The Chicago Cubs roll into San Diego Monday night to start a three-game series, and the series also means the return of Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo was acquired by the Padres in the very unpopular Adrian Gonzalez trade, and was easily the most hyped Padres prospect that I can remember. Rizzo put up cartoonish numbers in Triple-A, and fans expected Rizzo to become the next Gonzalez, a title that seemed wildly unfair to the youngster.
Rizzo’s Padre career got off to a promising start, as he tripled in his first at-bat, and homered in the next game. The good vibes were short-lived however, as he hit just .141 in 128 at-bats for the 2011 Padres.
Rizzo was deemed expendable when the Padres acquired Yonder Alonso from Cincinnati. The Padres viewed Alonso’s bat as a better long-term fit for Petco Park, and Rizzo was shipped to Chicago. The Padres received Andrew Cashner in return.
Anthony Rizzo started the year in AAA-Iowa, and again put up monster numbers that the Cubs could no longer ignore. Rizzo was called up on June 26, and has put up monster numbers. Going into Sunday’s game, Rizzo has produced a triple-slash line of .304/.346/.528. He hit his eighth homer of the year on Sunday, and has become the Cubs best player in his brief tenure with the club.
Of course, it would be easy to see that the Padres made an egregious error by dealing the young slugger. Ultimately, it may prove that they did. Rizzo simply did not look comfortable in his brief Padres tenure. He struck out ad nauseum, and showed no resemblance to the player he is now. Last year, he struck out 46 times in 153 plate appearances; this year he has only struck out 17 times in 133 plate appearances.
Rizzo had a terribly long swing last year, that has a looked a lot more compact and fluid this year, at least to my amateur eyes. Perhaps playing in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field has reduced the pressure on the youngster.
Rizzo never lived up to the enormous expectations that fans (myself included) placed on his shoulders. He never had a chance. It is highly unfair to call a 22-year-old kid with 150 plate appearances a failure. The Padres obviously saw a flaw in Rizzo, and went for the gap power that Yonder Alonso has supplied. I was never a fan of dealing Rizzo, but neither player is suited for the outfield, and the Padres did not have the luxury of hiding one of the players at DH. Someone had to go.
Rizzo seems like a good kid, and it is obvious that he was rushed to the Padres before he was ready. It will be interesting to see how Rizzo is received in his return to San Diego.