Prospect of the Day: Anthony Rizzo, 1B, San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres will promote first base prospect Anthony Rizzo to the major league roster on Thursday. Although he's been nursing a bruised thumb, the injury isn't serious and he's expected to be in the starting lineup right away. Rizzo was a key prospect in the Adrian Gonzalez trade with the Boston Red Sox over the winter, and the Padres are anxious to get a look at their young First Baseman of the Now.
Rizzo was drafted by the Red Sox in the sixth round in 2007 from high school in Parkland, Florida. He made headlines in 2008 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, but he battled back successfully and has been free of the cancer ever since. He hit .297 with 12 homers and 37 doubles between Low-A and High-A in '09, then hit a combined .260/.334/.480 with 42 doubles, 25 homers, and 61 walks between High-A and Double-A last year. He was off to a fast start in 2011, hitting .365/.444/.715 in 200 at-bats for Triple-A Tucson before his promotion.
Listed at 6-3, 220, Rizzo is a classic left-handed hitting first base slugger who can pull the ball for power. But he has solid pure hitting skills as well, and will take a pitch to the opposite field when necessary. He has discerning batting eye and will draw a good number of walks, though his patient approach also makes him vulnerable to strikeouts (132 last year, 48 so far this year). He had problems with left-handed pitching last year, but has been much more effective against them this season, hitting .324/.395/.568, granted the sample is small and big-league lefties may provide more difficult challenges. Although he's somewhat error-prone at first base, scouts like his glove, giving him high marks for his mobility and ability to pick up errant throws.
As with all rookies, an adjustment period where he may struggle is quite possible, but in the long run Rizzo should be an excellent player.