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anthony rizzo cubsFor quite some time, I have spent some late nights and weekends working on a significant article that drops later today. To the extent you’re interested in the big picture issues facing the Cubs as they rebuild the organization from top to bottom over the course of several years, I’d encourage you to take the time to read it thoughtfully. You are warned in advance: the piece is not short. Until then, Bullets …

  • The Cubs cut Arodys Vizcaino from big league camp yesterday, but Rick Renteria made it clear to Patrick Mooney that this is all part of the plan for him. It still sounds like everyone is very happy with his progress this year, after missing the last two years with Tommy John surgery and a follow-up procedure. RR also discusses Brett Jackson in the same piece, hinting that he remains hopeful that Jackson can have a big league career, even as a reserve outfielder type.
  • Keith Law examined 10 potential breakout candidates this year (among non-rookie types), and here’s what he said about Anthony Rizzo: “He keeps changing his load, often for the worse, which makes him for strikeout prone and particularly vulnerable to left-handed pitchers. His hands aren’t quite as low this spring as they were last year, but he’s still in a state of constant flux with his mechanics and doesn’t keep his weight back as well as he once did. All that aside, I still think there’s long-term potential because he has a good eye and enough raw power to eventually post a 30-homer season. His hit tool lags behind his other tools and probably will until he locks himself into a more consistent swing and mechanical approach.” No Cubs fan overlooks Rizzo when discussing 2014, because we all know he’s such an important part of that story. But you really don’t hear Rizzo discussed too much when talking about the impending offensive prospect wave, and what they could make the offense look like in a couple years. Rizzo, 24 (a full year younger than Mike Olt, for example), is going to be a huge part of that. He just happens to be in the bigs already.
  • Consider this: if Rizzo’s BABIP regresses to a more reasonable .280 from last year’s .258, if his walk rate takes a small step forward from last year’s very good 11%, and if his ISO ticks up from last year’s .186 to .200, Rizzo could very easily hit .260/.360/.460 next year. That’s a very *modest* projection if you believe he can improve/positively regress. That OPS would have been in the top 15ish in the NL last year.
  • (ZiPS projects .255/.336/.464 for Rizzo, and PECOTA projects .256/.330/.467. In other words, they don’t see the walk rate increasing any, but see a bigger power bump.)
  • Oh, and Rizzo is killing it this Spring, if that matters to you: .393/.452/.750.
  • Bradley Woodrum takes an interesting look at Tsuyoshi Wada, and considers why the Cubs may be holding out hope that he can be the fifth starter, despite the mixed spring.
  • Patrick Mooney with a great, measured take on Javier Baez. Great quotes in there, too, about the way Baez has prepared and handled himself this year.
  • Matt Snyder with a pretty fair season preview of the Cubs.
  • In conjunction with yesterday’s reveal of the top prospect list, Jonathan Mayo writes about the Cubs’ system and the season ahead for MLBPipeline. Neil Ramirez, Dan Vogelbach, and Jeimer Candelario come in for special mention.
  • baldtaxguy

    Nice to read and hear Baez responses to the media. Real pro.

    • JB88

      Agree that it was nice to hear Baez’s responses, but, other than that, it was nowhere near the most impressive thing Mooney has ever written. That article was all over the place and never tied together the central theme of a comparison between Baez and Stanton. Just a weird article, to be honest.

  • ari gold

    I really need to adjust my thinking of offensive production. Had no idea that an .820 OPS would be top 15ish in the NL. Just goes to show how much offense is down.

  • Satch

    “His hands aren’t quite as low this spring as they were last year” – finally, someone who agrees with me. I also noted that it appears Rizzo lifts his bat earlier than last year giving him a better chance to react to the pitch. After seeing a replay earlier in ST I made the comment on here that I liked his new stance and was glad Bill Mueller was hired. I got no response but, oh well, c’est la vie…

  • waittilthisyear

    vogelbach’s at bat yesterday was disappointing. took ball one, then watched a couple very hittable fastballs go by. fouled off some junk, took balls two (on a pretty decent breaking ball), then flailed away at what i believe was a change up.

  • JCubs79

    ESPN Poll

    Should Javier Baez make the Cubs’ Opening Day roster?

