Anthony Rizzo has been one of the most disappointing aspects of the Cubs’ season, as the 23-year-old first baseman has seen his OPS drop 60 points following a very promising first season in Chicago last year.
He’s been particularly bad since June 1, hitting just .214 with 12 homers and a .692 OPS in 100 games. However, if you ignore Rizzo’s ugly batting average his 22 homers, 38 doubles, and 74 walks are strong totals for a 23-year-old in his first full season and Cubs manager Dale Sveum talked to Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com about how he feels Rizzo has gotten too much criticism:
You analyze a year and it’s not as bad as everybody makes it out to be. … It’s his first time ever playing every single day in the big leagues. It’s his first time with the pressure of hitting third every single day. The learning process of that is out of the way.
Sveum is right in that Rizzo’s overall production has been right around average among NL hitters, which is far from disastrous even at an offense-driven position like first base. Of course, Rizzo’s lack of development (and a similar story with Starlin Castro) is part of why there’s speculation that the Cubs might fire Sveum.
Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.
The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.
Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.
Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.
Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.
Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.