Cubs fans have not had much to cheer about when it comes to the 2012 team. With an abysmal record, a fire sale on the horizon and guys like Jeff Baker and Luis Valbuena seeing significant playing time, fans have been just looking for something to cling to as a reason to get excited.
Well, that item has arrived, as the Cubs’ top prospect, Anthony Rizzo, made his debut last night.
Most of you know about him by now: He’s a cancer survivor, a Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein guy that has always been in the hands of one or both of them in either Boston, San Diego, or Chicago, and he was putting up numbers in AAA this season that are almost impossible. He’s been what Cubs fans have looked forward to all season long, as now there is a reason to watch Cubs games intuitively.
However, proceed with caution. Should you be excited? Absolutely, as prospects with as much talent and character as Anthony Rizzo do not come around very often. However, more than in any other sports league, there is no such thing as a sure-fire prospect in Major League Baseball.
Chicago fans on both sides of town know the names: Corey Patterson, Joe Borchard, Bobby Hill, Kip Wells, Brian Anderson, Kevin Orie. These were guys who came up with the same amount of hype and fanfare as Anthony Rizzo, and yet amount to as much as guys like Pablo Ozuna and Reed Johnson.
It’s important for not only fans, but executives, coaches, and teammates as well, to realize something when it comes to Rizzo. Something so fundamental to baseball: Don’t ride the highs too high, and don’t ride the lows too low.
With position player prospects, this rings true for probably more than anyone else. If Rizzo starts out on fire, it doesn’t matter. Take a look at Gordon Beckham and where he’s at now after his hot start in 2009 (although he’s doing better now). Likewise, if Rizzo starts out in a gigantic slump, that also doesn’t matter. Take a look at the rookie season of Robin Ventura, and then look at his career line.
Why? The fact of the matter is this: No matter how he starts out, pitchers will adjust to him and he is going to struggle at some point. It’s how he carries himself through those struggles, how mentally tough he is, and how he comes out of those struggles that will determine what kind of a big league hitter he will end up.
Your Brian Andersons and Kevin Ories are mentioned as busts for a reason, and that reason is not lack of talent. If Anthony Rizzo becomes a bust, it won’t be his reason either.
So, while it’s easy to get all caught up in these first few months with Anthony Rizzo’s performance, take it with a grain of salt–no matter how good or bad he looks. Realize that there’s a long road of trials and tribulations ahead for the promising prospect. The great players not only have great physical talent, but there are tough between the ears, and it will take a lot longer than 89 games to realize if Rizzo possesses that.