Cubs farm system begins post-Rizzo era

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Cubs farm system begins post-Rizzo era

As hard as it is to believe, the Cubs minor league system will continue to play games even without the first half juggernaut that was Anthony Rizzo. The post-Rizzo era began Tuesday, leaving a massive void to be filled by other prospects vying for a spot in the bigs.

Iowa third baseman Josh Vitters saw this opening and absolutely tore into it last week. The 22-year-old standout went 12-for-26 (.462) on his way to extending his hit streak to 10. He also managed to score five runs, tally four RBIs and hit two homers. Not only has Vitters been hitting the leather off of the ball, he is recording quality at bats and getting ahead in counts. His patience and even keel plate approach led him to a .474 on base percentage and 1.29 OPS for the week. The absence of the Rizz Kid leaves a number of question marks in Iowa but Josh Vitters appears to have the answers.

Just when Brett Jackson looked like he was about to break through, he returned to his free swinging ways. The once top prospect's stock has plummeted over the past two months and he has done nothing to fix it. Last week, Jackson went 6-for-26 (.231) with four runs and a home run in three consecutive games. Sounds pretty decent right? Wrong. Over a seven-game span, Jackson struck out 14 times, making 19 K's in his last 10 games. He is striking out at an alarming rate and no one seems to have a solution. This is not just a slump, this is a problem.

Highly touted Double A prospect Junior Lake has had a relatively productive year thus far. He is hitting .300 with four round trippers and 12 RBIs. Although his run production is not where scouts would like it to be, he is finding ways to capitalize in key situations. Last week Lake went 8-27 (.296) with two runs and two RBIs. On top of that, Lake swiped five bags in 10 days taking his season total to eight. If Lake can add speed to his arsenal of weapons, it could be the catalyst that takes him to the next level.

Tennessee Smokies pitcher Eric Jokisch came into Sunday's game 3-0 and had every intention standing pat. He was scheduled to rest but when Smokies starter Trey McNutt was pulled after two innings of work, skipper Buddy Bailey turned to Jokisch for help. 5.2 innings, 10 runs and nine hits later, Jokisch was the one pleading for help. He appeared uncomfortable and rattled the entire time he was on the mound. I will give him the benefit of the doubt due to the unlikely circumstances but this was not the Eric Jokisch we have gotten used to watching this year. It will be interesting to see how he responds to his first loss in his next start.

Daytona Cubs first baseman Greg Rohan is exceeding everyone's expectations this season. He has cooled off in the last few weeks but Wednesday was a turning point and one of those games you do not forget. He went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs. This explosion puts him at 63 RBIs on the season, 12 more than anyone else in the entire Florida State League.

Javier Baez, shortstop for the single-A Peoria Chiefs, continues to struggle to get acclimated to professional baseball. His hitting plight has been peppered with moments of brilliance but his 2-for-18 (.111) week suggests otherwise. He tallied two runs and no walks on the week with an on base percentage of .090. His approach at the plate seems undisciplined and until he strategizes his approach his numbers will continue to plummet.

Joe Musso contributed to this article

Edgy Tim goes one-on-one with Mount Carmel's Terrance Taylor

Edgy Tim goes one-on-one with Mount Carmel's Terrance Taylor

Mount Carmel junior defensive end/outside linebacker Terrance Taylor (6-foot-4, 204 pounds) was simply one of the most impressive overall performers at the EDGYTIM Underclassmen Showcase, powered by EFT Football Academy.

Taylor, who worked out as a linebacker at the showcase, also plays defensive end for Hall of Fame head coach Frank Lenti's Caravan. Taylor, who has two early verbal scholarship offers from Central Michigan and Toledo, has the look, tools, overall physical upside and potential to become a highly sought after recruit in the Class of 2018.

Take a few minutes to meet Taylor in the video above.

Fire showing patience with emotional Dax McCarty

Fire showing patience with emotional Dax McCarty

The Chicago Fire opened its preseason on Monday, but much of the focus was on a player that wasn’t there: Dax McCarty.

The Fire traded for the midfielder from the New York Red Bulls last week and he is in camp with the U.S. national team.

Leaving New York hasn’t been easy for McCarty. He tweeted a lengthy thank you note to Red Bull fans on Sunday and still hasn’t mentioned anything about the Fire publically.

Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic visited McCarty at national team camp last week to make introductions.

“We obviously knew that this had to come as a surprise to him,” Rodriguez said on Monday. “A captain of another team, he had just gotten married. There’s never a good time to have unexpected change hit you.”

Getting McCarty on board with what the club is building is going to be key for the team’s success in 2017. Integrating McCarty and the other high-profile offseason additions, fellow midfielder Juninho and striker Nemanja Nikolic, into what Paunovic wants to implement will play a big role in how the Fire start the season. In order to do so effectively means making McCarty happy with his new team.

“For sure he’s a very, very emotional guy,” Paunovic said. “I like the way he expressed how he feels at this point. We all have to empathize with that and respect his time and the situation that he is going through.”

As poor as the timing of McCarty being traded two days after getting married was, it could be to the Fire’s benefit that McCarty is with the national team now and can have some time to process the change before arriving in preseason camp with the Fire in Florida in February.

“We are waiting for him here with open arms and waiting for him to come back, to handle all this situation, to go through that, then come here clear with desire that he played so far, with the same passion, with the same effort on and off the field and for sure with leadership that he will bring to our locker room,” Paunovic said.

For now, both Rodriguez and Paunovic are preaching patience. Rodriguez said McCarty was the top target of the Fire and said the move was six months in the making.

“We respected his need to breathe and to have time to go through his emotions, to spend time with his wife,” Rodriguez said. “I think everything will come in its due course and when his time with the national team camp ends we’ll give him a little time that he might need to recover from that camp and to attend to some personal matters and we’ll embrace him when he comes.

“For those of us that are married we know that happy wife equals happy life so we have work to do with Dax and his wife and his family and having them feel comfortable about Chicago. They were looking to put down roots in New York. Whether it’s unexpected like that or it’s someone like Nemanja Nikolic who chose us and chose to come here, we still have to work with him and his family and acclimating them. Our approach and our attitude is the same, although the circumstances are different. We have to be empathetic to the sensitivity that Dax and his wife are going through.”