MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Breaking down the Cubs' Top 30 Prospects

Despite recent graduations, Cubs still have top-tier talent in system

Breaking down the Cubs' Top 30 Prospects

After the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime came into power following the 2011 season, the Cubs used the Draft, international market and trades to assemble the best group of position prospects in recent memory. Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber all would go on to play key roles when Chicago ended its 108-year World Series championship drought last fall.

Because of graduations and trades, such as the one that sent elite shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman last summer, the Cubs farm system isn't nearly as strong as it was when it ranked as baseball's best two years ago. But that doesn't mean it's devoid of talent. Chicago has two more potential star hitters on the way in outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who had a coming-out party at last year's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, and second baseman/outfielder Ian Happ, who possesses 20-20 upside.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

Russell's power breakout has already begun

10 second-half home runs was third on Cubs behind Bryant, Rizzo

Russell's power breakout has already begun

Where does Addison Russell fit in the structure of baseball's young stars? He was an important part of the Cubs' magical World Series run, sure, but larger names like Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and even Joe Maddon command more attention. Russell is one of the best young shortstops, clearly, but given that we're in something of a golden age of young shortstops, the names of Corey Seager, Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor must come up before his.

That being the case, Russell currently operates in the odd space where he's both extremely valuable -- thanks to his plus defense, his 6.9 Wins Above Replacement (per FanGraphs) are the sixth highest among shortstops over the past two years -- yet he hasn't really had that true breakout season, because he's been a slightly below-average hitter in each of his two years with the Cubs. So far, his career line of .240/.314/.404 (93 wRC+, where 100 is league average) is more in line with Chase Headley and Angel Pagan in 2015-16 than it is with the stars above.

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Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon looking at Schwarber for leadoff spot

Outfielder not known for speed, but has shown he can get on base

Maddon looking at Schwarber for leadoff spot

MESA, Ariz. -- Who will be the Cubs' leadoff man now that Dexter Fowler is gone? Manager Joe Maddon likes the idea of Kyle Schwarber at the top of the lineup, although don't expect the outfielder to be setting any stolen base records, and that's not because of a lack of speed.

Schwarber, who missed virtually all of the 2016 regular season after tearing two ligaments in his left knee, must continue to get on base. Asked if the outfielder had a green light on the bases, Maddon quickly responded, "No."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs reveal rotation for first 4 spring games

Montgomery, Zastryzny to open split-squad action Saturday

Cubs reveal rotation for first 4 spring games

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs went 11-19 in Spring Training last year, then forgot about Cactus League play and got off to a red-hot start that ended with the franchise's first World Series championship since 1908. On Saturday, the defending champs open Spring Training with split-squad games.

Mike Montgomery, who was on the mound for Game 7 of the World Series and got his first professional save, will start Saturday at Sloan Park in the Cubs' spring home opener against the Athletics, while Rob Zastryzny will start in Scottsdale against the Giants.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Contreras catches on quick, earns place as backstop

Contreras catches on quick, earns place as backstop

MESA, Ariz. -- Among hundreds of good decisions that allowed the Cubs to break their World Series drought, one of the best was made when Willson Contreras put on shinguards for the first time.

Boredom, more than brilliance, triggered Contreras' move from third base and the outfield to catcher. It happened, in large part, because of what he did when he was left out of the lineup one day in instructional league, at almost the exact time that Theo Epstein was being hired to run the Cubs.

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs brought their World Series hardware to Arizona

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Cubs brought their World Series hardware to Arizona

Let me ask you a question: If your team won the World Series -- for the first time in more than a century, in the most dramatic fashion, breaking a 71-year-old curse -- would you not bring the Commissioner's Trophy everywhere you went, for all to see?

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Jimenez out to prove himself in first camp

Cubs outfield prospect confident, despite lack of experience

Jimenez out to prove himself in first camp

MESA, Ariz. -- John Lackey walked toward the weight room with fellow Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, joking with team personnel along the way. The two had just faced batters in a pitching drill.

As they passed the batting cages, 20-year-old outfielder Eloy Jimenez, the youngest player in the Cactus League, exited a cage and took a seat inside the facility. This is the first time Jimenez, a non-roster invitee who is ranked No. 13 on MLBPipeline.com's list of the top 100 prospects in baseball, has been in Spring Training.

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Logan Newman is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs host young fans from Chicago hospital

Nine children and their families treated with VIP trip to spring camp

Cubs host young fans from Chicago hospital

MESA, Ariz. -- Nine patients from Advocate Children's Hospital in Chicago were treated to a day with the Cubs on Wednesday. The kids ranged in age from 7 to 14, and included a spina bifida patient, another dealing with heart defects, another battling Crohn's disease, and a girl who was in hospice care. Despite their difficult situations, there were lots of smiles.

