When Anthony Rizzo came to Chicago from the San Diego Padres, the Cubs’ front office saw something special.
“He’s a very strong person,” Cubs’ GM Jed Hoyer said. “I think he’s a leader, and he’s someone who can help put this organization and our team on the right path as far as our culture. He’s a very impressive individual.”
Impressive indeed. Not only has he become the consistent power bat the team was hoping he’d be, he’s the heart and soul of the club; a leader who’s been through the agony of the rebuilding years and knows what it takes to be a winning team. With the departure of pitcher Travis Wood via free agency, Rizzo is now the longest-tenured Cub on the roster, and once again is going to be leaned upon to anchor the lineup.
Since becoming the team’s everyday 1B in 2013, Rizzo has been the model of consistency. During that time the 27-year-old has averaged 30 HRs, 92 RBIs and 37 doubles with a .370 OBP and .499 SLG, and he’s just hitting his prime as a hitter. His proclivity for coming through at the right time is worth noting, as he was among the very best with runners in scoring position in 2016.
Those are the kind of numbers you want from a middle of the order hitter. Rizzo ranked 2nd in the league in total number of players who were on base when he was up to bat, so for him to perform at his best when it mattered most is the textbook definition of a superstar.
While he may be the typical power hitting 1B, he’s no slouch with the glove. In fact, Rizzo was awarded his first Gold Glove for his defensive prowess last year, and was even given the Platinum Glove as the top overall defender in the National League. I mean, with plays like this, it’s hard to say he didn’t earn it.
His .996 fielding percentage is among the best for 1B and his ability to pick low throws from the dirt is huge considering the rangy plays Addison Russell and Javier Baez tend to make in the IF. He’s got good range and is a great athlete, and will always go the extra mile to make the play.
It seems Rizzo’s been on the Cubs forever, but the All-Star is still only 27 years old. After three seasons of almost identical production, there should be little worry about whether or not Rizzo will have a good season. He’s that kind of dependable player, and with his team-friendly contract that will keep him with the club through at most 2021, it looks like he’ll be hitting in the meat of the Cubs’ lineup for years to come.
Our season 2017 projections: .290/.385/.540, 33 HR, 105 RBIs, 90 runs / Gold-Glove, Silver Slugger
*Image via Arturo Pardavila III