Futility and disappointment are basically the first two words that come to mind when referring to the Chicago Cubs the past five years. Since their last playoff berth in 2008, the Cubs have only mustered one winning season, and have been in full rebuild mode since.
The rebuild can prove to be historic for the Cubs however, who have compiled a historically strong farm system, with loads of high ceiling talent that can form an entire major league lineup and some on its’ own. Yet the man that the Cubs will need the most in the future is not MVP caliber prospect Kris Bryant. It’s not going to be future slugger Javier Baez. Not even recently acquired prospect Addison Russell.
The future is the man who brings Wrigley Field to their feet in its’ entirety every time he comes to the plate. No matter the situation, and even with the Cubs being an awful team, everybody on the corner of Clark and Addison knows that Anthony Rizzo is the face of the Chicago Cubs.
The 24 year old has taken ownership of his team, from taking on the Cincinnati Reds’ bench by himself when Aroldis Chapman was throwing 102 MPH pitches near the head of Nate Schierholtz, to simply being at the plate and performing when the Cubs need him most.
What is perhaps most important about Anthony Rizzo, is that he’s fully aware that this is a growing team, and his leadership may prove to be invaluable once the Cubs finally become competitive again. For a Cubs team with limited offense as it is, Rizzo and fellow young veteran Starlin Castro look to be instrumental in the Cubs’ growth in the upcoming years.
Rizzo’s 25 HR, 58 RBI, and high potential to get on base at a consistent rate, Rizzo has become one of the most intimidating hitters in the National League, and has developed a reputation to see tons of pitches per plate appearance. This leadership is what the Cubs will need, with Baez, Bryant and Russell on their way to join the ranks of the big league club.
While Rizzo nor Castro have any playoff experience, both players have gone through substantial struggles at the big league level, and have also successfully made the adjustments, notably this season, where both have gone on to become All-Stars.
The adjustments that await Baez, Bryant and Russell will be facilitated with the advice of a leader like Rizzo, who not only shows leadership potential, but also offensively has been proving to largely factor in as the franchise first baseman.
With a team that’s expected to compete in 2015-16 and beyond, what the Cubs have in Rizzo is very similar to what the upside of his potential was when he was a prospect, possessing a strong, middle of the order bat with high on base potential and phenomenal power. The Cubs are waiting on having one of the best lineups that the MLB has seen in years, yet looking back on the source of it all, Anthony Rizzo can be there to thank.
There is much work to be done in Chicago, but even with the brightest days all in their future, the man that will make it all happen is already here. Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein will look back to their blockbuster trade on January 6, 2012 when they sent top pitching prospect Andrew Cashner to San Diego in exchange for Rizzo, as the day that the Cubs began the long process of turning it around.
Whether Rizzo hits in the middle of the order or not is not, and will not be decided for a while. Rizzo is the Cubs’ first baseman of the present and the future however, and his bleeding passion for his team will be infectious, and add bellyfire to the prospects coming up,which sets up a pretty good formula for success.