The Upside of Anthony Rizzo

Last season, Anthony Rizzo, then in the Padres organization, absolutely bombarded Pacific Coast League pitching to the tune of .331/.404/.632 with 26 long balls in 413 plate appearances. However, once he reached the big leagues, the mammoth production halted. In 153 plate appearances for the Friars, Rizzo hit .141/.281/.242 with only one home run and a 30-percent strikeout rate. That poor debut may have caused some to wonder whether his Triple-A numbers were merely a product of playing home games in the homer friendly environment of Tuscon Arizona. So much for that theory. All Rizzo has done this season is continue to rake Triple-A pitching as a member of the Iowa Cubs. His .342/.405/.696 line is massive enough, but then tack on 23 home runs in only 284 plate appearances and you’ve got one of the most impressive lines you’ll ever see from a 22-year-old in Triple-A.

Rizzo’s production at Triple-A over the last two seasons clearly suggests that he’s ready to get a full-time shot in The Show and this time around he’ll be doing so in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field as opposed to playing home games at PETCO Park, a notorious pitcher’s park. Despite Rizzo’s impressive numbers, there is at least some concern as to how his offensive game will translate in the big leagues. His 153 plate appearances with the Padres last season is way too small of a sample size to examine, but some were quick to label him as a quad-A guy. It’s not like he struggled mightily against lefties and not righties, he just struggled overall. At least he showed that he wasn’t afraid to draw a walk (21 unintentional walks).

As with any young lefty, Rizzo could face some major adjustments against big league southpaws, as the difference in talent level between most minor league lefties and the guys in the big leagues is significant, especially in terms of LOOGYs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his numbers wane against lefties for this season, but long-term it shouldn’t be a situation that calls for a platoon partner.

Of course, being a first baseman means that fantasy owners are expecting power. Well, Rizzo has plenty of that and you need look no further than his stats for the evidence. He only struck out in about 18 percent of his plate appearances while with Iowa, so that’s another feather in his cap, though he’ll probably see a higher K-rate in the big leagues this season.

We still don’t know exactly what type of hitter Rizzo will be. He’s still only 22 and has plenty of development left. He’s an immediate add in all formats due to his power upside, but there is risk with any young player, so the best case scenario would be to use him at UT/CI or have a good backup plan at 1B. His perceived value is so high right now that he could be a tremendous trade piece in a keeper league should you be willing to forgo a bit of the future for a chance to win now.