"It's a chance of a lifetime," said Adrienne Balow of Des Plaines, Ill., whose 11-year-old son, Aidan, was a guest on the trip.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bryant favors traditional intentional-walk rule

Cubs' MVP prefers forcing pitchers to throw four balls

Bryant favors traditional intentional-walk rule

MESA, Ariz. -- In the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series, the Cubs had a runner at second and one out, and the Indians opted to intentionally walk Anthony Rizzo to face Ben Zobrist. Zobrist came through with a go-ahead double, and Rizzo eventually scored. What Kris Bryant wanted to know was, what if one of Bryan Shaw's four pitches during that intentional walk had skipped away, allowing the runner to move up?

"What if the ball got away?" Bryant said Wednesday. "That's huge, especially in that type of situation, Game 7 of the World Series, you want to put pressure on the pitcher any way you can."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Grandpa Rossy to play with the Harlem Globetrotters

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Grandpa Rossy to play with the Harlem Globetrotters

You may have thought that after 15 MLB seasons, two World Series rings (with two previously cursed teams) and one epic Game 7 home run -- David Ross might simply want to sit back in his Grandpa Rossy rocking chair, sip some cranberry juice and tell stories about his baseball conquests to anyone who might lend an ear.

Well, you thought wrong.

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Braking news: Racecar revs up Cubs camp

Strength coach Buss plans joke with Maddon, arrives in style

Braking news: Racecar revs up Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. -- When you win a World Series, you travel in style, and Cubs strength coach Tim Buss arrived for Tuesday's workout in a white Ferrari convertible.

"I don't think I've seen a Ferrari on the field before," pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. "You never know what to expect. It was a little unexpected, but not so unexpected. You expect the crazy around here, especially with 'Bussy.'"

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Montero feels great after dinner, talk with Maddon

Cubs catcher wants to be veteran presence in backup role to Contreras

Montero feels great after dinner, talk with Maddon

MESA, Ariz. -- Over red wine and plates of ravioli, Cubs manager Joe Maddon and catcher Miguel Montero cleared the air, discussing the present and future and not harping on the past.

Maddon invited Montero to dinner Monday night, although the catcher got to pick the spot, and he chose an Italian place in Scottsdale. Montero went from being the Cubs' regular catcher at the start of the 2016 season to No. 3 behind Willson Contreras and David Ross. Montero said he was able to get some things off his chest.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs keep eye on new wave of young studs

Front office hopes to repeat method of using homegrown talent to win World Series

Cubs keep eye on new wave of young studs

PHOENIX -- On Tuesday, manager Joe Maddon took a good look at the Cubs' future. He spent a lot of time during the workout watching Ian Happ and Eloy Jimenez, Nos. 1 and 2 on MLB.com's list of the Top 30 Cubs prospects, who are in big league camp for the first time.

"Everyone thinks our talent is already here," Maddon said. "Time out: there's other guys coming."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baseball icon O'Neil made history with Cubs

Negro League legend became MLB's first black coach in 1962

Baseball icon O'Neil made history with Cubs

CHICAGO -- When Dexter Fowler led off Game 1 on Oct. 25, he became the first African-American player to appear in a World Series game for the Cubs. Ernie Banks and Billy Williams never had that opportunity. Chicago's last World Series appearance before last fall was in 1945, two years before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier with the Dodgers.

"It's crazy to even think about that, because you look back and you look at your parents -- my parents weren't even alive then," Fowler said. "It's a lifetime. It's awesome to be the pioneer, the first one."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baez brings new glove to Spring Training

Infielder preparing for World Baseball Classic, new season with Cubs

Baez brings new glove to Spring Training

MESA, Ariz. -- Javier Baez has a new glove, designed specifically for the World Baseball Classic in Puerto Rico's colors of red, white and blue. Cubs manager Joe Maddon probably wouldn't be surprised to see some chrome on it, too.

Maddon emphasizes having players "make the routine plays routinely" without any "chrome." Anyone who has seen Baez play knows that if he was a sports car, he'd have plenty of bright and shiny chrome.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

La Stella happy to be back with Cubs

28-year-old has no regrets about last year's decision to head home

La Stella happy to be back with Cubs

MESA, Ariz. -- He had to change his phone number and deal with friends and family who were confused, but Tommy La Stella said he has no regrets about his decision last year to go home rather than report to the Minor Leagues when the Cubs sent him down.

"It was definitely an unusual situation," La Stella said Monday.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs notes: Spot in rotation up for grabs

Anderson, Montgomery battling for final spot in starting rotation

Cubs notes: Spot in rotation up for grabs

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs and the city of Mesa will host a championship rally on Friday from noon to 4 p.m. MT/11 a.m-3 p.m. CT at Sloan Park, one day before the defending World Series champs open Cactus League play.

