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Before they were postseason bound: Cubs

September 26, 2017

Here is everything you need to know about the National League Central champion Cubs, who are returning to the postseason after winning the World Series in 2016.Albert Almora Jr., CF Born: Hialeah, Fla. DOB: 4/16/1994 HS: Mater Academy Charter School (Fla.) Minors: AZL Cubs (R), Boise (A-), AZFL Mesa (Fall

Here is everything you need to know about the National League Central champion Cubs, who are returning to the postseason after winning the World Series in 2016.
Albert Almora Jr., CF
Born: Hialeah, Fla.
DOB: 4/16/1994
HS: Mater Academy Charter School (Fla.)
Minors: AZL Cubs (R), Boise (A-), AZFL Mesa (Fall League), Kane County (A), Daytona (A+), Tennessee (AA), Iowa (AAA)
• Almora's father, Albert Sr., played baseball in Cuba before he defected with his family to the United States. Albert Jr. began playing baseball with his father when he was 3 years old, after watching a local baseball game and wanting to start playing himself. Albert Sr. built a training facility in the family's backyard where his son trained from age 4 to 15
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Jacob Arrieta, RHP
Born: Farmington, Mo.
DOB: 3/6/1986
HS: Plano East High School (Texas)
College: Texas Christian University
Minors: AZFL Phoenix (R), Frederick (A+), Bowie (AA), Norfolk (AAA)
• Arrieta's 1.77 ERA in his 2015 National League Cy Young Award season was the lowest by a Cubs qualifying starting pitcher in 96 years, dating to Pete Alexander's 1.72 in 1919. Before etching his name in the Cubs history books, he was a member of the U.S. National Team at the 2006 FISU World Championships in Havana. There, he was the No. 2 starter behind fellow future Cy Young Award winner David Price.
Alex Avila, C
Born: Hialeah, Fla.
DOB: 1/29/1987
HS: Archbishop McCarthy High School (Fla.)
College: University of Alabama
Minors: West Michigan (A), Eerie (AA)
• Avila's father, Al, is the executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager of the Tigers. Avila's godfather is former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.
Javier Baez, 2B/SS/3B
Born: Bayamon, Puerto Rico
DOB: 12/1/1992
HS: Arlington Country Day School (Fla.)
Minors: AZL Cubs (R), Boise (A-), AZFL Mesa (Fall League), Peoria (A), Daytona (A+), Tennessee (AA), Iowa (AAA)
• Symbolic of his exciting style of play, Baez stole home during Game 1 of the 2016 NL Championship Series against the Dodgers, becoming the first Cubs player to steal home in a postseason game since Jimmy Slagle in 1907. Baez was named co-MVP of the NLCS, along with left-hander Jonathan Lester.
Kristopher Bryant, 3B
Born: Las Vegas
DOB: 1/4/1992
HS: Bonanza High School (Nev.)
College: University of San Diego
Minors: AZL Cubs (R), AZFL Mesa (Fall League), Boise (A-), Daytona (A+), Tennessee (AA), Iowa (AAA)
• Bryant was selected second overall in the 2013 Draft by the Cubs. The Astros actually had a shot to draft him that year, with the first overall pick. Houston selected right-hander Mark Appel, who is now in the Phillies organization, has not appeared in a Major League game and has a 5.06 ERA in five Minor League seasons. Bryant, meanwhile, was the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and the 2016 NL MVP, making the final play of the 2016 World Series at third base.
Willson Contreras, C
Born: Puerto Cabello, Venezuela
DOB: 5/13/1992
Minors: Boise (A-), Kane County (A), Daytona (A+), AZFL Mesa (Fall League), Tennessee (AA)
• While in the Cubs' farm system, Contreras played every position on the field except for shortstop, center field and pitcher. In his first Major League at-bat, on June 19, 2016, Contreras homered on the first pitch he saw from Pirates reliever A.J. Schugel.
Wade Davis, RHP
Born: Lake Wales, Fla.
DOB: 9/7/1985
HS: Lake Wales High School
Minors: Appalachian League Princeton (R), Hudson Valley (A-), Southwest Michigan (A), Vero Beach (A+), Montgomery (AA), Durham (AAA)
• Davis is the second cousin of former All-Star catcher Jody Davis, who also played for the Cubs, from 1981-88. Davis himself has been an All-Star each of the past three seasons, including 2015-16 with the Royals.
