Fangraphs projects Cubs first basemen among baseball’s best

RIZZO1

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Baseball fans and writers alike have taken notice of the emergence of Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Now baseball statistics website Fangraphs.com is calling him one of the best first basemen in the game.

The 23-year-old came up with the Cubs in late June, and wrapped up 2012 with a .285 average, 15 homers and 48 driven in. He also impressed in a short stint with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.

This week, Fangraphs is ranking organizations by positional strength, using projected WAR (wins above replacement) as its baseline. The objective is to rank all 30 teams by how much production the publication feels they will get out of each position on the field.

Fangraphs unveiled its first base rankings on Thursday, and rated the Cubs fifth best at the position with a total WAR of 3.8 (Rizzo accounts for a 3.9 WAR, utility man Brent Lillibridge a -0.1 and converted catcher Steve Clevenger a 0.0 WAR at first).

Here’s what Fangraphs had to say about the Cubs’ first base corps:

Who had the Cubs fifth in the pool? Don’t lie. 23-year-old Anthony Rizzo is a young hitter who had a nice debut for Chicago last year, but it is a bit shocking to see the nearly universal jump in power projected by all the systems. They must be really impressed by his Triple-A numbers, which look pretty stunning when it comes to his power. Minor league translations are a tricky matter, so there’s a great deal of uncertainty in play. Rizzo needs his power to to be for real if he’s going to be a star, because so far, his walk and strikeout rates are not exceptionally impressive. Still, even if Rizzo only repeats his rates from 2012, the Cubs will have an above-average performer at first base who has room to improve. Bryan LaHair left for Japan in the off-season, so there is no safety net if Rizzo has an Eric Hosmer-esque sophomore season.

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