A little over a week has passed since the New York Yankees sent pitcher Alexander Vizcaino and outfielder Kevin Alcántara to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for first baseman Anthony Rizzo. After watching him play these last few days, it’s evident that he is the perfect fit for the Bombers.
Rizzo, who will soon turn 32, has had a seamless transition from playing on a Cubs team with no real playoffs aspiration for several weeks now to being the first baseman of the always competitive Yankees. In seven games through Thursday, Rizzo is slashing .333/.452/.708 for the Yankees, with three home runs, six RBI, eight runs scored, four walks and a 1.160 OPS. He has struck out just one time over that span.
For the season as a whole, Rizzo is hitting .254/.354/.464 with 17 dingers and a .818 OPS. He still has a bit more mashing to do to catch up to his career performance (.269/.370/.484, .854 OPS), but he is getting there.
Rizzo is giving the team precisely what it needs, and then some. For starters, he has pop. The slugger has 246 career homers and a healthy .214 isolated power. He is a safe bet to hit 25 balls out of the park every season, and he had more than 30 in four consecutive campaigns from 2014 to 2017.
Moreover, Rizzo fits with the Yankees is because he doesn’t hit many groundballs. That is a desirable trait, since grounders are the worst kind of batted balls. For the season, he hits 1.05 balls on the ground for every flyball and has a healthy 38.5 flyball rate. That helps Rizzo avoid grounding into dreaded double plays while the Yankees pack the bases with runners.
Plus, this kind of batted ball profile helps him in Yankee Stadium, where the short porch invites lefties who pull the ball, like him, to hit homers. It was clear the Bombers’ lineup could have used some lefties to take advantage of their home stadium’s dimensions, and Rizzo is in perfect position to do just that.
Rizzo is also more than willing to take his base if pitchers don’t throw him anything good to hit. His walk rate is a healthy 9.8 percent this year (in the 59th percentile), which is actually a bit lower than his career 11.1 percent mark. He has a good eye, and that benefits just about every lineup. Walks are extremely valuable.
To tie things together, Rizzo is a plus defender (93rd percentile in Outs Above Average) and can deal with difficult throws in a way that Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu, and other first sackers used this season just can’t. The YES Network actually showed a graphic during last night’s game that perfectly represented just how reliable he’s been over the past six seasons:
Not bad at all.
Rizzo recently told Rougned Odor, upon his move to third base (an unfamiliar position for him), that he didn’t need to worry about errors and just throw the ball because he would “catch everything.” It was a beautiful quote, not far from the truth.
Because the Yankee infield defense can be erratic at times, having Rizzo around helps the team patch up holes thanks to his fielding prowess. He has sure hands and is a plus in every aspect.
Rizzo’s overall approach has been impressive. He seems to enjoy the bright lights even if he is not extremely outgoing. He likes being a Yankee, being around a team in the middle of a race, thinking about winning. Overall, he has been a positive addition for the dugout.
All in all, Rizzo is, quite frankly, tailor-made for the Yankees. His offensive game is tailormade to take advantage of Yankee Stadium and to boost an offense that has squandered opportunities all year. His defense is the perfect antidote to an infield that can get wild. It’s hard to come up with an addition that was more suited for this particular Yankees club.