Anthony Rizzo is recovering from a knee bruise (which the Cubs have said is not serious), so he didn’t play yesterday, but he currently sports an otherworldly .367/.426/.747 line in his 60 AAA games this year. That, sitting on top of his .331/.404/.652 line last year, and his young age – 22 – gives fans a reason to be excited about the future bat he might become with the big team in the near future.
And Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein says that the “near future” is coming soon.
“We do like our players if at all possible to get a full season of at-bats at the Triple-A level,” Epstein said Wednesday on ‘The Waddle & Silvy Show.’ “And by full season I really mean 162 games because that’s what they are going to face at the big-league level where the season is six months long instead of five months in the minor leagues. He’s getting there. He’s getting real close to having that full season under his belt.
“People might look at the numbers and think this guy is a natural great hitter,” Epstein added. “He’s got a little bit of a higher maintenance load in his swing where he tinkers with his hands sometimes. He’s done a really nice job of finding a comfortable hand position and found some rhythm to his load that he’s able to repeat on a consistent basis.
“His mental approach is outstanding as well, kind of taking a day-to-day routine with him to the ballpark which is something he’ll need when he gets up to the big leagues because slumps, especially for young players, are inevitable at the big-league level. I’m proud of all the progress he’s made, and he’s getting real close to being ready.”
We’ve all assumed that, if Rizzo is healthy, he was going to be up around the end of June or the beginning of July. Just long enough to ensure that the Cubs will have one more year of control before he reaches free agency six years down the road.
But not everyone is convinced that, when Rizzo finally does come, he’ll be able to keep hitting so well (to be fair, no one expects him to put up an 1.100+ OPS in the bigs).
A rival scout who’s seen Rizzo play a number of times this year says that his gaudy numbers are something of a mirage.
“I’m not totally convinced yet,” the scout told Danny Knobler. “He feasts on bad pitching. He might just be an average [hitting] first baseman …. He really does a good job of hitting the weaker pitching.”
It won’t be long before we see for ourselves, but it is indeed possible that Rizzo will struggle at first when he gets his second bite at the bigs. Whether he’ll be an above average bat or merely an average hitting first baseman remains to be seen.