Cubs minor-league roundup -- Week 3

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Cubs minor-league roundup -- Week 3

The Cubs are 5-12 and in last place in the NL Central, already six games out of first place. They're one game behind the lowly Houston Astros.

This isn't the "next year" Cubs fans have been waiting for. There's no getting around that fact.

But while the big-league club is hurting for talent, there are young players on the horizon, stirring up excitement for the future. Each Tuesday, we will take a look at how the Cubs' minor-league players are faring to date.
Triple-A Iowa

Anthony Rizzo is the hot story here, with 7 homers, 19 RBI and a .380.429.718 slash line in 18 games. He has two more homers than the entire major-league Cubs team.

Welington Castillo (.971 OPS), Adrian Cardenas (.958) and Luis Valbeuna (.910) are also performing admirably at the plate.

Dave Sappelt, who came over in the Sean Marshall deal, is struggling so far with a .239.282.388 line, as is Josh Vitters (.606 OPS, only two extra-base hits).

Top prospect Brett Jackson is striking out way too much (21 in 75 at-bats), but leads the team with 9 walks and also has 10 extra-base hits and is 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts.

25-year-old left-hander Chris Rusin may not strike a lot of guys out (only 9 in 21.1 innings), but he boasts a good 3.38 ERA and sparkling 1.13 WHIP in his four starts. Left-handed reliever Jeff Beliveau (3.72 ERA) and right-handed starter Casey Coleman (3.80 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) have also started the season on the right foot.

Travis Wood, the main piece in the Marshall trade, is getting by on a middling 5.19 ERA, but has only made three starts so far and got the ball to kick off Tuesday's game.

Right-handed reliever Manny Corpas challenged for a job in the big-league bullpen in spring training but has given up 16 hits and 11 runs (10 earned) in just 10.1 innings.

Double-A Tennessee

Trey McNutt, widely considered as the top pitching prospect in the organization, has been on fire to start the season, boasting a 0.77 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in his three starts. He does have 7 walks in 11.2 innings, however, and that is something Theo Epstein and Co. would love to see him correct.

Reliever Alberto Cabrera (1.74 ERA, 0.87 WHIP) is also off to a hot start while Casey Weathers, the second part to the Ian Stewart-Tyler Colvin trade, has struggled badly. Weathers has a 5.40 ERA and 2.40 WHIP in his first 5 innings and has surrendered a whopping 7 free passes.

Dae-Eun Rhee has a 4.76 ERA in three starts.

The Smokies are struggling on offense so far, but young infielders Logan Watkins (.779 OPS, 4 SB), Rebel Ridling (.777) and Elliot Soto (.735) have been the bright spots in the first few games.

Top prospect Junior Lake has started the season on the DL, but will probably join the Smokies when he returns.

High-A Daytona

Matt Szczur is hitting just .206 with a .537 OPS, but has 8 stolen bases already. He is extremely athletic and should start getting things going with the bat soon.

Second baseman Ronald Torreyes is only hitting .240, but has a .345 OBP and a .380 SLG. He's only 19, but excited Theo and Jed Hoyer enough that they acquired him as part of the Marshall deal from the Reds.

Zach Cates, acquired in the Rizzo-Andrew Cashner deal, has given up a whopping 20 hits and 14 earned runs in 8.1 innings. 2010 top draft pick Hayden Simpson is also struggling with a 7.11 ERA and 1.82 WHIP in three starts.

Tony Zych, a 2011 draft pick, has walked just one and allowed only three runs in nine innings.

Low-A Peoria

Outfield prospect Reggie Golden has many excited about his potential, but he's gotten off to a slow start with a .192 average, though it is in just 26 at-bats.

Marco Hernandez, ranked as the Cubs' 13th best prospect by MinorLeagueBall.com, is just 7-for-60 to start the year.

Ben Wells, a promising young right-handed pitcher, has a 6.28 ERA in three starts.

Etc.

Other top prospects INF Javier Baez, RHP Dillon Maples, 1B Dan Vogelbach, INF Jeimer Candelario, INF Gioskar Amaya and OF Shawon Dunston, Jr. have yet to start play in 2012.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

Do the Cubs have a World Series hangover?

