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SoxProspects News

June 6, 2010 at 6:31 PM

The Book: Anthony Rizzo

1B Anthony Rizzo
Date: June 5, 2010
Team: Portland Sea Dogs

Line: Game 1 - 1 for 4, solo home run, 1 run scored; Game 2 - 2 for 5, 2 doubles, 1 run scored, 2 swinging strikeouts

Swing: Rizzo uncoils from an open stance that he closes down upon the pitch’s approach to home plate. While his swing is long, it is quick through the strike zone and to the point of contact. Rizzo’s swing is free and easy as he generates what seems like effortless plus batspeed. With a path through the zone on an upward plane, he produces excellent lift that he has been honing since entering the Red Sox organization. He got max extension on his solo home run, lifting a changeup that he was a bit out in front of to right field, but was still able to keep his hands back enough and use his strength to drive. Rizzo is also able to cover both sides of the plate, and demonstrated this with his two doubles in Game 2 of Portland’s doubleheader. His first double came on a first-pitch fastball over the middle of the plate, when he exploded with solid extension to hook a hard line shot into the right field corner. Rizzo was able to get the bat extended early, and then drove the ball with all of his body. His next double came on a fastball running a bit inside around the belt. In this case, Rizzo pulled his hands in and hit through the baseball, still able to drive the ball hard on a line into a similar spot to the first one. The same result in both instances, but two totally different swings to produce those results. Rizzo’s swing can get a little bit long on off-speed pitches, as he tends to extend a bit early when going down to attempt to make contact with them.

Power: For most young hitters with high power potential, incorporating their lower body into their swing becomes the challenge as they physically mature. At 20 years old and back at full health, Rizzo has begun to fill out his frame and develop a solid lower body. Where in previous seasons he was more of an upper body hitter, his hip rotation and tapping into his legs have become much improved. Rizzo is now more adept at turning on balls and using his lower body to drive pitches a long way, especially fastballs. His upper and lower body are in sync nicely with every swing he unleashes. Even though he used a little more muscle with his arms to drive his solo home run out of the ball park, Rizzo guided the ball with his lower body and created solid drive through opening his hips, while hitting off of a firmly planted back leg. It isn’t surprising to see a rise in his home run totals and the amount of balls that he hits hard because of the improvement in this key area. Continued progress in using his lower body will allow him to realize his potential and hit for above-average power at the major league level.

Take: Where Rizzo’s overall line in High-A to start the season didn’t necessarily scream “dominating,” he does not look out of place in Double-A and is very comfortable in the batter’s box despite being very age-advanced in the Eastern League. For all the talk and focus on the improvement centering on his offensive game, Rizzo also brings very strong defensive skills to the diamond, highlighted by his quick reflexes and strong first step at first base. Rizzo has the makings of a strong defender and one that should save a fair share of errors due to his solid glove work on balls down in the dirt. Offensively, much of his work ahead should center on becoming better against off-speed pitches. Rizzo can sometimes fish for those in the dirt, especially pitches running down and in to him, while also being a bit off-balance in general. He stays back pretty well against breaking balls, but has some development to go in terms of recognizing them earlier in their approach to the plate. Rizzo gets a bit over-committed, which neutralizes his batspeed and causes him to drag the head of the bat through the zone to produce weak contact or pull them foul. As he rises towards the major leagues, some added focus on driving balls to left field will be needed to combat a tendency to over-pull the ball and roll over outside fastballs. Rizzo’s power should play well to all fields, and it is not hard to envision him as a left-handed batter using Fenway’s Green Monster to his advantage. Very much ahead of the curve, the strides and improvement in his game have been showing this season, and he appears on the track of rounding into an above-average overall first baseman in the coming seasons. Followers should expect there to be a bump or two, especially as he works on becoming more proficient against breaking balls in the upper minors, but the future looks bright for Rizzo evolving into the middle-of-the-order power bat that his tools suggested after being drafted in 2007.