Brian Duensing, LHP
Born: Marysville, Kan.
DOB: 2/22/1983
HS: Millard South High School (Neb.)
College: University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Minors: Appalachian League Elizabethton (R), Beloit (A), Fort Myers (A+), New Britain (AA), Rochester (AAA)
• Duensing was teammates with Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, and former Major League pitcher Joba Chamberlain, at the University of Nebraska. He helped Nebraska reach the College World Series in 2002 and '05.
C.J. Edwards, RHP
Born: Newberry, S.C.
DOB: 9/3/1991
HS: Mid-Carolina High School (S.C.)
Minors: AZL Rangers (R), AZFL Mesa (Fall League), Spokane (A-), Hickory (A), Daytona (A+), Tennessee (AA), Iowa (AAA)
• Edwards wasn't highly acclaimed out of high school, and according to Columbia, S.C.'s The State newspaper, decided solely based on his friendship with Will Bedenbaugh (his catcher in high school who was playing at Charleston Southern University) to go to Charleston Southern. But Bedenbaugh tragically died in a car accident in December 2010. That's when Edwards decided to pursue professional baseball. He was drafted in the 48th round of the 2011 Draft by the Rangers before being traded to the Cubs, for whom he posted a 2.84 ERA in the 2016 postseason.
Justin Grimm, RHP
Born: Bristol, Tenn.
DOB: 8/16/1988
HS: Virginia High School (Bristol, Va.)
College: University of Georgia
Minors: Hickory (A), Myrtle Beach (A+), Frisco (AA), Round Rock (AAA), Iowa (AAA)
• Grimm became the 68th pitcher in MLB history to record four strikeouts in a single inning, achieving the feat on Aug. 29, 2014, against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. In the ninth inning, he struck out Oscar Taveras looking, Daniel Descalso swinging (wild pitch resulted in Descalso reaching first base), Matt Carpenter swinging and Kolten Wong looking.
Ian Happ, 2B/OF
Born: Pittsburgh
DOB: 8/12/1994
HS: Mt. Lebanon High School (Pa.)
College: University of Cincinnati
Minors: Eugene (A-), South Bend (A), AZFL Mesa (Fall League), Myrtle Beach (A+), Tennessee (AA), Iowa (AAA)
• Happ is one of two active Major League players to come out of the University of Cincinnati; the other is the Pirates' Josh Harrison.
Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Born: Newport Beach, Calif.
DOB: 12/7/1989
HS: Capistrano Valley High School (Calif.)
College: Dartmouth College (N.H.)
Minors: Spokane (A-), Daytona (A+), Myrtle Beach (A+), Frisco (AA), Tennessee (AA), Iowa (AAA)
• Hendricks, the MLB ERA champion in 2016 (2.13), attended Dartmouth College, an Ivy League school also attended by former big league catcher and Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. 
Jason Heyward, RF
Born: Ridgewood, N.J.
DOB: 8/9/1989
HS: Henry County High School (Ga.)
Minors: Gulf Coast League Braves (R), Appalachian League Danville (R), Rome (A), AZFL Peoria Saguaros (Fall League), Myrtle Beach (A+), Mississippi (AA), Gwinnett (AAA)
• Heyward and Giants catcher Buster Posey, who finished second and first, respectively, in the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year voting, faced off in the 2005 Georgia Class AAAA state championship game. Heyward and Posey both homered in Game 2 of that series; Heyward hit a three-run homer that traveled 400 feet in the sixth inning to tie it, and Posey hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh. Heyward's Henry County High School beat Posey's Lee County High School in the best-of-three series. Heyward's younger brother, Jacob, was drafted by the Giants in 2016, and just finished his first season at Class A Augusta.
Jonathan Jay, OF
Born: Miami
DOB: 3/15/1985
HS: Christopher Columbus High School (Fla.)
College: University of Miami
Minors: Quad Cities (A), Gulf Coast League Cardinals (R), Palm Beach (A+), Springfield (AA), Memphis (AAA)
• Jay played for Tony La Russa from 2010-11 while La Russa was in his final two seasons as Cardinals manager. La Russa has a law degree from Florida State University, and Jay shares a name very similar (only the first name is spelled differently) to the United States' first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay. Under La Russa, Jay and the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series over the Rangers.
