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Anthony Rizzo picked a really crummy time and place to obliterate AAA pitching.

The tidal wave of excitement surrounding Rizzo’s promotion is the product of many things, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with how reasonable minds believe he’ll perform this year at the big league level.

Rizzo was brought to the Cubs, essentially, in exchange for a very popular former first-round pick, Andrew Cashner. He was the first major acquisition by the new braintrust of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, and his arrival was even more heralded since they were the guys who’d drafted him in the first place. Indeed, Hoyer had already acquired Rizzo once before. Clearly they loved this kid, and we loved them, so Rizzo was massively hyped before he’d even played a game for the Iowa Cubs.

You pile on top of that his absurdly good performance at AAA this year, the big team’s crappy season, and the long wait for the Rizzo promotion, and you’ve got a cauldron bubbling full of unreasonable expectations, ponderous hopes, and eye of newt.

I guess what I’m trying to say: pull it back, baby.

Even if Rizzo comes up and dominates, the 2012 Cubs are still going to lose a ton of games, and will, at times, be hard to watch. Rizzo’s arrival won’t change that. I’ll spare you the drama in saying things like “he’s not a savior,” because I suspect you’re smart enough to know that this season is beyond saving. But you’re going to have to remind yourself of this concept each time the Cubs lose a 10-2 clunker, and Rizzo goes 0 for 4.

Further, we have to keep in mind that Rizzo, right now, is just a prospect. He probably won’t come up and dominate.

Rizzo is a legitimately awesome prospect, but the history books are littered with legitimately awesome prospects who never reached their full potential in the big leagues (those books grew by scores in the Internet era). Even everyone’s greatest (realistic) hopes are realized, Rizzo will become a multiple-time All-Star, not a multiple-time MVP. If you told me today that Rizzo would put up a .280/.350/.525 line over the next eight years with the Cubs, I’d take it. He could do a little better, he could do a little worse, but that’s probably where you’re best served setting your hopes.

But you can, of course, be excited about Rizzo’s arrival. He is, indeed, one of the more exciting prospects to show up on the big club in a while, and sports fandom is about enjoying your team. It’s totally fair to enjoy “Anthony Rizzo Day.” (RizzOMG!)

And he really has obliterated AAA pitching. In 69 games this year at AAA Iowa, he was hitting .345/.408/.702 with 23 homers, 18 doubles, and 62 RBI. In 93 games at AAA last year, he hit .331/.404/.652 with 26 homers, 34 doubles, and 101 RBI. Combine those raw numbers, and you get 162 games at AAA, during which Rizzo hit 49 homers, 42 doubles, and drove in 163, all while OPSing over 1.050. Those aren’t just good numbers for a minor leaguer, good numbers for a first baseman, or good numbers for the PCL. They’re just flat out, ridiculously good numbers.

Did I mention that he was just 21 and 22 when he was doing that? That made him one of the youngest players in the league he was destroying. (I’m told he’s pretty slick with the glove, too.)

On that basis, the hype and expectations are deserved. Still, adjustment to the big leagues takes time, and he isn’t going to carry this team on his own this or any future year.

It will be fun to watch his progress, so long as you appropriately guard your expectations. The season is long, and Rizzo is young. He could immediately blow up and kill it the first week. Or, he could struggle, and look overmatched. In either case, you’ll have to remind yourself of the small sample size, and of the progress arc of a 22-year-old prospect.

I hope he reminds himself of that fact, too, as he’s swarmed by the media, or as he strikes out on an Aroldis Chapman fastball.

Keep your heart safe by remembering that Rizzo’s best years may yet be far ahead of him, and we’re still just watching him develop. Here’s hoping his development tracks that of the Cubs, and that his best years align with theirs.

  • ColoCubFan

    I think the Cub’s lousy record and low expectations will be a real boon to Rizzo. No real pressure to elevate a team from mediocre to playoff contention.

  • Todd

    Im still trying to get over the headline. I really thought he could fly.

    • Packman711

      Flying is reserved for undersized/overhearted outfielders named Tony.

      • Featherstone

        You forgot scrappy, can’t forget/underestimate the scrappiness.

    • Toby

      or retroactively save the Titanic.

    • Leroy K.

      Just cause Brett says he can’t fly….

    • MXB

      He does not fly, but the world moves out of his way
      He does not shoot lasers from his eyes, light concentrates looking at him
      He will not retroactively save the Titanic, because the Titanic did not ask for his permission to sink.

