Results tagged ‘ Anthony Rizzo ’

Brad Nelson looks to capitalize on opportunities

Nelson

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

No position player in Mesa has more of a lock on his Opening Day roster spot than 2012 rookie phenom Anthony Rizzo. But after hitting 15 home runs in 87 games for the Cubs in 2012, the 23-year-old was invited to play for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, which means he’ll be away for a few weeks. That has opened the door for some fringe players to capitalize on his absence.

One of those players is 30-year-old journeyman Brad Nelson. A fourth-round pick in the 2001 draft, the lefty slugger has compiled a boatload of games and stats in his minor league career—a dubious honor. A career .269/.350/.451 hitter, Nelson has a 181 minor league homers, including 24 in each of his last two years in Triple-A Round Rock (Texas). In 621 games played primarily at first base, he’s committed just 44 errors for a .992 fielding percentage.

Though it’s still a long way from Opening Day, Nelson has put himself in as good a position as possible to claim a roster spot. In 19 plate appearances, the first baseman is hitting .333 with two homers, a triple, a double and five RBI. He’ll be starting at first base as the Cubs host the crosstown rival White Sox for the first time in the new year on Thursday.

The North Siders will face the Sox one more time this spring, when they travel to Camelback Ranch on March 15. During the season, the Cubs will face the South Siders in a newly formatted, four-game, home-and-home series. The Cubs will travel to U.S. Cellular on May 27 and 28, and then the teams will face off at Wrigley Field on May 29 and 30, with the BP Crosstown Cup still on the line.

First pitch for Thursday’s game is scheduled for 2:05 CST, and the game can be heard at Cubs.com. The Sox will send lefty Jose Quintana to the hill. Here’s the lineup he’ll be facing:

CF David DeJesus
2B Darwin Barney
RF Nate Schierholtz
LF Alfonso Soriano
3B Luis Valbuena
C Welington Castillo
1B Brad Nelson
SS Edwin Maysonet
P Carlos Villanueva

Cubs sign 21 pre-arbitration players

VITTERS J

(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs agreed to terms with all 21 pre-arbitration eligible players currently on the organization’s 40-man roster Monday. Terms were not disclosed.

Right-handed pitchers Michael Bowden, Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, Trey McNutt, Hector Rondon, Arodys Vizcaino and Robert Whitenack; and lefties Brooks Raley, Chris Rusin and Travis Wood were all signed to new deals.

Catchers Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger; infielders Darwin Barney, Junior Lake, Anthony Rizzo, Christian Villanueva, Josh Vitters and Logan Watkins; and outfielders Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt and Matt Szczur also earned updated contracts.

Rizzo leaves for World Baseball Classic Monday

RizzoIllo

(Illustration by Jerry Neumann)

Patriotism is nothing new for athletes.

Take the pregame ceremonies of the Super Bowl. People were so sure Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was going to shed a tear during the national anthem, Vegas bookmakers threw up prop bets on it (he didn’t).

This month, baseball players from around the globe will demonstrate their national pride when they represent their countries in the third edition of the International Baseball Federation’s World Baseball Classic.

The first WBC in 2006 was a cultural hit, pitting nations against each other in baseball’s version of soccer’s World Cup. Though no member of the Cubs was selected to manager Joe Torre’s U.S. squad for 2013, first baseman Anthony Rizzo will be playing for Italy.

“I’d love to play for [the U.S.]. That was my first choice, but they have all the ‘mon-stars’ on there,” Rizzo said during the Cubs Caravan. “Italy is a great opportunity. I come from a strong Italian background.”

Rizzo was selected because his great-grandfather hails from Sicily. Former Cub Tony Campana also wanted to play for the Italian squad, but was unable to produce a birth certificate from his grandparents.

“I think it’s great that guys want to represent where they’ve come from,” said Brandon Hyde, the Cubs’ director of player development. “They take a  lot of pride in that.”

Former Cubs Michael Barrett, Derrek Lee, Henry Blanco and Carlos Zambrano competed in the first Classic, while Kosuke Fukudome, Ted Lilly, Carlos Marmol and Geovany Soto represented their home countries in 2009.

WBC action starts March 2, with the finals taking place March 19 at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Team Italy, which is in Pool D, doesn’t get underway until March 7 versus Mexico. Rizzo won’t have to travel far, as Pool D plays in Phoenix, Ariz. Team Italy will play Team USA March 9 at the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.

Cubs high on ESPN’s future power rankings

CASTRO-S-083112-SG-06

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Much has been written about the organizational overhaul that has occurred on the North Side since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over in November 2011. Over the last season-plus, the club has seen a dramatic improvement at both the major and minor league levels.

While many publications strongly believe in what the Cubs front office is doing, ESPN’s brain trust of baseball writers took things a step further, rating the Cubs the sixth best organization in their future power rankings.

ESPN described the piece as an attempt to measure how well teams are set up for sustained success over the next five seasons. Each team was ranked 1-30 (30 points were given if they were the best, 29 if they were second, etc.) on five different categories: major league quality, minor league quality, finances, management and mobility.

