Kap: Future is bright with Almora signing


Kap: Future is bright with Almora signing

With the agreement on a 3.9 million signing bonus with top draft pick Albert Almora now done pending his passing a physical, the Cubs have all of their Top 20 draft picks from Junes first year player draft in the fold.

Almora is a highly polished outfielder who projects as a .300 hitter with 20-25 home run potential as well as a very heady player who understands the game as well as any player in the 2012 draft. He is expected to take his physical today and once he is cleared, he and his advisor Scott Boras will finalize a contract with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

A look at the Cubs organization since Epstein and Hoyer were hired shows a far different future than the Cubs had under former GM Jim Hendry.

Almora joins the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler as players acquired in trades and signings since the regime change. The 20-year-old Soler is a Cuban outfielder who signed a nine-year 30 million deal with the Cubs in late June and is projected as a tremendous power bat.

Today though, the big news is the signing of Almora, who has been confirming his agreement by re-tweeting from his Twitter feed most anyone who is congratulating him on signing with the Cubs. He will be on a fairly fast track to this big leagues, but even the most optimistic projections have him arriving at Wrigley Field no earlier than 2015 when he would be just 21 years old.

Almoras deal was handled by super-agent Scott Boras who once upon a time was a minor leaguer in the Cubs system. He told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, They knew the player and they knew the value of the player. With where the Cubs are at, I think the fanbase has to believe in player development. So that means these types of signings are very important.

A look at the future of the Cubs in 2015 or 2016 has a lineup that could have these pieces in place:

SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
RF Jorge Soler
CF Albert Almora
3B Javier Baez
LF Brett Jackson

Add in prospects that will be acquired in potential trades for Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and others plus a very high pick in the 2013 draft and you could have the makings of a very solid team. Plus, with the Cubs almost done with long-term commitments to aging veterans, the payroll room should allow for some free-agent signings over the next couple of winters to strengthen a rotation that will obviously have holes after the trades of Dempster and potentially Garza.

Right now, the only long-term piece of a five-man rotation appears to be Jeff Samardzija with not much additional starting pitching expected to come from the farm system that Epstein and Hoyer inherited.

This years draft had a major emphasis on pitching and the Cubs hope that at least two starters are now in the organization at some level, but I would expect that they will be players in free agency for starting pitching over the next winter or two.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Scott Darling gets the nod.

Joel Quenneville is giving a struggling Corey Crawford a breather tonight, electing to go with Darling in the final game of the father's road trip. Darling is 11-4-2 with a 2.34 goals against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in 20 games this season. His numbers aren't as great on the road, where he is 4-2-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage compared to a 7-2-1 record with a 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage at home, but he fared well against Boston last season. The Lemont native stopped 42 of 46 shots, good for a .913 save percentage, in a 6-4 win at the United Center last April.

2. The Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line.

The Blackhawks' trio of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin had a rare zero points in Tuesday's 6-4 win over Colorado, but don't expect to see that again. In fact, it could be the opposite. In their last meeting against the Bruins, a 6-4 win on April 3 during the 2015-16 season, they combined for 11 points (five goals, six assists), highlighted by a Kane hat trick that put him at 100 points on the season for the first time in his career. 

3. How the rookies build off a monsterous game.

In arguably the most well-rounded victory of the season Tuesday in Colorado, the Blackhawks had three rookies that had multi-point efforts. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals, including the game winner. Tanner Kero had two goals and one assist, while Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. It was the top-six that was doing the heavy lifting earlier in the season, now the bottom-six is slowly starting to contribute on a consistent basis. The Blackhawks will be in great shape if they can confidently roll four lines that have the potential to find the back of the net on any given shift.

4. Patrice Bergeron vs. Jonathan Toews.

Two of the best two-way centers in the league will go head-to-head, and it's always a fun matchup to watch. Bergeron leads the league with 597 faceoff wins, and is ranked fifth with a 58.4 percentage at the dot while Toews ranks eighth in wins with 473 — despite missing nine games with a back injury — and sits at sixth with a 57.5 percentage. Both of the perennial Selke Trophy candidates have struggled offensively this season, with Bergeron recording only 21 points in 45 games and Toews with 22 points in 38 contests. Bergeron has been heating up as of late, though, scoring three goals and six assists in his last eight games. Bergeron also leads the league in possession numbers, with the Bruins controlling 61.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

5. Brad Marchand.

In September, Marchand inked an eight-year, $49 million deal and it's already paying dividends for the Bruins. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his last eight games, and 45 points total, which is by far the most on his team and tied for sixth in the NHL. He's 16 points away from tying his career high of 61 set last season, with a little less than half the year to go. He's also had great success against the Blackhawks. In his last six games against Chicago, dating back to the 2013-14 campaign, he has registered at least a point in all of them, scoring four goals and adding five assists. To make life more difficult, he's a player that enjoys getting under people's skin, so expect him to be a big factor tonight.

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