Once upon a time, several critics were pressuring the Yankees to land Freddie Freeman or Matt Olson to play first base for their team in 2022.
Instead, the team settled for bringing back Anthony Rizzo, who wanted to return to the Bronx after a solid but not great 49 game post-trade deadline stint in New York a season ago.
So far, this move has paid dividends for the team with baseball’s best record at 50-18.
After re-signing with the Yankees on a two-year, $32 million pact in the offseason, Rizzo has made a major impact in the middle of a dominant lineup. Through 67 games, the 32-year-old has 19 home runs (tied for fourth in baseball), 49 RBIs (tied for seventh in baseball), and is slashing .235/.338/.519 with an .857 OPS across 243 at-bats.
His left-handed power bat has been a superb complement to AL MVP candidate Aaron Judge and fellow big bopper Giancarlo Stanton, who are two of the Yankees’ most feared hitters. Rizzo has also been excellent with runners in scoring position, going 16-for-62 (.258) with seven homers and 32 RBIs this season.
Despite enduring a rough month of May, in which he batted .167 with just two long balls and eight RBI, Rizzo’s bat has caught fire again. In 70 at-bats in June, the first baseman is slashing .286/.375/.629 with eight homers and 20 RBIs. Add that to his strong April (nine homers, 21 RBI, 1.066 OPS) and Mr. Rizzo looks like he could notch the fourth All-Star selection of his career later this summer.
Although the batting average is a bit low, Rizzo has been productive in just about every other meaningful category this year. Despite dealing with often-deafening noise in the offseason to be more aggressive in their pursuit of other first basemen such as Freeman and Olson, the Yankees have seemingly made the right choice by “settling” on Rizzo, who has shattered all expectations. Not a bad fallback option.
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