With the big league club taking its second off day of the season, I thought I would drop down and talk about some AAA baseball this evening. Namely, the top two prospects in the system, Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.
First Baseman Anthony Rizzo:
2012 I-Cubs Numbers
SLG %: .739
Anthony Rizzo is a pretty easy player to talk about. He is a 22 year old, 6’3″, 220 lb power hitting first baseman…and the best part is, he’s left handed. He is very, very close to being a fixture at Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs, as opposed to the AAA confines of Principle Park in Iowa. He is a “can’t miss” offensive prospect, with some refining to do as a first baseman at the MLB level. He had a brief stint with the Padres last season, hitting .141, which prompted new GM Jed Hoyer to take blame and make sure that Rizzo is not being rushed to the majors before he is ready, which may slow his debut with the Cubs. He is, however, a possible call- up candidate if a trade is made. Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano are both candidates to be dealt this season, and with Bryan LaHair working in the corner outfield, a Soriano trade could open the door for Rizzo, with LaHair taking over in left field. That all depends, of course, on his continued development in Iowa. If the first week of the season is any indication, he figures to be around sooner, rather than later.
Center Fielder Brett Jackson
2012 I-Cubs Numbers
SLG %: .523
Brett Jackson is probably a bit further away from the majors than Anthony Rizzo. Theo Epstein believes in players have a full year, meaning calendar year, at AAA before being called up. That would likely mean the chances of seeing Brett Jackson roaming center field in front of the ivy is unlikely this season, even if Marlon Byrd is traded. It is more likely that Reed Johnson would be the everyday man in center, with Rizzo being a potential call up. Better money to replace Byrd on the roster would be the speedy Tony Campana. Dale Sveum loved what he saw out of Brett this spring. From afar, I cannot disagree. After hitting .293 with 10 HR after being promoted to Iowa last season, Jackson is rapidly ascending in the Cubs’ system. He will be a Chicago Cub. It could be this season.
There is one unknown about these two fine prospects…and that is the effect of falling out of contention at the major league level. With the Cubs off to a slow start, and the season not projected to be overcome with success, it remains to be seen how the new front office and Dale Sveum will handle calling up prospects, even in September. They may want to give good prospects a long look at the end of the season. Or they could take the other approach and decide not to “start the clock” on major league service time for Jackson, and other prospects yet to make a major league debut.
Two of the most important positions on the field are center field and first base. The Cubs have two very good prospects at those positions to team with star SS Starlin Castro to form a young nucleus of good players at key positions. With Castro intrenched at the big league level and the two top prospects following, either this season or next, the future looks good. And the future could be sooner, rather than later.