Chicago Cubs

Rivals overlooks Brown in Top 150

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Rivals overlooks Brown in Top 150

Hello, Rivals? are you paying attention?In its latest evaluation of the top 150 high school basketball players in the class of 2013, Rivals didn't rank Proviso East's Sterling Brown. In the wake of Brown's outstanding performance in the Class 4A finals, where by all accounts the 6-foot-4 junior outplayed everyone else on the floor, including Simeon's Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn, Rivals apparently wasn't impressed.Asked to explain its rationale for snubbing Brown, Rivals declined to respond. He likely will make a dramatic climb into the top 50 after Rivals "re-evaluates" the nation's top players during the spring and summer.Aside from that turnover, Rivals got it right. Parker is their choice as the No. 1 player in the class of 2013, agreeing with every other recruiting service on the planet. He ranks ahead of Andrew Harrison of Fort Bend, Texas, and Julius Randle of Plano, Texas.Other Illinois products on Rivals' elite list are Kendrick Nunn (22), Whitney Young's Thomas Hamilton (45), St. Charles East's Purdue-bound Kendall Stephens (50), Belleville East's Illinois-bound Malcolm Hill (52), Morgan Park's DePaul-bound Billy Garrett Jr. (75), East St. Louis' Deshawn Munson (96) and Simeon's Jaylon Tate (112).Don't forget Illinois-bound Jalen James (89), a native Chicagoan who attended Hope Academy for two years, then transferred to La Lumiere, a prep school in La Porte, Indiana.It would appear Rivals has some catching up to do. It has a history of not doing a very comprehensive job of covering Illinois in general, the Chicago area in particular.Local evaluators generally agreed that Hamilton and Stephens had disappointing junior years, Hamilton largely because he was injured for much of the season. De La Salle's Gabe Schilling and Alvin Ellis are rated ahead of Hamilton and Stephens in some up-to-date surveys.Rivals isn't alone on the up-tick. ESPN doesn't list Brown among its top 60 in the class of 2013 while rating Parker No. 1 and including Hamilton, Garrett, Hill and Nunn on its list."All the national sites like ESPN, Rivals and Scout are jokes," said recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye. "They don't know how to evaluate. They are all what we call 'big event' guys who rank kids only on how they play at big high-profile events."Last year, Brown wasn't that visible on the travel club and AAU circuits. So everyone is clueless. They do not and never go watch regular season games, only big tournaments which are often awful and set up like NBA all-star games."Guys like Dave Telep and Clark Francis are clueless. They are 'big event' or 'one game' guys. Rankings change by the hour. Scout is more concerned with who is in the building and schmoozing with college coaches. The fact that most college coaches fall for it tells you all you need to know about the product of college basketball and the scouting profession."How good is Brown? The Schmidt brothers predict that he will push the top 75 nationally. At the same time, they believe Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton, once a highly rated prospect, has slipped dramatically. "Not even a top 10 player in 2013, no more than a high mid-major prospect," they said.After attending a major AAU event in Minneapolis, in which Simeon's Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn stood out, they also were impressed with 6-foot-5 Kendall Pollard of Simeon and 6-foot-9 Sean O'Mara of Benet.

Anthony Rizzo, the greatest third baseman ever?

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo, the greatest third baseman ever?

Look out, Kris Bryant: Anthony Rizzo might be coming for you.

After Bryant suffered a left hand contusion in the top of the eighth inning during Tuesday's 13-9 win over Cincinnati, Joe Maddon shuffled his infield by moving Rizzo from first to third base for the first time in his career to replace the reigning NL MVP and it didn't take long for the Cubs to take advantage of the rare occurence on social media:

Pretty amazing that in one season he's been dubbed the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time and best third baseman ever.

Here's another cool fact:

Earlier this season, Rizzo became second-base eligible in ESPN and CBS Sports fantasy leagues because of a weird rule that allows him to switch positions with how the Cubs defend certain bunt situations. 