      Anthony Rizzo, the most interesting Cub in the world!

      • MichiganGoat

        Hold on there is only one man that has those powers… DICK TIDROW is now looking at you.

        • MXB

          LOL! DICK TIDROW! haven’t read or heard that name in probably 20+ years. Dennis Eckersley’s got nothin’ on Dick Tidrow

          • TWC

            Uh, you new around here, MXB?

            • MXB

              found this site around the beginning of the season, but only recently been following daily. Hats off to Brett, Luke and the regulars as this has become my favorite site for Cubs information.

              • TWC

                I’m pullin’ your leg.  Dick Tidrow is le-gen-wait for it-DARY in these parts.

                Check it:  http://bit.ly/MYtuE6

              • MichiganGoat

                Dick Tidrow is our Chuck Norris… and yes he does have you in his site!

  • Wilbur

    “… the history books are littered with legitimately awesome prospects who never reached their full potential in the big leagues …”

    My kids hate when I do this, but it’s just me being me. Isn’t it really that its about prospects who reached their full potential, that fact was their full potential was woefully below what everyone thought if would be.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      In some ways, that’s six of one, half dozen of the other. But, no, I think those are sort of two separate issues. Since we’re all cut from the same physical cloth, I’m thinking that the elite athletes, theoretically, tend to have “potential” close to what the scouts say they do. They don’t reach it for any number of reasons (and they may have had only a tiny chance of ever reaching that potential, because it would have required every single little break to go their way).

      • hansman1982

        I always thought the expression was 6 to one, half-a-dozen to another. Then again, I would expect nothing less from a rat-fink-commie who capitalizes summer willy-nilly.

        • Drew7

          I believe its ” 6 in one, a 1/2 dozen in the other”

          • hansman1982

            I always thought the expression was similar to potato, potatoe – as in, you are saying it one way, I am saying it another way but in reality we are saying the same thing.

            • Drew7

              NO! Your way is wrong!

              oh…and fire Sveum!

      • Wilbur

        Understood, and you’re initial point is valid and appreciated.

      • ColoCubFan

        Here’s an example of the difference. Gary Scott (Mr. future 3rd baseman for the next X years) reached his potential, it just wasn’t very good. Josh Hamilton didn’t reach his potential until he got off the drugs and booze.

  • CBP

    So your saying Brett, that Rizzo is not coming out of a space ship like Michael Jordan in SpaceJam

    • Gabriel

      I don’t think he said that specifically…

      Which means that actually, Rizzo is doing EXACTLY that

      • hansman1982

        the plan is to have Rizzo be announced by having the mound slide back to reveal rizzo rising from the ground as beams of light stream from the heavens, birds flutter about and babies sing his praises.

  • True(ly) Blue

    Cross your fingers, your eyes and anything else that you can and hope that the expectations of all of us rabid Cub fans don’t overwhelm Rizzo. He could be everything Cub fans hope for or he could be a 4A player like LaHair looks to be. Hope springs eternal, eh?

  • ETS

    I hope that getting a taste of big league action last year helps him transition this year.

  • James

    But can he walk on water?

    • DocPeterWimsey

      We’d rather he walk on Ball Four….

  • Steve

    I’m afraid I’m going to pee my pants.

  • BD

    I knew what Brett was getting at with this article, and whole-heartedly agree.

    But that “eye of newt” really got me laughing (enough that some co-workers looked over to see what was going on). LOL

  • thejackal

    love the article brett and its so true however i do hope he kills it up here even if it doesnt help the cubs win itll be good to see him get off to a starlin castro start

  • Puma0821

    I’m pretty sure he’s going to break Bonds’ homerun record…THIS YEAR!

    • cubs217

      I assume you mean the career record, otherwise I think your expectations are too low

  • Vladimir

    I’ve died down my hype a little and successfully tempered my expectations. I now feel he’ll only go .350/.450/.700/.1.150OPS 44HR and 123RBI the rest of the season. :)

  • Dan

    Alot will be riding on Rizzo. There’s going to be immense pressure on this kid. Hopefully he finds a happy place cause he may get eaten up by the Chicago media if he does poorly. Let’s all be patient with Rizzo and give him a break for awhile.

  • Leroy K.
  • Kyle

    Scouts say he should be an above-average starter: solid bat and solid defense. Statistical analysis makes him look like an unholy stud capable of being the next Votto.

