Mention the name Anthony Rizzo to anyone associated with or a fan of the Chicago Cubs and salivary glands start working overtime.
The Pavlovian effect he's triggered is completely warranted.
As expected, it's been an unbearable three months at the Friendly Confines. And that's an understatement. Krispy Kreams have dominated the box score. Bullpen implosions have ruined quality starts. Tight games have slipped away. The Cubs, on pace to lose 105 games, which would be the most in franchise history, are about to write another chapter in futility. One-hundred four years and counting.
Rizzo to the rescue.
After weeks of rampaging through the PCL, the first baseman was finally recalled Monday. Tuesday night versus Dillon Gee and the Mets he will make his long awaited 2012 debut. Expect him to be a permanent fixture at the three for the next decade.
Even if the top prospect executes at a Ruthian level the rest of this year, his contributions won't change the Cubs' immediate direction. But for a diehard fanbase desperate for anything positive, the future star's presence will at least make this team watchable again.
Prior to his promotion, the lefty was arguably the most destructive offensive force in the minors, slashing a .345-23-62-48-2 line over 255 at-bats at Iowa. His .702 SLG and 1.110 OPS were the highest marks by any player at any level of professional baseball.
No wonder people are drooling.
When rehabbing on the farm a few days back Geovany Soto witnessed the delirium first hand. According to the backstop, Rizzo was "a man playing among boys." However, despite the enthusiasm, manager Dale Sveum remains cautiously optimistic about the young slugger's near future. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
''I don't think I've really been around anybody that's had this much hype getting ready to come up,'' said Sveum, who acknowledged the pressure it brings. ''It's where you find out a lot about people, too. Just being around him the 30 days or so in spring training, he seemed to be a guy that's very, very ahead in the game maturity-wise. But I think we all have to be a little bit patient and understand the game's a lot different here than in Triple-A.''
That said, ''It'll be nice to have some extra firepower in the lineup on an every-day basis,'' Sveum said.
While ascending through the Padres system, Rizzo was in a similar position a season ago. He completely outmatched Triple-A pitching (356-.331-26-101-64, 21.5 K%) only to flounder when given an opportunity to showcase his wares with San Diego (153-.141-1-9-9, 30.1 K%). For that reason, many owners burned by 'expert' exuberance the first time are hesitant the second go round.
But as Sveum mentioned above, the youngster is a year older, a year wiser. This season, he's developed into a more patient hitter (18.2 K% with Iowa), picking and choosing the right times to attack, an advancement that should prove invaluable at the next level. Another plus, he's destroyed lefties (.321 BA, 1.056 OPS). Unlike Bryan LaHair, who will now man right field, he will be an everyday player.
Because Rizzo plays at an overloaded position, many shallow leaguers won't give him the time of day. At least, not immediately. After all, the Cubs, third to last in the bigs in on-base percentage, couldn't set a table for one. Even hitting in the normally RBI-friendly five spot may not lead to remarkable numbers. Still it's hard to ignore the power potential.
Best guess: Rizzo will finish in the 12-15 range among first baseman the rest of the way, a poor man's Billy Butler. That may not seem enticing to the unchallenged, but if he lives up to the forecasted production, he would be a game-changer in competitive formats. It would be no surprise if he outpaced heavily owned 1Bs, Corey Hart, Nick Swisher and Freddie Freeman down the homestretch.
Realistic thoughts of the Cubs competing for a World Series title may be roughly 3-5 years away, but Rizzo's arrival gives Wrigley patrons, and virtual owners, something to cheer about, at least for now.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 341 at-bats, .273 BA, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 33 R, 1 SB
FLAMES OF THE WEEK
Joe Saunders' roster spot late Sunday, Bauer mania is officially underway. Profiled in this space a month ago, baseball's top pitching prospect brings his grueling pregame routine and deep arsenal to a Diamondbacks club frantically trying to gain ground on the Dodgers. Prior to his promotion, he was nothing short of spectacular between Double and Triple-A. His 2.79 ERA and 10.93 K/9 at Reno, one of the toughest places to pitch regardless of level, was very impressive. His mid-90s fastball and knee-buckling curve are his finest offerings, both scoring a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. His change, splitter and slurve, nicknamed "The Bird," are also plus pitches. Bauer's 4.29 BB/9 at Triple-A is a bit worrisome, but given his incredible repertoire, he should transition smoothly. Just keep in mind he will likely be on a strict pitch count. Obviously individual/team performance and Saunders' health will determine how long he sticks. If 'Zona climbs back in the race, he will likely be a rotation fixture. If not, and he could be put on ice come September. Still, if Bauer blows away Braves in his debut Thursday, it's doubtful the 21-year-old will milk cows on the farm ever again. Upside: He's an upper-tiered SP3 in 12-team mixers moving forward. Downside: He's an upper-tiered SP3 in 12-team mixers moving forward. Yep, the Noise is that confident.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 97.1 IP, 6 W, 3.49 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 103 K
