Inspiring prospect Rizzo offers Padres familiar look at first base
Anthony Rizzo is an easy prospect to root for. Sure, the numbers have San Diego Padres fans salivating, making the name Rizzo more popular than any player actually wearing the Padres uniform right now, but everyone else can get on board because he is the Lance Armstrong of baseball (regardless of whether you believe the cyclist cheated or not).
Rizzo has whipped cancer's butt (Limited Stage Classical Hodgkin's Lymphoma) and is now punishing the baseball en route to a major-league call-up. Fantasy owners need to jump on board even more than the four percent of leagues that picked him up in the last week, raising his ownership to 20 percent.
He is blistering in Triple-A Tucson with a .366 average, 14 homers, 56 RBI, 37 runs, five steals, a .442 on-base percentage and a .720 slugging percentage. Save for a strikeout per game, Rizzo is a minor-league Barry Bonds. He soon could be a major-league Adrian Gonzalez, the player the Red Sox traded him (and others) for and the one to which he has drawn comparisons.
"Rizzo reminds me a lot of Adrian Gonzalez," said Kevin Boles, who managed Rizzo in Class A ball in the Red Sox organization. "Rizzo is a bigger kid and has a little more power, Adrian is a little more of a contact hitter, but they had very similar styles of play.
"We thought very highly of Anthony Rizzo. He's going to be a heck of a player."
We listed the High Five June 1 call-ups last week as Domonic Brown, Rizzo, Desmond Jennings, Brandon Belt and Lonnie Chisenhall. Well, Brown got his call the very next day, despite an organizational contention it wasn't coming. Rizzo could be the next en route to the majors.
The call might have already come for the hot-hitting, 6-foot-3, 220-pound slugger, if not for a resurgence by big-league veteran Brad Hawpe. Hawpe hit a two-run homer Tuesday and has hit in 18 of his past 24 games. He is batting .314 since April 25.
It should be reminded, Hawpe is a former right fielder. The Padres sent their starting right fielder to the minor leagues Tuesday night, Will Venable. That clears the way for journeyman Chris Denorfia (.312) to be the Padres' everyday player there for the near future. Clearly, Hawpe could handle that job, if necessary -- although the Padres want a defensive option out there in spacious Petco Park.
It comes down to winning games, though. The formula of defense-first in Petco hasn't worked to date. The Padres are 1-6 on the homestand that ends Wednesday and are a major-league worst 8-20 at home this season.
It could be time to go in another direction. It is clearly time for Rizzo's fantasy ownership to continue to rise.
Rizzo is a defensive upgrade at first base, even if Hawpe isn't the ideal candidate to be chasing down balls in the right field corner. Rizzo is an offensive upgrade over anyone in the Padres lineup.
The Padres might be a difficult team to root for with the Red Sox's streaking Gonzalez in the lineup, but Rizzo will change that is so many ways in the coming days, or weeks.
It will be far more than the wicked run production, too. He is a great story or human triumph.
Every season yours truly picks five guys in May almost certain to be called up in June, but that month also tends to go deeper than that for prospects helping fantasy owners. As we wait for the official calls to Rizzo, Jennings, Belt and Chisenhall, here are some others knocking on The Show's door:
The key piece in the Shaun Marcum deal is making a huge name for himself -- Rizzo-style -- in Triple-A at the mere age of 21. He is hitting .390 in his past 10 games with 14 RBI. He has three homers in his past three games, too.
The power and run production are one thing, but it is the strides in plate discipline that has the Blue Jays even more excited. Lawrie has 39 strikeouts to 16 walks in his 45 games, but his ratio is almost 1-to-1 of late (eight walks to nine strikeouts in 10 games).
"I'm very pleased with how he's responded to us asking him to be a little more selective in his at bats," GM Alex Anthopoulos told the
"When I look at a game report for Lawrie the first thing I look at is the number of pitches seen per plate appearance. When they're not going to give him a lot to hit, we need to see that he's made the adjustment, and he's starting to do that."
Lawrie is currently the most-added, minor-leaguer in fantasy, rising 12 percent this week ahead of Mike Moustakas (6 percent) and Rizzo (4 percent). Most of that rise is the function of the quote from manager John Farrell, who was asked to name his third-base options:
"Jayson Nix, John McDonald and Edwin Encarnacion and when Brett Lawrie comes up, there's another one," Farrell told the
That is "when," not "if." And the when question figures to be answered in the coming weeks.
Eric Hosmer has held up well in his 16 games since his call-up, going .281-3-7-7-1 (.338-.500). That could give the Royals the confidence to go to the well on their next big infielder cornerstone, Moustakas, 22.
Hosmer's call-up in early May has led Moustakas to a productive stretch in Triple-A. You would think losing his lineup mate would hurt the third baseman. Instead, it has ignited him after a slow start. Moustakas has gone .309-4-18-14-1 (.387-.556) in 20 games since Hosmer's promotion.
About the only thing that kept us from guaranteeing a Moustakas call-up around June 1 is the Royals' professed patience with their elite position players after the less-than-star returns from Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. Hosmer could be changing the climate in Kansas City, though.
We left Teheran out of the discussion last week because he was already getting a recall. Well, he was once again ushered back to the minors after a brief start. Tim Hudson's back injury even led to the recall of Mike Minor since Teheran is required to spend 10 days down in the minors after being optioned.
We won't guarantee when, but Teheran will be coming back. And we will guarantee he will prove useful in all fantasy leagues in stretches in the second half.
Teheran hasn't been bad in the majors, but he has hardly translated his Triple-A dominance at the ripe age of just 20 to the major leagues yet. His return start in the minors was a spectacular one (six innings, no earned runs and six strikeouts). He has five consecutive quality starts in Triple-A between his two brief spot starts with Atlanta.
At 23, he is proving too good for Double-A in a Rizzo way. He has gone .333-15-43-36-3, .469-.693) and has walked 39 times and struck out just 28. The power to go with the strikeout-to-walk ratio has to excite everyone, even at the deep first-base position.
"People have got to start believing it's not a fluke," GM Kevin Towers said. "He did it in the Cal League and now he's doing it in the Southern League, which is a tougher hitters' league. He's somebody that, from a first-base standpoint, based on the way he's playing, could help us, maybe soon."
• SP Mike Leake, Reds -- He is the probable starter Friday for the demoted Edinson Volquez. Leake is worth adding back in deeper leagues, perhaps even mixed formats because the Reds can score (despite what Volquez thinks) and are a solid contender.
• SP Andrew Oliver, Tigers -- He is joining the Tigers' rotation and could lead to a renaissance of pitching prospects to Detroit this summer, including Casey Crosby and Justin Turner.
• 2B Dustin Ackley, Mariners -- The results are catching up to the hype for this potential impact middle infielder. He has gone .326-5-17-20-2 (.425-.579) in May.
• OF Kyle Blanks, Padres -- Rizzo is clearly the Padres' future at first, so Blanks is going to have to take his big body (6-feet-6, 270 pounds) to the outfield. He is scorching in May at .359-2-20-17-1 (.422-.641) after coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery. He has back in Double-A, since Rizzo blocks him at first in Triple-A. A move back to the outfield will be necessary.