John Lackey, RHP
Born: Abilene, Texas
DOB: 10/23/1978
HS: Abilene High School (Texas)
College: Grayson County College (Texas), University of Texas at Arlington
Minors: Boise (A-), Cedar Rapids (A), Lake Elsinore (A+), Arkansas (AA), Salt Lake (AAA)
• There are only two active pitchers that have thrown more innings than John Lackey's 2,833 1/3 (as of Sept. 26): Carsten Sabathia (3,311 1/3) and Bartolo Colon (3,308).
Thomas La Stella, 2B/3B
Born: Westwood, N.J.
DOB: 1/31/1989
HS: St. Joseph Regional High School (N.J.)
College: Coastal Carolina University (S.C.)
Minors: Rome (A), Gulf Coast League Braves (R), Lynchburg (A+), AZFL Scottsdale (Fall League), Mississippi (AA), Gwinnett (AAA)
• La Stella's alma mater, Coastal Carolina, faced teammate Jake Arrieta's TCU Horned Frogs in the College World Series last year, and the two made a bet as to which team would win. After Coastal Carolina defeated TCU, Arrieta tweeted a picture of him keeping his word by getting a tattoo that read "CCU '16 champs."
Jonathan Lester, LHP
Born: Tacoma, Wash.
DOB: 1/7/1984
HS: Bellarmine High School (Wash.)
Minors: Gulf Coast League Red Sox (R), Augusta (A), Sarasota (A+), Portland (AA), Pawtucket (AAA)
• Lester overcame a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cancer, which he was diagnosed with at age 22. He is a wine aficionado, and together with former teammate Clay Buchholz, released a wine label through Longball Cellars to benefit charities in 2011. One-hundred percent of the proceeds from Lester's "CabernAce" wine went to the Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Leonys Martin, CF
Born: Villa Clara, Cuba
DOB: 3/6/1988
Minors: AZL Rangers (R), Frisco (AA), Round Rock (AAA)
• Two of Martin's 38 career home runs came against pitchers who are now teammates of his on the Cubs, and they both came within about a month of each other in 2015: On May 19 of that season, Martin homered off Koji Uehara when Uehara was with the Red Sox, and on June 21, Martin hit a solo shot off White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana.
Mike Montgomery, LHP
Born: Mission Hills, Calif.
DOB: 7/1/1989
HS: William S. Hart High School (Calif.)
Minors: AZL Royals (R), Burlington (A), Wilmington (A+), Northwest Arkansas (AA), Omaha (AAA), Durham (AAA), Tacoma (AAA)
• Entering the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field, Montgomery did not have a single save in his career (204 innings pitched). He faced one batter, Michael Martinez, whom he got to ground out to third to complete the Cubs' victory and clinch the franchise's first World Series championship in 108 years.
Jose Quintana, LHP
Born: Arjona, Colombia
DOB: 1/24/1989
Minors: Gulf Coast League Yankees (R), Charleston (A), Tampa (A+), Birmingham (AA)
• Quintana made 33 starts for the White Sox in 2013 and received only 16 decisions, with a record of 9-7. He and the Rays' Jake Odorizzi (2016) are the only pitchers in baseball history since 1913 to make 33 starts in a season and receive fewer than 17 decisions.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Born: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
DOB: 8/8/1989
HS: Stoneman-Douglas High School (Fla.)
Minors: Gulf Coast League Red Sox (R), Greenville (A), Salem (A+), Portland (AA), Tucson (AAA), Iowa (AAA)
• Rizzo, who crowds the plate with his stance when hitting, has been hit by a pitch 97 times in his career, sixth most among active players. Only Chase Utley (198), Rickie Weeks Jr. (134), Matthew Holliday (124), Shin-Soo Choo (122) and Jose Pujols (102) have more. All of them have played at least six more seasons than Rizzo.
