The Chicago Cubs currently have the worst record in all of baseball (24-48) and are trying to build for the future. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has stated that nearly every player is on the trading block. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Bryan LaHair, and Alfonso Soriano are all expected to be traded by the end of July. The one ray of hope occurred over the weekend, the Cubs called up their #1 prospect Anthony Rizzo.
The Cubs received Rizzo when they traded Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres this off-season. Epstein drafted Rizzo when he was the Boston Red Sox GM and wanted him on the Cubs.
Will Rizzo make his Chicago debut tonight against Johan Santana and the New York Mets or will they hold off his debut until they face Dillon Gee or Jonathon Niese later in the series?
Rizzo has all the tools to be a dominant hitter in the Majors. He has crushed the ball in the minors with Triple-A slash line of .337/.406/.673. In 69 games this season with Iowa (PCL) he has 23 homers, 62 RBI, and a .345 batting average.
To put his numbers into prospective and be realistic, Bryan LaHair’s 2011 Triple-A numbers were 38 homers, 109 RBI, with a .331 average through 129 games. LaHair has done well this year, but could end up being a 4-A player at the end of the day.
Rizzo had more than a cup of coffee with the Padres last season. He had a slash line of .141/.281/.242 with one homer in 128 at-bats. You could factor in that PETCO Park, San Diego’s home park, wasn’t suited for Rizzo’s skill-set, but he didn’t play every game at home.
Chicago could have started out the season with Rizzo as their starting first baseman, but they were smart by having him get his confidence back. He has a hot bat and Chicago could use it at the moment.
I doubt Rizzo will start in tonight’s game against Santana, but he could be used to pinch-hit later in the game. The smart money is that he will start on Tuesday and Wednesday. Chicago has been using LaHair in the outfield lately and should be in the lineup when a right-hander is on the mound.
I warn Cubs fans to lower expectations at the beginning. We don’t want another Felix Pie, Jerome Walton, Dwight Smith…(I could go on and on, but I don’t want to cry this morning). He will be batting near the middle of the order with Soriano and Geovany Soto sandwiching him. He will be protected to start out (well, as much as you can in an anemic batting order.
Rizzo will not save the season, but if he can show that he can hit MLB pitching and give the fans something to build on, he will do very well at the Friendly Confines.