During the rally, fans will hear from Mesa mayor John Giles, Cubs manager Joe Maddon and several Cubs players, and have the opportunity to take photos with the 2016 World Series trophy. Gates will open at 10 a.m. MT/9 CT with live music, food and beverages starting at 11 a.m. MT/10 CT.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Schwarber: I'm the third catcher

Cub will be the backstop 1-2 times a week this spring

Schwarber: I'm the third catcher

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber felt right at home catching a bullpen session, but he made sure to note that he's the Cubs' third catcher -- not the regular -- this season.

Schwarber, coming back from two torn ligaments in his left knee that he sustained last April 7, caught John Lackey's bullpen session on Friday, the first time he has been in gear in nearly a year.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fifth-starter candidates to pitch in first week

Anderson, Montgomery will toe rubber; returners to be eased back

Fifth-starter candidates to pitch in first week

MESA, Ariz. -- Rain on Sunday forced the Cubs to limit their workouts to the batting cages for the second day, but the team is on track for next Saturday's Cactus League openers. However, don't expect to see Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey until the second week of games, manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs played an extra month because of the World Series, so the plan this spring was to ease the starting pitchers back into action. Lefties Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery, who are being considered for the fifth spot, will pitch in the first week of games.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Zobrist enjoys spoils, eyes repeat World Series

Super-utility star understands incredible effect title had on Cubs fans

Zobrist enjoys spoils, eyes repeat World Series

MESA, Ariz. -- Somewhere amid the celebrations and parades and sheer joy of helping the Chicago Cubs win a World Series for the first time in 108 years, Ben Zobrist was struck by something that may stay with him forever.

"You realize it's not really about us," the World Series Most Valuable Player Award winner said Sunday morning.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Exit velocity data helps hitters, pitchers alike

Exit velocity data helps hitters, pitchers alike

MESA, Ariz. -- Which Cubs player recorded the top average exit velocity in 2016? It probably comes as no surprise that it was Kyle Schwarber, who, according to Statcast™, averaged 101.7 mph. Of course, Schwarber only had four at-bats before being sidelined by a knee injury.

"I just care about hitting the ball hard," said Schwarber, whose hardest-hit ball (108.3 mph) in the regular season was actually a groundout to second base on April 4 in the top of the seventh inning of the Cubs' 9-0 win over the Angels.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Heyward puts in offseason work to regain 2012 form

Heyward puts in offseason work to regain 2012 form

MESA, Ariz. -- In 2012, Jason Heyward's third season in the big leagues, he led the Braves with 27 homers and collected 82 RBIs. He spent this offseason in Arizona trying to get back that feeling he had at the plate.

Heyward felt the need to do something after his inaugural season with the Cubs, when he batted .230, hit a career-low seven homers and drove in 49 runs in 142 games.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ricketts intent on Cubs joining ranks of elite

Ricketts intent on Cubs joining ranks of elite

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts thanked players and staff on Saturday for the team's 2016 season, which was capped by the franchise's first World Series championship since 1908. Next, Ricketts said, is to win again and have the Cubs join the elite group of organizations that are among the best in the world.

"What separates a really good team from a really great team is the consistency of results," Ricketts said. "We've won one World Series, and hopefully, we'll be in the mix again for many years to come. That's what you associate success with. If you look at the Yankees 15 years ago, the Patriots of today, they're right in the mix.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lester: Cubs are 'naive enough' to repeat

Ace lefty also won championships with Red Sox in 2007, '13

Lester: Cubs are 'naive enough' to repeat

MESA, Ariz. -- The last team to repeat as World Series champions was the Yankees, winning three in a row from 1998-2000. Could the Cubs be the next to do so? Jon Lester says they may be naive and cocky enough.

"What makes the Yankees so special is they were able to do it year in and year out," Lester said Friday. "It's just hard. Teams are better across the board. It's a hard thing to win one, let alone do it two in a row. All we can do is play hard and do the little things like we do in Spring Training to get better and see what happens in the season."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Schwarber catches bullpen session at camp

Extended leg in squat position eases stress on surgically repaired knee

Schwarber catches bullpen session at camp

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber got a hug from pitcher John Lackey, and then he got to be a catcher on Friday for the first time this spring.

Schwarber caught Lackey's bullpen session, receiving a hug from the Cubs right-hander before they started. Schwarber missed nearly all of last season, tearing two ligaments in his left knee in the third game, and he is projected to play left field most of this year. He was cleared medically to catch one or two days a week in Spring Training, and during his session with Lackey, Schwarber extended his left leg out while squatting to catch the ball to avoid putting extra stress on the knee.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.