Results tagged ‘ Anthony Rizzo ’

Castro, Rizzo among Law’s top young players


(Photo by Chris Bernacchi)

The past few years on the North Side have been dedicated to the future. The Cubs’ goal has been to establish young talent at the major league level and give those players every available opportunity to become stars, either now or in the future. Apparently, some baseball experts have taken notice.

ESPN’s Keith Law unveiled his list of the 25 best major leaguers 25 years old or younger, and Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo were both part of the talented group (subscription required).

Castro, who was ranked No. 6 on last year’s list, came in at No. 8 in the 2013 edition and was the second highest ranked infielder of the 25. The 23-year-old had a .283 average and a 3.4 WAR in 2012 and improved his plate discipline and defense as the season progressed.

Law on Castro’s future:

“If Castro barely improves from here, he’s still a valuable big leaguer because he can handle short and is likely to hit at least .300 with plenty of doubles power. I think he’ll grow into 20-homer power in time.”

Rizzo, who also made the list, slid in at No. 18 and was the highest ranked first baseman. After struggling in a 2011 call-up with the Padres, he put doubter’s minds at ease with a .285 average and 15 home runs after a late June call-up to the Cubs in 2012.

Law on Rizzo’s future:

“A full season for Rizzo in 2013 should see him hit close to 25 homers with an average in the high .200s along with that great defense at first. … Given his age and the speed with which he has made adjustments, I like his odds of figuring out southpaws.”

Law’s top five were Mike Trout (Angels), Bryce Harper (Nationals), Jason Heyward (Braves), Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins)  and Stephen Strasburg (Nationals).

Cubs 2013 ZiPs projections unveiled


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Each year, sabermetric enthusiast Dan Szymborski compiles projected stats for the upcoming season for all major league players. Using an intricate formula, the computer-based projections, better known as ZiPS (sZymborski Projection System), give an estimate for most notable offensive and pitching categories. Late last week, Szymborski unveiled his projections for the 2013 Cubs.

It should come as no surprise that shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo are projected to make the biggest impact in 2013, each slated for a 4.0 WAR (wins above an average replacement player). Castro is projected to hit .294/.332/.446 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 homers, 12 triples, 24 stolen bases and 77 RBI. The slugging Rizzo rates out at .279/.349/.503, with 31 homers, 109 driven in and 32 doubles.

On the pitching side, Jeff Samardzija projects to be the best starter with a 3.1 WAR. He’s estimated to throw 169 innings, strike out 172 batters and record a 3.62 ERA.

According to Szymborski, newcomer Edwin Jackson should have an ERA around 3.91 over 186.2 innings and fan 159 hitters. His estimated WAR of 2.8 is slightly better than Matt Garza’s 2.7.

Projected WAR of starting pitching candidates:

Jeff Samardzija: 3.1
Edwin Jackson: 2.8
Matt Garza: 2.7
Scott Baker: 1.6
Carlos Villanueva: 1.4
Travis Wood: 1.3
Scott Feldman: 1.0

Projected WAR of starting lineup:

Starlin Castro: 4.0
Anthony Rizzo: 4.0
Darwin Barney: 2.3
Alfonso Soriano: 1.8
Welington Castillo: 1.6
David Dejesus: 1.1
Nate Schierholtz: 0.8
Ian Stewart: 0.4

1000 Words: Rizzo’s rain delay


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo considers wading back into the clubhouse after a particularly bad rain delay in July.

With the help of Cubs photographer Stephen Green, we compiled the photos of the year and put the best of the best into our December issue of Vine Line. All month, we’ll be putting some of the extras here on the blog. To get your issue of the magazine or to subscribe, go to

Hot Off the Presses: Vine Line’s Year in Review

The end of 2012 marks the culmination of many firsts. It was baseball president Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer’s first year at the Cubs’ helm. It was Dale Sveum’s first full season as a major league manager. It was Anthony Rizzo’s first year in a Cubs uniform and Jeff Samardzija’s first real experience in the rotation. It was also the first time since 1966 the team lost 100 games in a single season.

In other words, I think everybody is looking forward to saying goodbye to 2012 and popping the proverbial cork on a new year of Cubs baseball.

Although a 61-101 record isn’t what anyone involved with the Cubs was hoping for, everybody knew there was work to be done at the outset of the season. As we look back at the year, there were certainly stretches of good play, breakout performances, walk-off wins and plenty to feel positive about. But no one—from fans to players to the front office—is happy with where the team is right now.

“I don’t think a celebration is in order,” said Epstein on his one-year anniversary with the Cubs. “I have a lot more gray hair now than I had a year ago. My wife reminds me of that all the time. But I do feel really energized by a lot of the things that are going on here.”

