Rizzo/Jackson the next Portman/Fulton? Not so fast…
I get it. The Cubs haven’t won a world series since 20 years BEFORE sliced bread. I don’t need Cub haters to keep reminding me. I’m as realistic a sports fan as there is – the Cubs aren’t going anywhere this year either. Unfortunately, some irrationally optimistic Cubs fans I know beg to differ. Just last night, a friend of mine guaranteed me that a) the Cubs would finish at least .500 and b) they have a legitimate shot at winning the division. I’m not lying either. I tried kicking him out of his own house, but that didn’t work. I understand that people like to be hopeful and what not, but c’mon man. I love the Cubs more than life itself, but patience is a virtue. It will take years for Theo and Jed to rebuild this team from basically ground up where He Who Must Not Be Named (eh what the hell, his name is Jim Hendry. And I hate him) left us to rot. That being said, there are a couple of potential stars waiting for their names to be called as they continue to improve in Iowa. Their names: Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson. The problem is that many Cubs fans want them called up NOW. My take on that: absolutely not.
First of all, the Cubs are not going anywhere this year. They will probably finish 5th or 6th in the NL Central – 4th would be a stretch in my opinion (God help me if we finish below the Abysmal Astros in the division, which is exactly where we sit right now). Second of all, I don’t care how well Rizzo has been playing in the minors. We all saw what happened last year. He torched triple A pitching through 90 games or so, cranking 26 homers, driving in 101 runs and posting .331/.404/.652 splits. Ridiculous. But then San Diego called him up, and through 128 at bats, he only had 18 hits and struck out 46 times. Yes, he’s currently batting .364 with 7 homers and 25 RBIs in his first 28 games at Iowa, but is there really any reason to call him up right this second and risk him losing his confidence like last year? I don’t think so. I say Theo waits and lets the kid keep raking in Iowa, then calls him up in August or even September to let him showcase his talents. He’s dealt with the greatest adversity of all in beating cancer, so I have no doubt in my mind that Rizzo will work his ass off and eventually become a machine at the major league level. Plus, no need to push Lahair to the outfield this soon to make room for Rizzo at first. People underrate what switching to an unfamiliar position can do to a hitter’s confidence at the plate.
As for Jackson, let’s just say he can definitely use some more time in the minors. Yes, I know that we traded Marlon Byrd and essentially have a platoon in center field between Tony Campana and Joe Mather. Calling him up just sounds like the right thing to do. But he’s really struggled at the minor league level at times. Here’s ESPN’s Keith Law’s scouting report on him:
“Jackson has solid tools across the board, but they’re mitigated by a longstanding problem with contact that really limits his offensive upside. Jackson has some bat speed with very little load, getting his weight settled late and not letting the ball travel that well. So despite his size and athleticism, he doesn’t project for more than average power. He’s an above-average runner who can handle center field and could be worth five runs a year or so there in a full season, or he could move to left and potentially be plus there.
But he punched out in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances in Triple-A, and only two big leaguers qualified for the batting title in 2011 with that kind of strikeout rate — Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds, who had a combined OBP of .322. If Jackson can’t figure out how to make better contact, he’s probably a solid-average regular; but he could be a grade better if his hit tool improves.”
Simply put, he’s a strikeout machine, and he’s currently struggling in the early going at Iowa. Nothing pisses me off more than a .240 hitter who strikes out a ton. I really can’t stand that. Forget the home runs for a second: Mark Reynolds is a career .236 hitter with 996 strikeouts in 740 games. Drew Stubbs is a career .251 hitter with 451 strikeouts in 375 games. I get that Jackson will probably never be Yadier Molina in terms of strikeout numbers. But do you really want to call up Jackson now before he learns how to minimize those holes in his game? I sure don’t. We gotta be patient with him.
In the meantime, we’ll have to wait ’til… 2015? Now that’s being optimistic.