At this rate, he may become eligible for every infield position. Next up, shortstop?

Lucas Giolito's White Sox debut drew rave reviews

Lucas Giolito's White Sox debut drew rave reviews

Lucas Giolito’s first outing may not have netted the outcome the White Sox hoped for, but the look and feel was most definitely there.

The team’s sixth-ranked prospect showed just how much progress he’s made the over the entire season and in particular the last six weeks in his White Sox debut on Tuesday night.

Giolito was promoted from Triple-A Charlotte early Tuesday and looked poised and confident for six innings despite a heavy reliance on the fastball because his curve wasn’t where he wanted. While he yielded three home runs in a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins, Giolito and the White Sox liked what they saw.

“Excellent,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I thought it was a very positive outing.

“Lucas I thought threw the ball very, very well. Fastball was very good. He was using his breaking ball. He threw some that were a little short. But all and all, I thought his mound presence, his attack of the strike zone -- I don’t think he walked anybody, he threw a lot of strikes -- he looked very, very good to me. Very pleased.”

Once the top pitching prospect in baseball, Giolito had lost a little bit of the shine even by the time he was traded to the White Sox last December in the Adam Eaton deal. He struggled at times during a nomadic 2016 campaign with the Nationals -- he was moved seven times in all -- and saw a dip in fastball velocity as his mechanics got out of whack.

Though excited by the trade to the White Sox, Giolito admitted in spring training he wasn’t quite where he yet wanted to be. He struggled early this season at Triple-A Charlotte, posting a 5.40 ERA in his first 16 starts and often failed to pitch deep into games.

But along the way Giolito found his confidence, rediscovered his curveball and began to pitch more consistently. That was the pitcher the White Sox saw on Tuesday night, the one who despite not having his entire arsenal didn’t panic.

Working almost entirely with his fastball -- 69 of his 99 pitchers were four-seamers -- Giolito pitched at a quick pace and got into a rhythm. Giolito got 10 swings and misses, including eight with the fastball, and didn’t walk anyone.

“I felt relaxed,” Giolito said. “I felt confident the whole time.

“I feel like tonight I was able to control the game a lot better. Last year my time in the big leagues the game would speed up on me a lot. I’d walk a guy, give up a couple of base hits and start to kind of get out of control. Tonight, I felt under control, I was able to trust my stuff, it was just those mistakes.”

Giolito’s outing wasn’t perfect. He tried to go inside with fastballs three times and left them over the middle. Jorge Polanco blasted a game-tying solo homer off Giolito in the fourth, Kennys Vargas hit one off him in the fifth and Eddie Rosario hit a two-run, opposite-field shot in the sixth.

[MORE: White Sox may have discovered 'diamond in the rough' in Juan Minaya

But that he was effective enough to keep the White Sox in the game in spite of his offense, which blew bases-loaded opportunities in the second and third innings, and minus all of his pitches wasn’t lost on Omar Narvaez. Narvaez liked how Giolito competed and the way he spotted his fastball in and out, up and down.

“I think he’s going to be one of our best pitchers,” Narvaez said. “His fastball is kind of sneaky and he has a great changeup. He uses it whenever he wants to and he has a really, really good curveball.

“He made a lot of good pitches (with the fastball). Every time we worked behind he just came back with the fastball.”

Giolito threw his curveball 12 times and used the changeup 16. While he induced a few groundballs with his curve, Giolito wasn’t as effective in two-strike situations, spiking the pitch in front of the plate. Even so, Giolito felt good about what he accomplished and that’s great for the White Sox.

“I feel like I belong,” Giolito said. “I feel like my stuff plays. I’m happy I didn’t walk anyone tonight. I was able to command the fastball pretty well, but fastball-changeup was pretty much all I had. I wasn’t throwing the curveball as well as I would have liked, but I’m going to work on that for the next start and hopefully be able to command that pitch a little better.”