In the December issue of Vine Line, the Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles examines how the Cubs fared this year and what they did to strengthen their future prospects. It’s impossible to judge the 2012 calendar year by looking solely at the major league level. When Epstein, Hoyer and company came to Chicago, they talked of the need to restock the minor league system to provide a steady stream of homegrown talent to the big league club. And that’s exactly what the Cubs are doing. Respected hardball website Baseball Prospectus recently released a list of the top 10 prospects in the Cubs organization, and six of the 10 players were acquired or drafted in 2012.

It all started with the 2012 first-year player draft, where the Cubs picked up outfielder Albert Almora (No. 1 on Baseball Prospectus’ list) and right-handed pitchers Pierce Johnson (No. 7) and Duane Underwood (No. 8). But it also included free agent signings like outfielder Jorge Soler (No. 3) and making full use of the trade deadline to fill organizational holes with players like right-hander Arodys Vizcaino (No. 4) and third baseman Christian Villanueva (No. 9).

To say goodbye to 2012, Vine Line and Chicago Cubs photographer Stephen Green also look back at the best photos from the past season. Green, in his 30th year with the team, was there for every moment, from Bill Murray’s Opening Day hijinks to Bryan LaHair’s walk-off single to cap off the year.

We also have a preview of the Cubs Convention, a Q&A with outfielder Dave Sappelt and much more. For these stories, subscribe to Vine Line or pick up an issue at select Chicago-area retailers. We’ve also launched a Vine Line Twitter account at @cubsvineline to keep you posted on Cubs happenings up to the minute.

2013 Cubs Convention passes on sale now

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The MVP awards were handed out Thursday night, signifying the official end of the the 2012 baseball season. But just because Spring Training is still months away doesn’t mean Cubs fans can’t get their baseball fix.

From Jan. 18-20, Cubs faithful will have an opportunity to meet more than 50 current and former players, coaches and front office associates at the 28th annual Cubs Convention. For the first time in the event’s history, it will be held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers at 301 E. North Water St., and it promises to deliver all the fun and excitement of previous years.

Some of the headliners expected to attend this year include Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams; current stars Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and Jeff Samardzija; and front office personnel like Dale Sveum, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

Individual weekend passes for the event went on sale earlier this month, and there are still some available. Each pass is $60 plus convenience fees. To purchase your pass, visit or call 1-800-THE-CUBS.

Guests can also still book rooms at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers by calling the hotel at 800-233-4100. Ask for the Cubs Convention rate of $179/night plus tax. Guests who book a two-night stay will receive a limited edition, authenticated, autographed photo of Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

The convention will run from 1-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m-midnight Saturday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit

Farm Report Wrap-Up: The Iowa-Chicago shuttle was active in 2012

Josh Vitters was one of the top hitters on the Iowa Cubs this season. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Today we wrap up our tour of the Cubs farm system, which took a level-by-level look at performances the organization hopes to build on in 2013. The Triple-A Iowa Cubs are last in the spotlight.

For those of us who subscribe to MiLB.TV, all eyes were trained on Iowa to start the year. Between Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, some of the organization’s top prospects could be found just a step away from the major leagues.

In fact, of the 59 players to appear for the I-Cubs this year, 32 appeared in the major leagues at some point this season. And 24 finished the year on a big league roster (though it should be noted that total includes rehab assignments in Des Moines for Geovany Soto, Carlos Marmol and Steve Clevenger).

Of course, Rizzo dominated Triple-A until his mid-June call-up, and he more or less became the Chicago Cubs’ best hitter after that. On the other hand, both Vitters and Jackson weren’t able to take off in their major league debuts and, according to Theo Epstein, are expected to start back in Iowa next season.

Lost in the franchise-record 153 transactions was a team that finished in last place, largely because of an offense that finished 15th out of 16 teams.

Still, some specific performances stood out even beyond Rizzo, Vitters and Jackson. Infielder Luis Valbuena showed some pop and patience to go along with a good glove. First baseman Greg Rohan did well in his third stop of 2012. Catcher Welington Castillo once again showed some power, as he continues to develop his good tools behind the plate. And infielder Adrian Cardenas has produced at pretty much every minor league stop.

The Chicago-Iowa shuttle was active on the pitching side as well. Alberto Cabrera has a live arm and was fairly successful in the majors outside a handful of bad appearances. Left-hander Jeff Beliveau could be a key matchup pitcher for the Cubs—and has shown the ability to get righties out too. Rafael Dolis has a great, hard sinker, and his success in Triple-A and lack of it in the majors largely had to do with control. Lefties Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley each made a handful of starts down the stretch in the majors and could be outside challengers for rotation spots next spring.

Final Record:

Overall: 53-87, fourth place, 28.0 GB

Storylines: The Iowa Cubs will be hiring their sixth manager in as many seasons, as 2012 skipper Dave Bialas was one of six minor league coaches who were told their contracts would not be renewed. Bialas had been in the organization for 18 years.