    I’ll settle for splitting the difference.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Oh, yes. Very, very, very.

    • hansman1982

      hey now, no room on this boat for realistic expectations – NO RIZZO FOR YOU!

      Edit: So you are basically saying a realistic ceiling is Deroick Leigh? (Misspelled intentionally because I can’t get it right anyway and I am too lazy to look it up)

  • EQ76

    I agree that we need to be realistic and not expect him to give us the moon, however we also need to understand that there is a good possibility that he becomes a hall of fame caliber player..

    there’s also a ton of examples of big time prospects that come up and turn into superstars. I’m not going to dismiss that from happening.. I’m just simply trying to stay grounded and not going to not get my hopes up. either way, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

  • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    I have seen Rizzo sink the Titanic, so that in itself is misleading. He did it while delivering a baby. He is just the man.

  • TonyP

    higher ceiling Rizzo or Castro?

     

    • Kyle

      Castro, AINEC

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      In terms of pure, offensive performance? Close. Might be Rizzo.

      In terms of overall value? Castro by a mile.

      • Featherstone

        That actually gets me wondering, If the stars align and Castro has a ceiling-reaching season. What kind of WAR would that be? 8?

        • Kyle

          Robin Yount, 1982:

          331/372/578, +8 defender at SS, 10.5 fWAR

          • Featherstone

            *whistles* That is one hell of a season. While I can definitely see the first 2 numbers of the triple slash, ( I can see Castro competing for a batting title in the near future) Do you really think he can slug 578?

            • Kyle

              In a single, peak season? Sure.

              • Drew7

                I agree, Kyle.

                Im still impressed that he’s able to slug what he does now @ 22. Its definitely not out of the question for him to have a couple peak seasons over .500

      • Featherstone

        Also, just finished reading the chat with Bruce Levine and he said that he thinks that Castro while being a good defender, will consistently average 15-20 errors per season. Maybe im just being an optimist but I dont think that will be the case, what do you guys think?

        • rcleven

          Mr Levine is pretty funny. The mention of a good defender and 15-20 errors in the same season makes me think he is confused.

          • hansman1982

            Errors are not the end all be all of defensive rating, are those errors coming on tough plays that an average fielder will make most of the time anyway or on plays where only a couple defenders in the league are getting to the ball?

            • Cubs Dude

              Most of the errors I have seen Castro make are on the routine play. Now he does get to a lot more balls than the average ss does, but I don’t think he is making errors on those tougher plays very often. Regardless, people just look at his mistakes and tend to forget about all the web gems he makes. In my opinion if he can cut it down to 15 errors a year he will be gold glove caliber.

              • hansman1982

                He seems to have problems concentrating and with his throwing mechanics. Both of which also seem to be improving.

                • Cubs Dude

                  I agree with that Hansman. The whole problem with Castro is when he makes an error he usually looks ridiculous in doing so.

              • Drew7

                In case you were wondering, Jackson is 0-4 with 3 K’s…Figured you want to know ;)

                • Cubs Dude

                  Ha… I am done protecting BJax on here. If everyone else is saying he’s gonna suck there must be something to it. Other than the k’s he’s just such a likeable player. Damn those strikeouts..

                  • Drew7

                    Don’t do that. I do the same thing, but hes been making pretty damn hard to do lately…

              • rcleven

                It also opens up another can of worms. I seem to have a problem with the official scorer. I see a play one way and the OS sees it in a different light.
                ie: Mather booted a ball when Garza pitched the other night. OS called it a base hit when it was clearly an error leading Garza to be charged with a earned run later in the inning.

  • Quintz

    It took Pujols like a month to hit a home run this season. There is a tiny chance he will struggle with big league pitching (again)……………lack of sarcasm font angers me.

    • Leroy K.

      you have to use italics

      • Quintz

        What if I’m being sarcastic about a book title?

        • Leroy K.

          well then we’re in trouble!

        • TWC

          Holy crap, that’s funny.

          • hansman1982

            and only possible on BN

            • MichiganGoat

              That’s why I love this place

        • HawkClone

          I have been following this site for a little over 6 months and think it is by far the most informative, entertaining, and overall best site for Cubs fans that exists. So kudos to Brett, you are truly the cat’s pajamas.

          Now that I have that out of the way, that comment just made me laugh so loud at work that everyone here now knows this is all I do all afternoon.

