Before he was posting an OPS of .805 for the Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo was a prospect in Iowa. That means he is eligible for the Prospects’ Progress treatment. Joining Rizzo today will be a young lefty you’ve probably never heard of. Say hello to Carlos A. Rodriguez.

As a reminder, Prospects’ Progress is not a prospect ranking or Top Anything list. This in an ongoing series that take a look at how various prospect in the Cubs’ system improved (or didn’t) over the past season and considers what me might be able to expect from them in the future.

Or, as in the case of Rizzo, what we can continue to expect now that the future has arrived.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B

Pre-Season Evaluation 

The Cubs paid a high price for Anthony Rizzo. Andrew Cashner, perhaps the Cubs’ best pitching prospect, was sent to San Diego in exchange for the slugging left handed first baseman. Unfortunately, Rizzo was coming of a disappointing debut for the Padres. In 49 games as a 21 year old, Rizzo managed to post an OPS of just .523.

There were frequent reports that Rizzo had retooled his swing over the winter, but we still needed to see results. In short, Rizzo came into the 2012 season needing to prove that he could be the first baseman of the future.

Post-Season Verdict

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet your first baseman of the future. Any doubts about Rizzo’s new, shorter swing were buried beneath an avalanche of line drives and long balls in Iowa. In just 70 games for the Triple A Cubs Rizzo hit 23 home runs… it felt like about twice that… and slugged nearly .700 on his way to simply crushing the league. The Pacific Coast League is known as a hitters’ league, but even in the PCL a 22-year-old is not supposed to post an OPS of 1.101 over 70 games.

And then he went to Chicago. In between the sorts of rough stretches and dry spells we expect from any young hitter Rizzo compiled an OPS+ of 119. His season ending line of .285/.342/.463 put an end to any questions about first base for the foreseeable future.

Future Prognosis

Rizzo still has some room to improve. He has not hit consistently over a full major league season yet (in no small part because he has not played a full major league season yet). Pitchers will be adjusting to him and finding new ways to exploit his swing throughout the 2013 season, and it will be up to Rizzo to make all the necessary adjustments. In addition to that, the Cubs are going to be counting on him to be an RBI threat; he might be the only serious RBI man in the entire lineup. That’s a lot of pressure for a 23 year old.

But I think he can do it.

Carlos A. Rodriguez, LHP

Pre-Season Evaluation

There is no pre-season evaluation. Rodriguez did not show up on any of our radars before this season began. The 2012 season marked his debut as a professional baseball player, and he made that debut in the Dominican Summer League at the age of 16.

Post-Season Verdict

As it turns out, this kid can pitch. No matter what stats we consider, the numbers look pretty good. He struck out more than a batter an innings (9.2 K/9), amassed a K/BB or 3.65, gave up just two home runs (good for an HR/9 of 0.3), and throttled opposing hitters to the tune of a 2.01 ERA and 1.005 WHIP. No matter you slice it, those are encouraging numbers from a very young lefty in a professional league.

Future Prognosis

Rodriguez currently stands in at 5’11” and 178 lb. Given his age, it is not impossible that he could add another inch or three over the next year or two. If that happens it will almost certainly only help him maintain his strikeout rates as he moves up the system. Even if it doesn’t happen, he may have a bright future. The Cubs can use all the young pitching they can find, and the emergence of Rodriguez is a very welcome addition to the farm system.

His GO/AO as a starter is just 1.07; that isn’t bad, but I would like to see that improve as he begins the climb up the farm system. That climb could begin next summer with a trip to the Arizona Rookie League, but I would not be surprised if the Cubs left him in the Dominican to add an extra year’s training, conditioning, and experience to an already promising beginning. I don’t think the Cubs’ front office will want to artificially slow him down, but I think they will be careful about the work load they put on his frame right now. A little caution now could help prevent injuries later. Whether in the Caribbean or in the desert, I don’t think Rodriguez will toss more than 100 innings in a single season until 2014.

Rodriguez is a long way from Chicago, or even from us knowing if he is a legitimate prospect. We need more reports on his actual stuff and some outings against tougher competition before we can get too excited. He is off to a good start, though, and we will continue to watch him closely.

  • BluBlud

    I’m still upset with Theo for trading Cashner for Rizzo. I mean, what GM in his right mind would pull such a stunt. The guy had a horrible debut in SD and clearly can not hit major league pitching………What you say?………285/.342/.463 with how many HR’s….15…… and an OPS+ of 119. Ok, well I guess I’ll cut Theo a little slack.

    • Bryan

      That was a pretty easy trade to make. You had a left-handed, 21 year old power 1B available. A guy who could be a centerpiece of your lineup as well as a future leader. You traded a young, hard-throwing right hander who already had shoulder problems. Sounds a lot like Kerry Wood 2.0. You don’t pass on guys like Rizzo to hold onto a pitcher who’s likely to bounce in and out of the bullpen and on and off the disabled list.

