Hearting Versatility and Anthony Rizzo's Swing and Other Bullets

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Hearting Versatility and Anthony Rizzo’s Swing and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

anthony rizzo featureAhhh, my 2015 Baseball America Prospect Handbook arrived yesterday, complete with Kris Bryant on the cover, and I can’t wait to dig in. And then I look over at the 2014 edition sitting on my desk, featuring Twins slugger Miguel Sano, and I clench up. Sano missed the entire 2014 season after Tommy John surgery. So I look up the 2013 cover … Jurickson Profar, who is about to miss his second consecutive season with shoulder problems. Gulp.

OK. 2012 was Mike Trout, and 2011 was Bryce Harper. So, Sano and Profar aren’t enough to make it a curse, right?

  • Yesterday, we discussed Joe Maddon’s “all in” comment about Tommy La Stella at third base. At the time, we had only a couple tweets off of which to go, so I said I wanted to see more context before divining too much meaning – and, indeed, from this read at ESPN, it sounds like he was saying La Stella has really bought in to the idea that he’ll play third base, in addition to other positions. As I’ve said before, I love La Stella as a versatile player and bench bat for this team, given his skill set and modest upside. It’s easy to evaluate and project a team based on its starters, but we all know that, over the course of a season, crazy things happen and quality depth is hugely important. For the Cubs, having guys like La Stella and Arismendy Alcantara is going to prove very valuable in one way or another.
  • Sahadev Sharma takes a look at Anthony Rizzo’s swing changes from 2013 to 2014, with some visuals, to emphasize the difference. As close followers of the Cubs, none of the changes will surprise you – the hands were back up, the knees are more bent, and Rizzo is way closer to the plate – but it always strikes you even more when you see the changes stacked side-by-side (and it includes my favorite Rizzo homer from 2014 (the one that was a foot and a half into the other batter’s box)). One thing I didn’t realize until looking at the heat maps in Sharma’s piece: despite moving much closer to the plate, Rizzo not only didn’t create a hole on the inside of the plate, he actually improved the damage he was doing with inside pitches. I’m really not sure how you pull that off, but Rizzo did it in 2014. To succeed, you had to bust him way in off the plate … but he almost never swung at those pitches last year.
  • Rizzo describes meeting Sammy Sosa in the offseason (Cubs.com), and had some great things to say about the erstwhile slugger. Whatever negative associations there are between Sosa and the Cubs of old, there are clearly no bad feelings there with young guys like Rizzo. We talked about Sosa’s continued absence yesterday, so I won’t beat it up again today.
  • I will, however, direct you to this must-read piece from Scott Miller, painstakingly chronicling the lead-up to and the fall-out from the separate between Sosa and the Cubs. Miller’s piece, which includes quotes from many former teammates and executives (by the way, if you were under the impression that Kerry Wood was the hold-up – nope). It sounds like the hold-up on a reconciliation is primarily the PED thing (and the lack of any public acknowledgement by Sosa), which I understand … but, at the same time, it’s not like the Cubs didn’t benefit wildly from the player that Sosa was, chemically-driven or otherwise. Everyone made mistakes in that era, right down to the fans who buried their heads in the sand because they simply didn’t want to see what was right there in front of their faces (guilty). There’s so much more in the Miller piece. If you care at all about this issue, you really must take the time to read it.
  • Matt Snyder looks at the positional battles around the NL Central, with a look at the Cubs’ 2B/3B/LF mix and match situation.
  • The Cubs have a new commercial, featuring a voice over from Jon Lester:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.