Hector Rondon, RHP
Born: Guatire, Venezuela
DOB: 2/26/1988
Minors: Gulf Coast League Indians (R), Lake County (A), Kinston (A+), Akron (AA), Columbus (AAA)
• The Indians signed Rondon as an undrafted free agent in 2004, when he was just 16 years old. The Cubs selected him from the Indians in the 2012 Rule 5 Draft. Despite growing up as a third baseman, he was converted to a pitcher as a professional, and has posted a career 3.24 ERA and 77 saves for Chicago over five seasons.
Addison Russell, SS/2B
Born: Pensacola, Fla.
DOB: 1/23/1994
HS: Pace High School (Fla.)
Minors: AZL Athletics (R), Vermont (A-), Burlington (A), AZFL Mesa (Fall League), Stockton (A+), Midland (AA), Tennessee (AA), Iowa (AAA)
• Russell was a running back for his high school football team, and actually thought football was his stronger sport before deciding to play baseball exclusively. The player he was part of a 2014 trade package for when he was acquired by the Cubs from the A's -- right-hander Jeff Samardzija -- was a wide receiver at Notre Dame.
Kyle Schwarber, LF
Born: Middletown, Ohio
DOB: 3/5/1993
HS: Middletown High School (Ohio)
College: Indiana University
Minors: Boise (A-), Kane County (A), Daytona (A+), Tennessee (AA), Iowa (AAA)
• During the 2015 NLDS against the Cardinals, Schwarber crushed a home run that landed on top of the new Wrigley Field scoreboard in right field. The ball was later encased in Plexiglass and still resides on top of the scoreboard today. In that postseason, Schwarber hit five home runs, setting a new Cubs career postseason home run record.
Pedro Strop, RHP
Born: San Cristobal, Dominican Republic
DOB: 6/13/1985
Minors: Pioneer League Casper (R), Asheville (A), Modesto (A+), Tulsa (AA), Frisco (AA), Oklahoma City (AAA), Round Rock (AAA)
• Strop was originally signed by the Rockies as a shortstop. But he hit just .208 in Colorado's farm system before being released in 2008. The Rangers then signed him and converted him to a pitcher. In nine Major League seasons as a reliever, he has a 3.19 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.
Koji Uehara, RHP
Born: Osaka, Japan
DOB: 4/3/1975
HS: Tokai University Gyosei (Osaka)
College: Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences
Minors: Bowie (AA), Norfolk (AAA)
• Uehara owns the MLB record for lowest WHIP in a single season for a pitcher throwing more than 50 innings, at 0.57 in 2013. That eclipsed Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley's 0.61 for the A's in 1989.
Justin Wilson, LHP
Born: Anaheim
DOB: 8/18/1987
HS: Dr. Floyd B. Buchanan High School (Calif.)
College: Cal State Fresno
Minors: AZFL Mesa (Fall League), Lynchburg (A+), Altoona (AA), Indianapolis (AAA)
• In 2012, while with Triple-A Indianapolis in the Pirates' farm system, Wilson tossed the first 7 1/3 innings of a combined no-hitter on April 29 against Durham, and then eight no-hit innings in a rain-shortened game on Aug. 9 against Charlotte.
Rob Zastryzny, LHP
Born: Edmonton, Canada
DOB: 3/26/1992
HS: Calallen High School (Texas)
College: University of Missouri
Minors: Boise (A-), Kane County (A), Daytona (A+), AZL Cubs (R), Tennessee (AA), Iowa (AAA)
• Zastryzny's nickname of "Friday" originated when he became the University of Missouri's Friday night starting pitcher midway through his freshman year in 2011. As a junior in 2013, he helped lead Missouri to a Big 12 tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Tucson Regional.
Benjamin Zobrist, INF/OF
Born: Eureka, Ill.
DOB: 5/26/1981
HS: Eureka High School (Ill.)
College: Dallas Baptist University, Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.)
Minors: Tri-City (A-), Lexington (A), Salem (A+), AZFL Phoenix (Fall League), Corpus Christi (AA), Durham (AAA)
• When he wasn't recruited by college or pro scouts out of high school, Zobrist thought his baseball career was over, according to the Tampa Bay Times. But his high school coach encouraged him to participate in a nearby showcase event for college recruiters. Zobrist paid the $50 fee to attend, and ended up getting a scholarship to play at Olivet Nazarene. Had he not gone to that event, he said he would have pursued a career as a Christian youth minister.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.