The news fantasy managers have been waiting for has finally been confirmed: San Diego Padres’ first base prospect Anthony Rizzo has been promoted, and will make his major league debut Thursday against the Nationals.
Rizzo was drafted by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2007 draft. He was hitting .373 in low Class A in April 2008 when he was diagnosed with limited stage classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After missing the rest of the 2008 season to receive treatment, Rizzo has been cancer-free.
He returned to baseball in 2009, and hit .297/.368/.461 with 49 extra-base hits (12 HRs) and 66 RBI in 503 plate appearances between low and high Class A at the age of 19.
Rizzo started 2010 at high Class A, but was promptly sent to Double A after just 29 games. For the season, he hit .260/.334/.480 with a whopping 67 extra-base hits (25 HRs) and 100 RBI in 602 plate appearances.
After solidifying himself as one of Boston’s top offensive prospects, the Red Sox sent him and two others to the Padres in December for Adrian Gonzalez.
The 21-year-old started 2011 at Triple-A, where he crushed opposing pitchers to the tune of .365/.444/.715 with 37 extra-base hits (16 HRs) and 63 RBI in just 232 plate appearances.
Rizzo’s big league debut was expected to come earlier this week, but was delayed by a thumb injury; X-rays came back negative.
The Padres’ No. 2 prospect prior to the season according to Baseball America, fantasy managers are expecting big things from the young left-handed first baseman. Here’s why (from Baseball America):
Rizzo generates plus power with strength and leverage. He drives the ball well to the opposite field and last season began pulling pitches for home runs. With his willingness to use the entire field and his patience, he should hit for a solid average and draw some walks.
Managers rated Rizzo as the best defensive first baseman in the Eastern League last year, so his glove will keep him in the lineup even if his bat struggles initially. He’s a below-average runner.
Rizzo have to make adjustments against left-handed pitching, as he hit just .217/.290/.380 against them last season.
He is undoubtedly the Padres’ long term solution at first base, but how good can we expect him to be, considering his pitcher-friendly home park? Consider the following:
Since 2004 (PETCO’s inaugural season), only 12 times has a Padres batter hit 20 or more HRs in a season, and five of those instances were courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez. Think about that. In the last seven seasons, only six Padres not named Gonzalez (Mike Cameron did it twice) have hit 20 or more HRs in a season. For those expecting 30 or even 20 HR pop from Rizzo, this isn’t a good sign.
Keep in mind, Rizzo doesn’t turn 22 until August, so he’s unlikely to post prodigious power numbers right away. Padres manager Bud Black has said Rizzo will bat somewhere between fifth and seventh this season.
Given the depth at first base, Rizzo isn’t necessarily a must-add in 10 or 12-team formats. He is, however, a hot item in keeper/dynasty leagues, as his ceiling is likely along the lines of 25-30 HRs with a .280 average.
Image courtesy of: Vhants via Flickr
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