Anthony Rizzo. Synonymous with first base for the Padres is the young 6’3″ left-hander Rizzo. He was the one player the Padres thought could make a dent quick when they traded Adrian Gonzalez for him and a few others. He didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2011, but he is still the guy the Padres hope will be their long-term first baseman.
Rizzo struck out an insane 30.1% of the time with the Padres last season. He will never hack it in the big leagues with strikeout percentages like that. However, he has shown during his time in Triple-A and Dominican Ball he can hit. There’s so much that factors into a player’s success. The mental game, the physical game, and the talent. Rizzo has the talent. It’s now up to him to put it all together.
Below are Rizzo’s numbers for balls he actually did make contact with:
Rizzo’s flyball/ground ball split was almost 1-to1, 0.97 to be exact. However, his HR/FB ratio is terrible. If Rizzo is going to continue hitting flyballs (which he should as a power-hitting first basemen) he is going to need to increase that percentage. From the looks 0f these numbers, Rizzo is not making solid contact when he’s not striking out, and he is hitting weak groundballs. His flyballs are not well-hit either.
The bottom line is Rizzo needs to perform. He should get a lot more time in 2012, and hopefully that helps him gain his confidence. Bill James predicts a .236/.312/.425 line with 14 HR and 31 doubles. While this would be a huge improvement over his 2011, these numbers are not indicative of a long-term solution at first base. Should Rizzo not surpass these numbers, I think it’s clear that most Padres fans, and probably the Padres front office, will be disappointed.
As we wait for Rizzo to develop, Jesus Guzman should be given quite a bit of time at first. Fangraphs talked about Rizzo’s competition at first with Guzman back in early November. But the fact is, the Padres gave up too much to get Rizzo to just hand first base to Guzman. Unless the Padres are seriously competing with Guzman as their every day first baseman, you can expect to see Rizzo digging out short-hops on a regular basis.
Of all the positions, the Padres seem to have first base well covered. They may even have a log-jam at first. Rizzo is their number one, but they do have options if they need to go in another directions. First base should make for an interesting storyline during the 2012 season.