    Yes: 74%
    No: 26%

    smh

  • Spoda17

    I totally agree with the assessment of Rizzo’s approach at the plate. I think he has improved from last year, I agree Satch, but I also see a lot more room for improvement. It seems he is hitting off his front foot (only Frank Thomas can do that effectively), and I also think his hands are too noisy… a lot of unnecessary hand waggling…

  • Satch

    Agreed, but at least its an improvement. He has exceptional natural ability. But that stance last year was the worse I’ve ever seen.

  • jp3

    Did anyone notice prince fielder looked even bigger last night than in past years? He was huge. I know he’s quick for his size but I think it’s funny people don’t think Vogulbach can stick at 1B when Prince did it for years. He obviously needs work there still and keep his conditioning up like he’s done the last offseason especially but we give that position too much credit for being exceptionally difficult when it just isn’t so. Where is he going to start the year? Daytona?

    • bbmoney

      Well I think most people believe Dan Vogelbach’s defense could be good enough at 1b to be one of the couple worst defensive 1b in baseball if he got a chance…..just like Prince.

      • jp3

        I’m sure we would’ve scoffed at having Prince at 1st base because of his defense when we were starting the likes of Micah HoffPOWER and Bryan Lahair. I’m just saying that sometimes we get a little carried away on how good our 1B has to be defensively.

    • JB88

      It’s funny that you say that. My mother-in-law was over last night, and while I was watching the game, she commented that she thought Fielder had lost weight. She’s an ardent Sox fan so she would probably have a better idea than I after he’s been in Detroit the last few years.

    • Spoda17

      I don’t think the thought is that Vogulbach can’t play first, it’s that we have a first basemen, and Vogulbach can’t play anywhere else at the moment. And if he did change positions, the weight would be a problem. He must have had similar thoughts; I’m sure that is one of the reasons why he came to camp like 40 pounds lighter.

      • jp3

        Yeah I hear you Spoda, it would be phenomenal if he makes the FO make a hard decision of trading one away if they’re both raking. I realize Rizzo is the better option but the higher their stocks are maybe one could be a major chip in getting a frontline SP since we don’t have any obvious ones coming through soon. It would be a nice problem to have.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Good Lord. The undying love for Dan Vogelbach is over the top. Look, he’s a nice prospect. An intriguing prospect. But he isn’t remotely in the league of what Prince Fielder was when he came bursting on the scene in the Milwaukee system.

      People need to chill on Vogelbach.

      • Jon

        The comparisons to Prince Fielder were how both larger sized men handled 1st base duties. Not a single personal remotely suggested that Vogelbach could match Prince Fielders offensive production.

        • jp3

          Yeah thanks Jon, I wasn’t saying anything about him matching Fielder’s production, his body type and position is all. As far as Vogs hitting I was simply saying it’d be nice for him to kill it in the minors to push the issue at the big league level or more preferably create enough value for himself so maybe to be a key piece in a trade for a SP since we’re pretty thin there.

      • mjhurdle

        So now someone saying that Vogelbach might be able to play ok defense at first equals “undying love”?

        I think maybe you want to re-read the original post.
        No one was comparing Vogelbach to Fielder in terms of hitting ability. Just using Fielder’s size to show that a larger person *can* play passable 1B.

  • MightyBear

    Rizzo having a monster year is one of the reasons I’m higher on the Cubs this year than most.

  • jp3

    Either he wore bigger uniforms in Detroit or smaller ones now in Texas, he looked massive. Maybe he was using someone else’s uni? It was like number 84, I can’t believe he wears that one during the season

    • Javier Bryant

      He’s wearing #84 with Texas because it’s the year he was born

      • jp3

        So he’s decided to go with the form fitting uniform this year…interesting

  • Blackhawks1963

    Rizzo, in a sophmore slump season and with lousy lineup protection, still chipped in with nearly 25 HRs and 40 Doubles. To go along with sterling defense at 1st base. Suffice to say Rizzo is a very good baseball player…he might not be in the league of Joey Votto or Adrian Gonzalez, but he is a strategic strength of the Cubs. He gets unfairly dinged by some and I don’t quite get that.

    • aaronb

      He is the victim of high expectations, and a team that is completely devoid of MLB talent. So people are expecting him to be more than what he really is (Castro suffers the same fate).

      He’s a middle of the road MLB first baseman. And a perfectly acceptable 3rd or 4th offensive banana.

      • Blackhawks1963

        Rizzo is better than a middle of the road option. He’s a very good ballplayer. Certainly a core type of a guy that you can build around.

