Oakland’s Addison Russell deemed AZL’s top prospect

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Shortstop Addison Russell, the 11th overall pick in the 2012 draft, beat out a couple of higher profile Cubs to be named the Arizona League’s No. 1 prospect by Baseball America on Monday.

Cubs outfielders did claim the second and fourth spots on the list, which ranked the top 20 prospects from the 13-team league. Albert Almora, the sixth overall pick in the draft, was ranked No. 2 after hitting .347/.363/.480 with one homer in his 18 games in Arizona. Cuban defector Jorge Soler was ranked fourth despite hitting .241/.328/.389 with two homers in his 14 games there. Soler looked better after moving up to the Midwest League, where he hit .338/.398/.513 in 20 games.

League MVP Joey Gallo, who was drafted by the Rangers 39th overall this year, claimed the third spot. The third baseman hit .293/.435/.733 with 18 homers in 43 games.

The 18-year-old Russell hit .415/.488/.717 with six homers and nine steals in his 26 games in Arizona. There’s some skepticism about whether he’ll remain at short or require a move to third, but the A’s have to be thrilled with the way he hit in his introduction to the pros. He’ll probably open next year in low-A ball in the Midwest League.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.