  • EQ76

    I know most of the people on here are die hard into metrics but can you at least throw in some of the old standard stats with some of these players? stats like GO/AO are nice, but I’d like to see some of the old standards in there as well..

    I’m sure the stat geeks are about to start unloading on me now..

    • Brett

      The standard stats – which are available at the link on Rodriguez’s name (which is why Luke links them) – don’t really mean a whole lot when they come from the Dominican League, and are in such short samples. The only useful data – and even it is barely useful – tend to be the ones Luke pointed out.

    • Luke

      What Brett said. All the basic stats are available from the Baseball Reference link off his name, but I’m not sure how useful those are in case like this.

      I’m not even certain how useful the metrics I use are in the case of the DSL, but they are the best I have to work with.

  • lou brock lives

    I’m old school & I trust my eyes & ears. This Rizzo kid is very good & reminds me as a hitter of a Joey Votto type with a little more power & size. Also what you do not see on a computer screen or stat sheet is this kids heart & the leadership he demonstrates both on & off the field. Beating cancer at such a young age is not something that is done easily. I’m sure he & his family’s faith had a lot to do with that & once again you will not find that on a stat sheet.

    • fester30

      Faith (if you mean religion) has no bearing on the quality of a person or a baseball player. I do agree he seems to have intangibles, but then again I’m not in the dugout so I really don’t know. I like him, though, and think he’s at least a solid 1st basemen who will make a few all star teams, and at best perhaps a future hall-of-famer.

      • Big Joe

        Politics, religion, and her…I’m not going to start a long conversation here. Faith has no bearing on the quality of a person? You, sir, sound like a man of little faith.

  • cubsin

    It will be interesting to see whether the Cubs keep Rodriguez in the DSL or promote him to the ARL next year. He was a 17-year-old rookie in a league that’s generally 17 to 19 (most of the 20-year-olds are fringe players), The normal age range for the AZL is 18-22, but most of the 18-year-olds will be late-round picks from the 2013 draft.

    • Brett

      Doesn’t even turn 18 until mid-season – he’d be really young for the AZL, so that would definitely be pushing him.

      • fester30

        You mean he doesn’t turn 21 until mid-season, right? He might be done growing if that’s the case.

        • Brett

          I’m confused – Rodriguez is 17.

          • Grant Jones

            I believe he is implying that he lied about his age.

  • daveyrosello

    Rizzo needs to improve his OBP skills. 340-ish isn’t awful, but it won’t get him to an elite level. He’s young, so hopefully some plate discipline will come with more ML experience. Similarly, a team’s 1B needs to post a 500+ SLG, Rizzo’s 463 is getting there, but he needs to show a bit more power, too.

    Grade = solid B+ ?

    • Matty

      I agree. Rizzo was/is solid, but not really a superstar, at least not yet.

      • Ogyu

        Impossible to say whether almost any young player (setting aside the Trouts of the world) is a future superstar. But all signs indicate that Rizzo is likely to do an admirable job for the Cubs at first base for the foreseeable future, with at least an occasional all-star appearance, if not more.

    • Drew7

      You do realize it isn’t 2001 anymore, right?

      He doesn’t *need* to slug .500+ because it just doesnt happen with as much regularity as it used to (only 5 NL 1B did it this year) – The average MLB 1B hit .257/.330/.436 in 2012.

      Of all NL 1B with at least 200 PA’s, you know how many had an OBP above .340 and slugged > .500? Exactly 3: Votto, LaRoche, and Craig – with only Votto blowing those numbers away.

      Given his age and the fact that these numbers came in his rookie year, I give him a solid A.

      • Ogyu

        only 5 NL 1B did it this year

        Well, if Rizzo doesn’t eventually become one of the top 5 first basemen in the NL, I think we will all be pretty disappointed.

        • Drew7

          Well, Im not sure we’d *all* be disappointed. I don’t think anyone thought he’d be a superstar before his call-up.

          Also, after you factor in OBP and defense, Rizzo might already be a top-5 1B by next year. Who automatically gets penciled-in ahead of him? Votto, Goldschmidt, hten Craig? An aging Howard?

          My point is that he doesn’t *need* to improve that much offensively to be a top player at 1B, since offense is down so much overall nowadays.

  • Eric

    Thanks for the introduction to Rodriguez Luke. Because some of those 16 year old international guys become the Vizciano’s and the Tehran’s 4 to 5 years from now and end up in the top 100 prospects list. So it’s nice to hear about the young ones in our system.

  • cubsin

    The second most interesting DSL pitching prospect (only because he’s 18 and has had two seasons in the DSL) is Daury Torrez. I do expect him to be in the ARL next year.

    • Luke

      I’ll probably get to Torrez later in the winter.

  • jt

    Add me to your list of frequent readers. As always, good stuff!

    • Luke


  • daveyrosello

    You need to do a writeup on Panigua.


    Any word on Rodriguez’ gun readings?