  • Dave

    Thanks to your headline and the way Facebook cut it off, I am now aware that Rizzo will not retroactively save the Tit.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Well, he won’t. So don’t count on it.

    • Leroy K.

      Anthony Rizzo Cannot Fly, Does Not Shoot Lasers Out of His Eyes, Will Not Retroactively Save the Tit
      http://www.bleachernation.com
      It’s OK to be excited about finally getting to see the Cubs’ top prospect, but for his good – and your own – keep those expectations in check.
      Like · · Share · 81 · 23 minutes ago ·

      HA!!!

    • DocPeterWimsey

      He did retroactively save the HMS Victoria.  You won’t remember it: the disaster causing 3000 deaths (mostly of unwashed people with Cockney accents who think that a football is a round black and white thing to be kicked) is now expunged from our time line, thanks to Rizzo.

      It’s a pity that the iceberg he pushed out of the way hit some other ship…..  (Sadly, it carried the ancestors of key members of the Cubs 1967 AND 1974 WS Champions….)

  • TonyP

    Man I wish this game was on WGN,  Can you buy just 1 game on MLB.TV?

    • TWC

      You can buy a single month, but not a single game.

      • TonyP

        I miss my youth when 95% of the games were on WGN for us out of state fans.

        • TWC

          Cheers to that, baby!  I’m sure there are plenty of folks in Chicago that wish all those games were still on WGN, too.  Man, I remember running home after school cut out at 2:50 knowing that I could usually catch the tail end of the 1:20 game.

          • TonyP

            I lived across the street from the school and I still busted ass home to get the game on ASAP!

          • rcleven

            Sadly the future televised Cub games will no longer be free. The Yankee model will be the future.

  • Leroy K.

    Jamie Moyer signs with Jays…I guess they don’t want Dempster anymore ;)

  • Chris S

    I feel lied to.

  • Doctor Evil

    All I ask for is a freaking first baseman with a freaking laser beam on his head!

  • LaHair4MVP

    He can’t even cure the blind just by touching them? My hopes and dreams have been shattered. I was going to name my first born after him.

  • http://bleachernation.com #1lahairfan

    Go on freebaseballradio.com it also let’s you watch games for free providing the cubs are on the schedule.

    • TonyP

      Sweet I will check this out tonight.  Thanks

       

  • rcleven

    “Further, we have to keep in mind that Rizzo, right now, is just a prospect. He probably won’t come up and dominate.”

    Actually I would expect Rizzo to dominate till Mlb coaches and pitches start prodding his weakness. Then I expect his numbers will quickly come back to earth.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That does frequently happen.

    • TonyP

      Neo has no weaknesses man!  He sees the Matrix very clearly.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The MLB teams will have a bit of data on Rizzo from the minors as well as last year.  The heat graphs will not be as sophisticated as the ones for the guys who have been around a while, but the pitchers will (or should) have ideas about where to attack Rizzo.

      • hansman1982

        the first thing they are going to do is attack his weaknesses from last year on which I hope he crushes a homer that nails the clock on the scoreboard.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Surely, that will depend on how good their data are from Rizzo’s AAA performance, won’t it?  Word did get out that they had shortened Rizzo’s stroke, after all.

  • http://bleachernation.com #1lahairfan

    Sorry you can only listen today.

  • Grant

    Shit, if He can’t fly, shoot lasers out of His eyes, and will not retroactively save the Titanic, why did we give up Cashner for Him? (Have to capitalize all references to His Rizzo-ness)

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Its pretty annoying to me how ALL the media is babying the fans by saying how Rizzo isn’t the Savior or the next Micky Mantle. Yes we get it! I get they don’t want fans to get disappointed and down if the guy doesn’t put up huge numbers but come’on!?! Seriously were not retarded. Its not like we just started watching baseball yesterday. Yes he’s a rookie but all I have been hear about for the last 2 weeks since everybody started talking about him coming up is that the media spoon fed us all this obvious bs. Its pretty obvious the kid isn’t going to take us to the playoffs or win an MVP, but then again I have never heard a single cubs fan have the expectations of him putting MVP numbers when he comes up. All the cubs fans want to see is decent play, with the occasional exciting homer from him. Just one of those thing the media way over blows out of proportion.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      We get it, but I think that you would be surprised how many baseball fans do not understand how little impact any one player has.  (It works both ways: people are quick to ascribe way too many loses to single players, too.)

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