When new ownership shook up the organization, they hired Red Sox architect Theo Epstein away from Boston and initiated one of the largest youth movements since the baby boom. They are built for the long haul with a supremely talented group of younger players and are led on the field by one of the game's greatest modern tacticians: Joe Maddon.
Here are some of the key young players you need to keep an eye on this weekend:
Anthony Rizzo - 25 - 1B
Ok, so he’s not young or recently called up. Now on his fifth season at the major league level he’s basically the team’s resident advisor.
Under Epstein, the Red Sox drafted Rizzo out of high school but traded him to San Diego in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez. After Epstein moved to the Cubs, he re-acquired Rizzo in 2012 and he has entrenched himself at Wrigley as the starting first baseman and elder statesmen of the team. He gets on base a lot and plenty of that has to do with taking one for the team. Between this year and last, Rizzo has been hit by the pitch 29 times, the most in baseball. He has also shown some impressive power even if it is with some unorthodox swings.
Kris Bryant - 23 - 3B
Selected two spots in front of the Twins’ Kohl Stewart in the first round of the 2013 draft, Bryant quickly made a name for himself by hitting 43 home runs split between two levels in 2014. After the controversy over the service time when the Cubs kept him in Iowa for the first few weeks of the season, Bryant arrived and has hit .295/.398/.488 with eight home runs including this moonshot that traveled 477 feet according to StatCast -- tied for 5th furthest hit ball all year.
Kyle Schwarber - 22 - C/DH
Selected by the Cubs in the first round of the 2014 draft, one slot ahead of the Twins’ Nick Gordon, this Indiana University product ascended Chicago’s system quickly. Loaded with power, Schwarber led the Southern League this year in slugging percentage just ahead of Minnesota’s Adam Brett Walker and Max Kepler. Reportedly a bat with power to all fields, the young catcher had that on display in Cleveland on Thursday when he hit his first major league home run.
Addison Russell - 21 - 2B
Acquired for Jeff Samardjiza trade with Oakland, Russell was a former 11th overall pick in 2012 -- the same year as Byron Buxton -- and was summoned to the bigs in late April. Russell has packed some punch with his bat and has been above average so far but his glove has been critically important at the up-the-middle slot. According to BillJamesOnline.net, Russell has been worth +8 runs in the field, the third best among all second basemen.
For the Cubs, the future isn’t some distant, future-Delorean away, it’s now. That is why they are aggressively promoting their top talent in order to compete in the competitive NL Central. Fortunately for you, you can head on down to Target Field this weekend to watch some of these top athletes at work.