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Anthony Rizzo looked a lot better at the plate in his second chance in the big leagues. What can we expect from him in 2013?
Back in 2011, Anthony Rizzo was in the middle of tearing up the Pacific Coast League to the tune of .331-.404-.652 with 34 doubles, 26 HRs, 64 runs and 101 RBI in 356 at bats. As the season grew longer, and Rizzo's power on display on a nightly basis, the hype on RIzzo was too much for Padres GM Jed Hoyer , and he eventually called up Rizzo in early June. Rizzo was the centerpiece of the huge trade that sent All star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox , so you couldn't blame Hoyer for calling him up to show off the Padres first baseman of the future to the fans in San Diego.
What followed was Rizzo struggling for the first time in his baseball career. Rizzo triple slashed just .141-.281-.242 with a homer and nine RBI in 128 at bats. He was sent back down about a week before the trade deadline and returned for a cup of coffee in September. His whiff rate was the major culprit and some felt that he could not catch up to a major league fastball. His prospect status took a hit after being sky high just a few months before.
Last offseason, he was traded again, this time to the Chicago Cubs for Andrew Cashner. There were two other players involved in the deal, but Rizzo and Cashner were the major pieces. Before the deal, Hoyer had moved over to Chicago to become the GM for the Cubs, working for his old boss in Boston, Theo Epstein. It was obvious Hoyer liked what he saw from Rizzo even through his struggles.
Rizzo started the 2012 season back in AAA and he picked up where he left off in 2011, tearing up PCL pitching to the tune of .342-.405-.696 with 18 doubles, 23 HRs, 48 runs and 62 RBI in 257 at bats. Many expected Rizzo to call Rizzo up in June, but Rizzo suffered an injury and his call up was delayed a bit. He was finally called up on June 26th and looked like a much better hitter from day one. Here is a comparison of his 2011 and 2012 stats, courtesy of FanGraphs:
2011: .141-.281-.242, 1 HR, 8 doubles, 9 runs, 9 RBI, 13.7 BB%, 30.1 K%, .102 ISO, .210 BABIP
2012: .285-.342-.463, 15 HRs, 15 doubles, 44 runs, 48 RBI, 7.3 BB%, 16.8 K%,, .178 ISO, .310 BABIP
It's pretty obvious he was a much better hitter in 2012 than in 2011, even though his AAA stats were a bit down. The important take away from his 2012 season is the improvement in his strikeout rate from 30.1% to 16.8% in 200 more at bats.
Looking at his batted ball data over at FanGraphs indicates he hit plenty of line drives-24.4%, which you like to see, a bit too many ground balls-45.5%, and not enough fly balls -30.2%. For a power hitter, you would like to see him hit more fly balls so more can end up over the outfield walls in the Friendly Confines.
But one has to be concerned about his free swinging ways as he swung at 38.5% of pitches outside the zone, making contact on just over 70% of those pitches. He made contact on 90% of pitches thrown in the zone, but we can't expect that to continue going forward.
What can we expect from Rizzo in 2013? I think we can expect some struggles mixed in with some success. That sounds wishy washy, right? Well, not too many young power hitters make their mark in their first full season in the majors. Okay, Mike Trout did, but he is beyond crazy good. I think a conservative projection for Rizzo would be a .270-.340-.475 triple slash line with 20-25 home runs, 65 runs and 80-85 RBI. Remember, he will be hitting in the middle of a young lineup as the Cubs are in a rebuilding stage for the next few seasons.
What do Fake Teams readers project for Rizzo in 2013?