        • aaronb

          The comp we always heard of Rizzo was Adam LaRoche. And thus far the numbers are showing that to be fairly accurate.

          He certainly won’t be a reason we can’t win at the MLB level. Though I would stop short of calling him a cornerstone of franchise guy.

          He’d be best served as a 5th place protection hitter behind good 3rd and 4th place hitters. Hopefully Baez and Bryant can fit those roles?

        • Funn Dave

          Better than average, yes. A core building piece, though? Not quite at this point.

          • gocatsgo2003

            Dude is still only 24 years old… how would he NOT be a core building piece?

      • http://BN Sacko

        agreed man really agree, have been thinking and saying that for a long time. These guys will do a lot better on a better team.

      • Featherstone

        I disagree, I think Rizzo has the talent to be a top 10 first baseman. Behind Davis, Votto, Goldschmidt, Gonzalez, Freeman, Encarnacion. Maybe, Naopli/Belt.

        • aaronb

          I’d put him in the tier with Yonder Alonso, Justin Smoak and Justin Morneau.

          • Blackhawks1963

            No. That is ridicolous. Peel back the onion on Rizzo’s first two seasons and there is a ton to like. He’s approaching the 1,000 at bat mark too and his future is very bright. He is SOLID. A 35 HRs, 40 Doubles, good OBP, good defense sort of solid 1st baseman. I’ll take that every day of the week in this league. Certainly he can touch the border of the top 1/3 classification of 1st baseman in MLB.

          • MightyBear

            You’re forgetting his defense. His defense alone makes him much better than those three.

            • aaronb

              I tend to think 1st base and Left field defense tend to be over rated by WAR ratings.

              I do like Rizzo as a player though. Perfectly reasonable MLB starting 1st baseman.

        • http://BN Sacko

          I did say a lot better so kinda agree with you also, not sure about Votto Golds, and Freeman. Would sure like it tho, hop u r right.

  • http://BN Sacko

    I think the walk rate is getting to much attention, always talking about hitters watching strikes. Then eventually K.

  • candyland07

    Rizzo is not a Cub problem . He is young,he is gaining experience. he usually bats 3rd in the line up, he has a good OBP but a low Batting average but over a course of a season he will extend an inning rather than end an inning with an out. He will improve . The players that hurt the Cubs more often was These players: Barney ,Soriano (last season) ,Schierholtz, and Castro. These 4 players killed the Cubs and last years bull pen .

    Soriano is gone , Barney and Schierholtz need to go and quick! IF the cubs can start the season without 3 major disappointments off the team and give Castro a chance to improve , this team should win more games. If i had to guess maybe 4 to 7 games with the offense.

    The starting rotations and the bullpen almost cancels each other out. The bull pen improved – but Starting Rotation Kinda went backwards might cost the Cubs a few more early runs .

    that was not the point .

    Team Theo- Trade Barny or just give him away. he kills the team . you got rid of Soriano and that will improve the team ( Soriano did not play well for the Cubs) Although eating his contract for 13 million was stupid. And trade Schierholtz his value is at the highest – and he stinks ,he will kill an inning almost as fast as Soriano did last year and his salary is lot easier to get rid of. When you get rid of these players and just replace them with average players – depending if Castros can improve – might be an average overall offense that will win more games.

    Barny and

    • terencemann

      Soriano was usually one of the better players on the Cubs. They are worse-off without him in terms of talent. He’s still a slightly above average player. That’s why they waited so long to trade him: because they wanted someone to give them a reasonable prospect in return and they got it from the Yankees.

  • MightyBear

    Brett,

    Is the article about the television contracts or is it about the entire rebuild? How about a little hint?

  • Javier Bryant

    Darwin Barney for Javy Guerrera?

  • Bill

    I agree with Law’s take on Rizzo. I don’t like the constant change in his hands/stance, and still think his hands are too low. It’s going to make him susceptible to high fastballs.

    Just looked up his hot zone numbers and his hottest zone is high, middle of the plate (.357). By far, his coldest zone is high and outside (.095). With high and inside he hits (.250). Two of his blue areas are low and inside and low and outside, where he’s in the .182 for one, .192 for the other. However, the low zones would most likely be breaking balls in the dirt that Rizzo has trouble laying off those pitches.

    With Rizzo’s mechanics/approach, I just don’t see him being better than a .250-.260 hitter. Hope I’m wrong, and he has a breakout season.

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