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Anthony Rizzo

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Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Vincent Rizzo

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Anthony Rizzo reached AA in 2010 and made his major league debut one year later.

Rizzo hit .468 as a high school senior. He was picked by the Boston Red Sox in the 6th round of the 2007 amateur draft; Laz Gutierrez was the scout. He went 6 for 21 with a homer, walk and 6 runs in six games for that year's GCL Red Sox. In 2008, the Floridian hit .373/.402/.446 in 21 games before being sidelined by Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and missing the rest of the year.

Returning to health in 2009, Rizzo batted .298/.365/.494 in 64 games for the Greenville Drive and .255/.371/.420 in 55 for the Salem Red Sox. For the year, he had 37 doubles. He led Red Sox farmhands in OBP (.368) and Carolina League managers rated him the best defensive first baseman in the circuit. Baseball America rated him as the #12 prospect in the Carolina League, between Danny Duffy and Chase d'Arnaud.

Rizzo split 2010 between Salem (.248/.333/.479 in 29 G) and the Portland Sea Dogs (.263/.334/.481 in 107 G), hitting 42 doubles and 25 homers, scoring 92 runs and driving in 100. He led Red Sox farmhands in doubles, homers and total bases (255). He was then dealt with former first-rounders Reymond Fuentes and Casey Kelly to the San Diego Padres for star slugger Adrian Gonzalez.

Rizzo was sent to the Tucson Padres of the AAA Pacific Coast League to begin 2011 and hit extremely well in the early going, confirming his status as a top prospect. In 52 games, he was hitting .365/.444/.715, with 20 doubles and 16 homers, when he got the inevitable call to The Show. At the time, he was tied with Bryan LaHair for third in the PCL in home runs, led in RBI (5 over Mike Carp), was third in doubles and was 5th in slugging.

He made his debut with San Diego on June 9th, playing first base and hitting 7th against the Washington Nationals. He reached base 3 times in 4 plate appearances, with a triple and a pair of walks, as the Padres won, 7-3. In his first at-bat, he struck out against Liván Hernández but tripled his next time up against the Cuban veteran. Two days later, he hit his first career homer, off John Lannan; that homer was a prodigious blast, landing in the hard-to-reach right field bleachers at PETCO Park. However, he struggled after that promising debut, and by July 21st, he was hitting only .143 in 98 at bats with 36 strikeouts when the Padres decided to send him back down to Tucson for more seasoning. He was replaced on the roster by Kyle Blanks. He ended the season with a batting line of .331/.404/.652 in 93 games at Tucson, and .141/.281/.242 in 49 games with the Padres.

On January 6, 2012, Rizzo was traded to the Chicago Cubs along with P Zach Cates, in return for P Andrew Cashner and OF Kyung-Min Na. It marked the second time in two years that Jed Hoyer, now the Cubs' GM had traded for Rizzo and he explained that he saw him as the team's first baseman of the future, adding however that the minor league veteran LaHair, who had just earned the PCL's MVP award, was the team's first choice to man first base in the coming season. Thus, he started the season in the minor leagues, hitting .342 with 18 doubles and 23 homers in 70 games for the Iowa Cubs. While LaHair was one the most productive hitters with the big-league Cubs, the team was struggling and could not afford to keep Rizzo in the minor leagues when he was hitting so well. He was called up to the team on June 26th, starting at first base with LaHair moving to the outfield. He had 2 hits, including a double, and an RBI in his debut. On June 30th, he hit his first homer as a Cub off J.A. Happ in a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros. He went on to have an excellent month of July, earning Rookie of the Month honors in the National League by hitting .330/.375/.567 in 25 games, during which he slugged 7 homers and drove in 17 runs. he capped the month with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29th. He finished the season with a batting line of .285/.342/.463 in 87 games, with 15 homers and 48 RBI and was named the first baseman on the 2012 Topps All-Star Rookie Team.

Rizzo at a USO benefit in January 2014.

Rizzo was the first baseman and #3 batter for the Italian national team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, going 4 for 17 with five walks, two doubles, four runs and six RBI. He was in the middle of the pack of the Azzurri in OPS but tied Chris Colabello for third on the team in runs, led in walks and was second in RBI, one behind Colabello. He came up big in the 6-5 upset of Mexico; with Italy down 5-4 in the 9th against Sergio Romo, he drove in both Stefano De Simoni and Chris Denorfia to win it. He tried to score an insurance run on a grounder by Alex Liddi but was out. His three-run double off Xavier Cedeño broke open a scoreless game with Puerto Rico in the 5th but Italy lost 4-3.

On May 12, 2013, sensing that Rizzo was the real deal, the Cubs signed him to a seven-year contract worth $41 million, indicating that he was one of the pillars around which the team would re-build. He struggled a bit that year however, as his average fell to .233, although he continued to display good power, with 42 doubles and 23 homers. He also scored 71 runs and drove in 80 and was generally the Cubs' biggest offensive threat in spite of the low batting average. He rebounded in 2014, when he hit .275 with 15 doubles and 20 home runs and drove in 49 runs during the first half. He became an All-Star for the first time, the result of winning the National League's Final Man Vote. On July 20th, he made a tremendous defensive play in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, lunging over a railing protecting a camera bay to catch a foul ball, but the play backfired when he then tumbled out of play, allowing baserunners to advance one base; David Peralta thus scored from third base, with what proved to be the winning run in a 3-2 D-Backs' win.

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