the Cubs up to date on his intentions, and the team already has started its search for a replacement, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Tuesday.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cubs claim lefty reliever Ortiz from Rangers

Cubs claim lefty reliever Ortiz from Rangers

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs continued to add pitching to the organization, claiming left-hander Joseph Ortiz off waivers from the Rangers on Monday. With the move, the Cubs' 40-man roster is now full.

Ortiz, 24, went 2-2 with a 4.23 ERA in 32 relief appearances for the Rangers in 2013 before being limited to 15 Minor League appearances last season because of a fractured left foot. He was injured when he was hit by a motorcycle while walking on the street in Venezuela.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Zapata, Encarnacion thankful for second chance

Dominican prospects injured car crash are on track to return to the field

Zapata, Encarnacion thankful for second chance

MESA, Ariz. -- Doctors told pitcher Jose Zapata he might not walk again, after he suffered a broken neck in a horrific car accident in the Dominican Republic in January. Outfielder Kevin Encarnacion, injured in the same crash, was told he might not be able to use his right arm.

Zapata was on the mound at the Cubs complex on Saturday, nervously facing batters for the first time since the accident. After he threw his 15 pitches, the players and coaches applauded. Encarnacion gave his friend and teammate a hug.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Winds of change beginning to blow at Wrigley

Winds of change beginning to blow at Wrigley

CHICAGO -- The biggest change for the 2015 Cubs won't be the lineup, but Wrigley Field.

The team's $575 million renovation of the 100-year-old ballpark begins this offseason, and next year will feature a new video scoreboard in left field, among other things.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Pipeline Perspectives: Mayo eager to see Edwards in Fall League

White Sox shortstop, Cubs hurler have lots to prove as teams move forward

Pipeline Perspectives: Mayo eager to see Edwards in Fall League

There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.

It is just one week before the start of another exciting Arizona Fall League season. I can't wait to get out there to see some of the best prospects in the game compete in the AFL, known as Major League Baseball's finishing school.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Statues removed as part of Wrigley Field renovation

Banks, Caray sculptures to be refurbished during offseason

Statues removed as part of Wrigley Field renovation

CHICAGO -- Renovations to 100-year-old Wrigley Field continued Wednesday as the statue of Ernie Banks on Clark Street was temporarily removed for restoration.

The statue will be taken to the Alchemist Sculpture Foundry in Kalamzoo, Mich., where it will be sandblasted, have the patina reapplied and a new sealer installed, according to Lou Cella of Rotblatt-Amrany, the Chicago-based art studio that sculpted the monument.

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Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Epstein expects Cubs to contend for NL Central in 2015

President of baseball ops sees 'a day coming' soon when all pieces fit together

Epstein expects Cubs to contend for NL Central in 2015

CHICAGO -- The emphasis in the first three seasons under Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has been to restock the Minor League system and build a foundation of impact players. In 2015, Epstein feels the Cubs will take a major step and not just develop players, but be competitive.

"I think we've proved we can be very competitive in this division, and when you have a chance to compete, you should set your sights high, and that means our goal is the [National League] Central title next year," Epstein said.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Bleachers first stage of Wrigley Field makeover

Bleachers first stage of Wrigley Field makeover

CHICAGO -- While Cubs players picked up their gear bags Monday and stadium staffers cleaned out their work spaces, crews continued to prep Wrigley Field for the renovation project, which will begin with the bleachers.

There has been no formal groundbreaking yet for Wrigley Field's $575-million makeover, which will be done over at least four years. City of Chicago crews have been preparing the area since Aug. 27, relocating water, sewer and gas lines, and on Monday, both Sheffield and Waveland avenues were closed around the ballpark. The street closures were expected to remain in effect until construction on the bleachers concludes prior to Opening Day 2015.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Young talent brightened Cubs' tough campaign

Young talent brightened Cubs' tough campaign

CHICAGO -- The Cubs closed 2014 with their fifth straight losing season, but it was the most intriguing of the five as fans finally got a glimpse of the promising future.