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Bay Area Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic joins CSN's Patrick Mooney to talk about the World Series hangover, how last year's playoff loss lingered in San Francisco, Johnny Cueto's quirks, the legend of Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija's ups and downs.

Plus Kelly Crull, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ defensive struggles this year compared to an historic 2016 and how Ian Happ fits into the Cubs’ lineup in both the short and long term.

Listen to the latest episode below:

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

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USA TODAY

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

Caleb Swanigan, unsurprisingly, is heading to the NBA.

Last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year announced Wednesday that he’ll pass up the final two seasons of his NCAA eligibility for a paying gig at the professional level, an awesome opportunity for a kid who battled obesity and homelessness to become one of the best basketball players in the country.

But Swanigan’s departure from West Lafayette means a heck of a lot to the Big Ten.

Without the league’s most dominant big man, what becomes of Purdue’s chances at winning a conference title? Similarly, with a weakened — though still strong — group of Boilermakers, what does the Big Ten race look like going into 2017-18?

First, Purdue. Matt Painter’s program is plenty healthy, and while there’s no doubt that losing Swanigan is a big deal, the Boilers got some really good news, too, Wednesday when Vincent Edwards announced he’ll be returning for his senior season. Seven-footer Isaac Haas also made the decision to return to West Lafayette, meaning the towering frontcourt hasn’t been completely decimated just because tha man called “Biggie” is gone.

Purdue will also return Carsen Edwards, who had an impressive freshman campaign, and Dakota Mathias, a terrific defender and 3-point shooter. Two more important pieces — P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — are back, as well. And Painter will welcome in freshman Nojel Eastern, a highly touted guard from Evanston.

So the Boilers are still in very good shape. There will be a big magnifying glass on Haas, who despite his physical attributes hasn’t always found consistent on-court success. But there have been plenty of flashes of brilliance from the big man. A big step forward in his game would go a long way in easing the blow of losing Swanigan and could keep Purdue as one of the frontrunners for a conference title.

That brings us to the Big Ten race. Ever since Miles Bridges, the conference’s reigning Freshman of the Year, announced he’d be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the Spartans have been the near-unanimous favorite. Only something like Swanigan deciding to stay at Purdue could’ve changed that. And with Swanigan expectedly heading to the NBA, Michigan State remains the preseason pick to win the conference crown.

Like any good year in the Big Ten, though, there will be challengers.

But Michigan State is the popular choice to win it because of Tom Izzo’s insane 2016 recruiting class is returning completely intact: Bridges, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford are all back. And Izzo brings in one of the top 2017 recruits in forward Jaren Jackson.

But Sparty isn’t the only one with an impressive returning group. Purdue’s experienced roster has already been covered. Northwestern, a surprise contender in 2016-17, should be even better as Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey enter their fourth year playing together. Dererk Pardon, a shot-blocking whiz at center, is also back, as is sharp-shooter Aaron Falzon, who sat out the 2016-17 season with an injury after starting during his freshman year in 2015-16.

There will be big shoes to fill for some perennial contenders like Maryland — which must replace Melo Trimble — and Michigan, which watched eligibility run out on Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin before D.J. Wilson decided to head to the professional ranks Wednesday. But those teams have plenty of talent returning, too. The Terps will have all three of their fab freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — back for sophomore seasons, while the Wolverines have Moe Wagner back in the fold alongside Xavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, among others.

And what of last year’s shocking contender, Minnesota? The Golden Gophers didn’t lose too much this offseason and will return almost every main player from last year’s 24-10 squad: Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry.

There are up-and-comers to think about, too, such as last year’s freshman-heavy squads at Iowa and Penn State. And could new head coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller make instant splashes at Illinois and Indiana, respectively?

If it sounds a little too much like the annual coach speak that “any team can win on any night” in the Big Ten, that’s because there is a good deal of truth to that oft-used phrase.

There are definitely tiers to this thing, though. Even without Swanigan, Purdue is still in one of those upper tiers. But there might be no team besides Michigan State at the very top of the heap, something underscored by Swanigan turning pro.