1000 Words: Alfonso Soriano gives back to fans

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Prior to Wednesday’s season finale, Cubs players gave back to the fans by tossing baseballs into the stands. While Alfonso Soriano handed balls out to the front row, Anthony Rizzo, Shawn Camp and others showed off their arms by hurling balls into the upper deck.

2012 Player Profile: Bryan LaHair

Comparing pitch charts from the first half to the second, pitchers made some big changes when facing Bryan LaHair. (Photo by Stephen Green)

2012 Positions Played: 1B (65%), RF (34%), LF (1%)
2012 Batting (AVG/OBP/SLG): .257/.333/.442 in 375 PA
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 0.6
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arbitration)
Recent Time to First: 4.7s on Aug. 19 (20 on 20-80 scale)

Bryan LaHair has beat the odds a few times over.

He made the majors despite being a 39th-round draft pick (in 2002). He turned the prevailing scouting opinion of him from “Quad-A Player” to potential regular as he approached 4,000 minor league plate appearances. He even was named a 2012 All-Star despite barely clearing rookie eligibility by his 29th birthday.

The 2012 season was a tale of two halves for LaHair, for reasons both in and out of his control. He was one of the NL’s best first basemen in the first half and showed a model approach at the plate that manager Dale Sveum would like to see spread throughout the lineup. Then pitchers adjusted to him, and his playing time was squeezed by the call-up of Anthony Rizzo. But he showed a positive, determined attitude throughout the year and has said he won’t let his big league opportunity go to waste.

Let’s once again leverage PITCHf/x data, as presented by and Baseball Prospectus, in order to compare how pitchers approached LaHair as the season went along. Baseball Prospectus gives you hundreds of ways to slice up the numbers. Our own figure below shows the change in pitch location versus LaHair, from first half to second. (For example, pitchers threw 13 percent fewer pitches in the low-and-away square of the strike zone in the second half than they did in the first. With pitches up and in, LaHair saw 124 percent more pitches—or more than twice as many. Note: This is based on the rates.)

In the first half, pitchers primarily worked away from LaHair, hoping to prevent him from being able to pull the ball. LaHair was happy to oblige—he went with those pitches and showed an impressive ability to drive them the other way. In fact, four of his first seven home runs (hit by May 3) were hit left of center field. He finished the first half with a .286/.364/.519 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 261 plate appearances and was selected to the All-Star Game.

But as big league pitchers saw more of LaHair, they adjusted. They started pounding fastballs inside on LaHair before going back to the low-outside corner with breaking balls when the pitcher was ahead in the count. This approach turned out to be successful, and LaHair’s struggles were compounded by reduced playing time when the organization’s top prospect Rizzo was called up in late June. He had a .192/.263/.269 slash line in 114 second-half plate appearances.

The question, of course, is figuring out LaHair’s best role on the Cubs going forward. First base clearly has been claimed by Rizzo for years to come. If Brett Jackson takes a hold on center field next year, then Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus will get the majority of starts in the corners. So that may relegate LaHair to coming off the bench, where he would be one of the top bats to bring in against right-handed relievers. Cost—at least in dollars—isn’t the issue since he only has one and a half years of MLB service time, meaning the team can tender him a contract at or near the league minimum. Instead, a key offseason priority for GM Jed Hoyer will be determining LaHair’s roster value for 2013.

Win a copy of Vine Line signed by Anthony Rizzo

NOTE: This sweepstakes officially ended at noon on Oct. 4, 2012. Check back with Vine Line in October for the next cover giveaway.

Want to take home a copy of Vine Line signed by Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo? Now’s your chance. All you have to do is sign up at the link below, and we’ll choose five lucky winners at random.

Be sure to follow the Vine Line blog (just click the link directly to your right) for daily news about the Chicago Cubs organization from top to bottom. We’ve recently expanded our coverage, so now you’ll find even more stories on the Cubs minor league system to go along with the profiles, videos and photos from the big league club you normally get from us.

And check back with to get the inside track on sweepstakes, contests and other Vine Line giveaways. Next month, we’ll be giving away copies of the August issue signed by shortstop Starlin Castro.

To sign up for your chance to win, go to the Chicago Cubs Vine Line Sweepstakes page.

Now Playing: Anthony Rizzo Safe at Home

Since his June 26 call-up to the big leagues, Anthony Rizzo has certainly lived up Cubs fans’ expectations. In just 57 games, his highlights include driving in the game-winning RBI in three of his first five games, hitting a dramatic walk-off home run against the Cardinals and capping an improbable rally last night with a key ninth inning double to tie the game 11-11 with Milwaukee.

Rizzo’s early success with the Cubs made us wonder about the goals he set for himself heading into the season. Vine Line looked back at our Spring Training conversation with the slugging first baseman in which he talked about coming to the Cubs, saying goodbye to the minor leagues and playing at Wrigley Field.


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