The kids are coming, and this year was the first chance to see Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara and Kyle Hendricks at Wrigley Field.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cubs top Crew in finale for strong finish to season

Alcantara hits go-ahead double in sixth; Rizzo hits 32nd home run

Cubs top Crew in finale for strong finish to season

MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs closed the 2014 season with a win and lots of momentum, and Anthony Rizzo made it clear what the goal is for next year.

"To be the [National League] Central champs," Rizzo said after hitting a two-run homer in the Cubs' 5-2 win over the Brewers on Sunday in the season finale in front of 33,837 at Miller Park. "[We want] to win the division, and obviously that's the playoffs, and we want to go deep.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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First-year manager Renteria already looking ahead

First-year manager Renteria already looking ahead

MILWAUKEE -- A year ago, Rick Renteria was a bench coach with the Padres, finishing up his sixth season on their big league coaching staff. All he knew of his plans for the offseason was that he was going to have hip replacement surgery five days after the last game.

But he got a call from Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer while Renteria was still in the hospital recuperating from the procedure, asking if he'd be interested in managing. On Sunday, Renteria ended his first year as Cubs manager, and he was eagerly looking ahead to 2015. By the way, his hip is fine.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Injury makes for frustrating end to Castro's season

Cubs shortstop tried to get back for at least one game, but ankle didn't cooperate

Injury makes for frustrating end to Castro's season

MILWAUKEE -- It's been a frustrating final month of the season for Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, who will head home to the Dominican Republic after Sunday but plans to continue his rehab at the team's facility in Mesa, Ariz.

Castro, who injured his left ankle on Sept. 2 when he slid awkwardly into home plate, was examined Saturday by team orthopedic specialist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo at Miller Park. All the shortstop has been able to do is rehab and watch from the bench.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hendricks ready for textbook-free offseason

Hendricks ready for textbook-free offseason

MILWAUKEE -- For the first time in what seems like forever, Kyle Hendricks won't have to open a textbook this offseason. The Cubs pitcher, who completed his finance degree last year at Dartmouth, found out Saturday he would not start in the season finale. Now he can focus on next year.

"There's really no reason to go out there for five more innings in the last game," Hendricks said of Sunday's game No. 162 against the Brewers. "I wouldn't say it was a surprise. I was still throwing, getting ready, but I wouldn't say I was surprised when it happened."

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Wada solid in final start, but Cubs fall to Crew

Rookie left-hander allows two runs; Rizzo hits RBI double

Wada solid in final start, but Cubs fall to Crew

MILWAUKEE -- For Tsuyoshi Wada, Saturday was a chance to make one last pitch for the Cubs to bring him back in 2015. For Edwin Jackson, it was one last inning of the year to show he could still pitch effectively.

The Cubs were overwhelmed by Wily Peralta, who struck out a career-high 13 batters, in a 2-1 loss to the Brewers on Saturday. Carlos Gomez hit a solo homer and scored the tie-breaking run on Jonathan Lucroy's record-setting double to spark Milwaukee in front of 41,440 at Miller Park.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cubs expected Baez to have offensive issues

Epstein: 'Javy's extraordinarily talented but very raw offensively'

Cubs expected Baez to have offensive issues

MILWAUKEE -- Javier Baez went 4-for-41 with 20 strikeouts on the Cubs' final homestand, and he leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts in September (42). And Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein isn't too surprised.

"It's gone very much as expected," Epstein said Friday of Baez's first two months in the big leagues.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Cubs' Bryant on MLB Pipeline All-Prospect Team

Sluggers Bryant and Gallo make the cut, as do pairs of Dodgers, Nationals and Red Sox

Cubs' Bryant on MLB Pipeline All-Prospect Team

Last week, MLBPipeline.com handed out year-end awards for top hitting and pitching prospects. As much as Kris Bryant and Tyler Glasnow were deserving recipients, it was clear there were many other fantastic performances in 2014 that deserved some attention.

With that in mind, MLBPipeline.com announced its 2014 All-Prospect Team on Friday. There's a prospect for each position, including three outfielders, a DH, a right-handed and left-handed starting pitcher and one reliever. The only requirements were that a player appeared at some point on a team's Top 20 list on Prospect Watch and spent the majority of the year in the Minor Leagues.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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