Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jackson? Rizzo? Forget it. For now.

The Chicago Cubs have gotten off to a scorching 8-15 start good for a second to last start in the National League. Of course, this is something to have been expected considering the rebuilding approach the franchise has chosen to embrace. 

However, this hasn’t quieted the fan base calling for the likes of Triple A studs Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo to receive their call from Iowa. 

Rizzo has immediately staked his claim at first base early on in the PCL, smashing 7 HR’s and 23 RBI in 22 games played. He's also hitting .384 and sporting a very healthy OPS of 1.093. 

Brett Jackson has been the subject of much debate as to whether or not he could step in and take the seemingly empty center field role from the recently departed Marlon Byrd. Jackson, however, has left more to be desired from his early season play. The center fielder is batting .236 through 22 games while striking out 28 times equating to a ridiculously awful 27% strikeout rate. 

Nonetheless, the fans who are enduring the rebuilding process continue to clamor for a peak at what their future holds. Judging by the headline of this post one can determine where this is going.  But don’t get me wrong, I would love to see what both of them can muster up, especially with this season essentially being lost in April. But, the term rebuilding in baseball can be a confusing one. While it does indicate that the Cubs are focusing on the future, I believe calling both of them up right now to be a little too early.

Without the previously mentioned Byrd, who was traded to the Red Sox, the Cubs have been platooning Tony Campana, Joe Mather, and Reed Johnson at CF. Fans have been calling for the Jackson call up since then, but the platoon works better for now. Reason being mostly because Jackson only has a grand total of 70 games at the AAA level, while still garnering a strikeout rate of 29%. Brett Jackson needs seasoning. He needs to work on cutting the strikeouts down to a respectable level before imagining himself in the Cubs leadoff role.

His talent is unmistakable, however. He has been projected for a high OBP once given a major league opportunity, and combining that with his speed at the top of Cubs lineup is why fans are asking for an immediate call up. But the Cubs brass is making the correct move by letting him gain experience in AAA while closely monitoring his every day progress.

Anthony Rizzo is another one that requires the same answer, but for different reasons. Rizzo already had his major league call up last season while with the San Diego Padres. The person who made that call? Current Cubs General Manager (and former Padres GM) Jed Hoyer. Hoyer and Rizzo have an extensive history, after Hoyer poached Rizzo from the Red Sox when he departed them in 2009. Jed and Theo, for that matter, have an undying love for Anthony Rizzo. Taking a single prospect from organization to organization shows consistency on their part, and shows they truly believe in him. 

If his call up last season shows us anything though, it proved maybe Rizzo isn’t ready for the majors just yet. He is on the same tear through the PCL that he was on last year when he hit 16 HR’s and 63 RBI over 52 games before making his major league debut on June 9th, 2011. 

He was sent back down after posting struggling numbers, to which Jed Hoyer agreed he was sent to the majors too quickly. I plead with Jed not to make the same mistake again. The start Anthony is having this season is somewhat of a confidence builder, and I believe seeing him at Wrigley anytime before September would be premature judging solely on the struggles he showed in San Diego last year.

Patience is a key to a rebuilding season. Recently, we have been lucky as Cubs fans considering we haven’t had to witness a team this bad in a while. But risking the confidence of our young stars by calling them up too early shouldn’t be on the agenda. Let them learn from their mistakes in AAA for now. 

This Cubs fan can wait until September.  And so can you.

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