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Miami Marlins Series Preview: Marlins Visit Windy City, Chicago Cubs

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Jun 30, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) celebrates with Starlin Castro (13) after defeating the New York Mets at Citi Field. The Cubs defeated the Mets 1 – 0. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Marlin Maniac: Joe Maddon and Jon Lester were obviously the Cubs biggest offseason moves. How have they panned out early on in Chicago? Has your perception of either changed watching them close up as opposed to from afar?

Jacob Misener: Lester hasn’t pitched well consistently, but as we saw in his last start (seven shutout innings) – he’s more than capable of being the ace the team hoped for when they threw $155 million at him last winter.

Maddon is still working with the team, as a whole. However, his quirky approach was on full-display this week when he brought in a professional magician to lighten the mood after the team lost five-straight.

Oh, and it worked. Chicago has since run off three-straight wins, sweeping the seven-game season series from the Mets.

MM: Obviously the youth movement has hit Chicago with a bounty of top hitting prospects hitting the city. How have Kris Bryant and company done so far? What is the ceiling for this team offensively?

JM: Bryant and Russell have cooled of late, but both still have tremendously high ceilings.

Russell is known more for his defensive work (with good reason), but Bryant could very well be an annual 40-homer guy in the heart of the Chicago order for the rest of the decade.

With youth comes ups-and-downs. But make no mistake, the talent is there and these two are too well-rounded to be kept down for long.

MM: Are the Cubs going to be buyers at the trade deadline? If so, what are they specifically targeting? Is Starlin Castro on the block?

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JM: Chicago has been tied to starting pitching. The Cole Hamels rumors continue to swirl, but someone more like Scott Kazmir appears more likely.

The back end of the rotation has not been good this season and addressing that, and perhaps adding some depth in the bullpen will be the team’s focus this summer and this offseason.

Castro, like most players on the roster not named Bryant, Rizzo, Russell or Lester, is available for the right price. But given he’s been solid again this season and he’s on a team-friendly deal, the asking price no-doubt remains high.

MM: Do you think the Cubs make the post-season this year?

JM: If Chicago makes the postseason, it’s as a Wild Card team.

I love the Cubs. I’m a diehard fan. But I’m realistic. What we’re witnessing in St. Louis is history. Mike Matheny‘s team is on-pace for 107 wins this year and, simply put, the Cubs aren’t that good.

They’ll win 85, 86 games. But it’ll come down to staying competitive against division rivals like Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Do that, and we’ll see you in the playoffs.

MM: How did the Cubs do in the draft last month and how did the first day of the International Signing go for the club. Is the farm system still in good shape after all the recent promotions?

JM: Chicago landed five of the top 30 prospects in the first day of the international signing period – and, as we’ve seen, this organization is quite adept at adding global talent (Jorge Soler, etc).

In terms of the farm system, there’s still plenty to love: right-hander C.J. Edwards, the Cubs’ only top 10 prospect who is not a position player, Kyle Schwarber, Billy McKinney and Dan Vogelbach, to name a few.

Also, keep an eye on Eloy Jimenez, who could very well steal the show in the years to come.

Next: Pitching Matchups and Predictions