Ben Revere, Min, OF (23-percent) — To many fantasy owners strapped for steals, Revere, like his namesake, is indeed a hero and a patriot. Filling the void in right, the Michael Bourn doppelganger has contributed soundly across three categories (BA, R and SB). A high-contact (92.9 CT%) extreme groundball hitter (6.27 GB/FB) with little to no pop, he should remain entrenched on the SB leaderboard moving forward. Though the Twins could really use Kent Hrbek circa '87, Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau are serviceable enough to also boost Revere's run total. He's obviously long gone in competitive formats, but for those with a need for speed in shallow formats, the outfielder is must-own material. Mount up.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 351 at-bats, .298 BA, 0 HR, 24 RBI, 41 R, 25 SB
LAMES O' THE WEAK
Eric Hosmer, KC, 1B — Just when you thought Hosmer had regained his bearings, another wrong turn is sending his BA and subsequent value south. After teeing off on Grapefruit pitching in March, the much scrutinized first baseman has failed to live up to heightened expectations. Currently the 36th-best 1B in the Y! game, he's on pace for a measly .213-18-76-62-13. The lefty, hitting a bland .254 this month, still has the confidence of manager Ned Yost, netting ample at-bats in the cleanup spot. But his struggles versus southpaws (.189 BA) and growing groundball rate ('11: 49.7 GB%, '12: 54.5) suggest the 30-HR power explosion most projected preseason won't come to fruition any time soon. Still, the rest of his peripherals paint a rosier picture. Compared to last year he's reduced his amount of swinging strikes, drawn more walks and raised his contact rate. He's seeing the ball well, but not acting on it. If all remains intact, multi-hit performances should eventually come rolling in, though it's doubtful he will eclipse 20 homers by year's end. Confidently buy on the bear, but don't overspend. This week in one-for-one industry deals he attracted David Freese, Brandon Belt and Tim Lincecum.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 345 at-bats, .281 BA, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 42 R, 6 SB
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 100.1 IP, 6 W, 4.06 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 88 K
QUICK HITTERS (Random musings from my demented brain)
• Welcome back from your minor league exile, Adam Lind. Unlike Gaby Sanchez, look for the 'Jay to take advantage of his second lease on life. While at Triple-A Las Vegas the first baseman rediscovered his stroke, hitting the jackpot with the 51s. Over 152 at-bats, he compiled a .392 BA with eight homers, 29 RBI and 83 total bases. From this point forward he could be equal to Rizzo in terms of overall value, particularly in the power categories. He's in shape and determined to prove he's far from toast. Keep in mind, Lind is just 28.
• Chase Utley noted Monday his knees "feel better than they have in years." Before everyone starts encasing his name in hearts on their Trapper Keepers, understand the situation. He hasn't logged a major league at-bat since October. He's no spring chicken at 33. And he's just 5-for-32 so far during his minor league rehab stint. Once promoted, rust will be visible. Best case scenario: He finishes with totals in the vicinity of .265-7-30-25-5. Utley zealots, give me Allen Craig, Jose Altuve and/or Aaron Hill over your heartthrob the rest of the way.
• During the 17 years playing this addictive little game I have never seen the depth and sustainability at catcher this late in the year. Really, the position is the TE of fantasy baseball. Currently 11 backstops rank inside the Y! top-300, up from nine in '11 and seven in '10. Salvador Perez may soon widen that gap. The Royal, reactivated June 22, is a fantasy star in-the-making. So far 3-for-8 with a homer and three RBIs, he has solid odds of finishing inside the catcher top-12 over the rest of the season. Though he possesses only low double-digit pop, he is a solid contact hitter who should generate fruitful BA and possibly RBI totals. Owned in 12-percent of Y! leagues, he is invaluable in two catcher formats.
• Over the weekend Lonesome George, the last Galapagos tortoise of its kind, moved on to the big mud-pool in the sky. During his 100 years basking in the tropical sun and masticating vegetation he survived a pair of World Wars, countless natural disasters and two hours of "John Carter." However, sadly, he didn't live long enough to witness a Cubs World Series win. Do it for George, Theo. Do it for George.
• It's a crying shame "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" underwhelmed at the box office. A sequel now seems farfetched. The possibilities were endless. Just imagine Jonah Hill as William Howard Taft, dragon slayer. He would protect America and the world with only a fork and a gallon of mayonnaise. Smash hit.
Want to bean Brad in the head? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise and be sure to check him along with Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston and Scott Pianowski on The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 PM PT/8 PM ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio
- Sports & Recreation
- Anthony Rizzo
- Dale Sveum
- Trevor Bauer
- Joe Saunders