The day many Chicago Cub fans have been waiting for has arrived! Anthony Rizzo has been called up to take his place on the roster and be the corner stone for all the success Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have planned for the ball club for years to come. Expectations are unbelievably high for this 22 year old first baseman who will be making his Cubs debut tonight against the New York Mets. The hope with Cub fans, as well as with Epstein and Hoyer, is that he is ready this time around because in his initial debut with the San Diego Padres he clearly was not.
Before being called up by the Padres last year, Rizzo dominated the minor leagues, much like he has done this year in the Cubs organization. That is why Hoyer (then the Padres General Manager) felt that he was ready to come up to the major leagues at the age of 21. However, his minor league dominance did not translate well once he made the show. Rizzo came off as severely over matched batting just .141 with one home run and nine RBI in 49 games. During this brief appearance a year ago, Rizzo also struck out 46 times, while only drawing 21 free passes.
Rizzo clearly was not ready when he made his major league debut, and was sent back down to the minor leagues where the Padres were hoping he would be able to straighten himself out. Fortunately for the Cubs, the Padres may have read a little too much into his failure with his first go round in the major leagues and decided to make him available in the trade market. Believing they knew the type of player Rizzo was (after all Epstein and Hoyer drafted him to the Boston Red Sox, and the later traded for him when he was with the Padres) the front office wasted no time in targeting the young power hitting left handed first baseman.
If Rizzo is everything that he appears to be, I can not blame Epstein for trading Rizzo to the Padres a few years back. After all he got Adrian Gonzalez in return. That is a guaranteed, already established stud first baseman for a stud first base prospect who has yet to play a major league game. Hoyer knew all about Rizzo (again, being on the team that drafted him) and knew he could not afford to keep Gonzalez. The deal was a perfect trade for both teams. However Josh Byrnes (who replaced Hoyer as General Manager with the Padres) had no excuse for trading Rizzo; especially not for a still developing pitcher who may top out as a relief pitcher. With his ability to throw 100 MPH, if Andrew Cashner can make the starting rotation, then the trade is fairly even, though I would still take a power hitting left handed everyday player over a pitcher every day.
As the excitement continues to grow over who Rizzo is, and what he could mean to the future of the Cubs, please remember that he is still only a prospect who has proven nothing at the major league level. Like all prospects, Rizzo is still only a potential winning lottery ticket which could be a bust netting you only a couple of numbers. I do not bring this up to try and bring you down, but to try and keep things in perspective. No matter how well he has done at the minor league level, there is no guaranteeing that he will be able to replicate that level of performance at the big league level. He could very well turn out to be just like other highly touted minor league prospects. Names of Jason Dubois, Jake Fox and Micah Hoffpauir come to mind. I am not saying that Rizzo will be tagged as a four A player as those guys have been, but they were also highly touted, maybe not as much as Rizzo though.
Today, the Cub fans gets to see if Epstein and Hoyer knew what they were doing when they drafted him into the big leagues and traded for him. With Rizzo’s debut tonight, the Cub fans will get their first taste of the future.