The Cubs, who ranked 16th last year, made the league’s biggest improvement. Below is what ESPN said about the club:

Chicago Cubs
Rank: 6
Majors (points awarded): 6
Minors: 26
Finance: 24
Management: 25
Mobility: 24
TOTAL SCORE: 65 of 100

The Overview
In Theo We Trust. This club is undergoing a teardown unseen this side of Houston, but they’ve rid themselves of pretty much every significant payroll obligation beyond 2014. It’s been an encouraging rebuilding effort, though Matt Garza’s injury woes will prevent them from extracting full value for him in a trade. — Buster Olney

The Dilemma
They have made a lot of strides adding position-player talent to the organization, and now they must add arms. Most of their winter spending was on pitchers, but they don’t have a future ace in the pipeline. — Jim Bowden

The System
They’ve turned around substantially after trading Paul Maholm, spending lavishly on international free agents (when permitted) and drafting well in 2012, although most of what I like about this system is a good two years  away.  — Keith Law

In a related story, ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski projected the best 30 players in 2018, which included a pair of Cubs in the top 15: Starlin Castro (8) and Anthony Rizzo (15). Below is what Szymborski wrote about each player:

8. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
Projected 2018 stats: .293/.341/.478, 19 HR, 4.7 WAR

Can he stay at short? The stats have generally been more positive (or at least, less negative) on Castro’s defense than the eye has been. Wherever he ends up, by 2018 he’s likely to be one of the best hitters for average over the past decade, though he’s not going to ever be a guy who racks up walks.

15. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Projected 2018 stats: .273/.356/.520, 34 HR, 4.3 WAR

Ignore Rizzo’s cup of coffee with the Padres, his .285/.342/.463 line with the Cubs in 2012 is a far more accurate representation of where he is as a player. The Theo Epstein Cubs aren’t done rebuilding yet, but if they can round up a worthwhile third baseman, the infield will already be one of the best in baseball.

1000 Words: Rizzo flashes the leather

Spring Training 2013, Stephen Green Photography, Chicago Cubs

(Photo by Stephen Green)

First baseman Anthony Rizzo shows off his glove to fellow slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez during Wednesday’s game with the Dodgers. Entering his first full major league season, the 23-year-old Rizzo will try to join Gonzalez as one of the top first basemen in the game. Rizzo hit .285/.342/.463 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 15 home runs and 48 RBI in 87 games in 2012. Gonzalez, a four-time All-Star, hit .299/.344/.463 with 18 home runs and 108 RBI in 159 games.

Now Playing: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 3

The major league season can be a grind. Playing 162 games takes a toll on an athlete’s body and mind. That’s why downtime is so important. Some players play video games; others spend time with their families.

This week, Vine Line had some fun with the team to dig up a few facts you won’t find on the back of a baseball card. In the last installment of our spring Kicking Back video series, we talk to Cubs players about how they spent their offseason, what they do to kill time on the road and who is the worst dresser in the clubhouse.

Here are the other videos from out Spring Training series:

Mesa Cubscast: Top Prospects on the Rise

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 2

Mesa Cubscast: The Cubs Core

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 1

Mesa Cubscast: The New Guys

Mesa Cubscast: The Coaching Staff

Now Playing: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 2

Being a major league baseball player can be a strange life. The stakes are always high, millions of people are watching your every move and everyone wants to be your friend. You’d be surprised the things these athletes hear on a day-to-day basis.

Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, Spring Training is a few weeks longer than usual this season. As the spring slate drags on, everyone needs to blow off some steam. Vine Line had some fun with the team to dig up a few facts you won’t find on the back of a baseball card. We’ll post one more installment of our Kicking Back video series early next week.

Here are the other videos from out Spring Training series:

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 2

Mesa Cubscast: The Cubs Core

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 1

Mesa Cubscast: The New Guys

Mesa Cubscast: The Coaching Staff

 

Now Playing: Mesa Cubscast with the Cubs core

Throughout the offseason, Cubs baseball president Theo Epstein repeatedly talked about growing the Cubs “core” of talented, young players—players the organization can count on for the long haul and who can help bring winning baseball back to Chicago. In the year-plus Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer have been with the team, that core has grown dramatically through savvy trades and smart draft picks.

“That core, at least in my mind, went from one player to half a dozen,” Epstein said shortly after the 2012 season ended. “If we can do that again in 2013, and we look up and we have close to a dozen players in our core, I’ll feel great about the overall health of the organization.”

At the major league level, the Cubs foundation now includes talented shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson, and Gold Glove-winning second baseman Darwin Barney. Vine Line sat down with the some of this talented group at Spring Training to see what their expectations are for the coming season.

1000 Words: Hoyer and Rizzo talk shop

RizzHoyer

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer and first baseman Anthony Rizzo share some trade secrets around the batting cages at Fitch Park in Mesa, Ariz. The big league team said a rainy final goodbye to Fitch yesterday afternoon before heading over to HoHoKam Stadium, where they’ll spend the rest of the spring. The team will move into a new facility for spring 2014.

Now Playing: Mesa Cubscast, Kicking Back with the Cubs

Think you know everything there is to know about the 2013 Cubs? Think again.

Did you know Edwin Jackson could have been a real estate agent, Anthony Rizzo feels a kinship with Justin Timberlake, and Dave Sappelt has a little crush on a cartoon character?

Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, Spring Training is a few weeks longer than usual this season. As the spring slate drags on, everyone needs to blow off some steam. After a rain-shortened workout Wednesday, even manager Dale Sveum said, “It’s not bad to have a little breather,” from time to time.

Vine Line had some fun with the team to dig up a few facts you won’t find on the back of a baseball card. Check back later this week for more in our Kicking Back video series.

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