Take it back to the winter of 2011:
While baseball season was not in session and many of us were seeking satisfaction for the itch, a rather testy debate raged on about the newly acquired Anthony Rizzo and Cubs’ “top prospect” Brett Jackson over who could be regarded as top prospect within the North Sider’s ranks.
We all took part in it – I even witnessed some of us even getting into petty shouting matches over the internet debating who was better defensively, offensively, and who could be ranked a ++ or 80 grade anything on a scout’s scale.
Aside from the hilarity of all this nonsensical arguing, it was interesting to see that despite knowing that this team would be easing itself into a rebuilding process, that Cubs’ fans still had so much passion (read: fiery red-hot angry passion) for their team. Its a testament to how dedicated and potentially insane we all are for cheering for this squad. But I digress….
The devil is in the details when it comes to the Rizzo vs Jackson debate. Both men are fairly comparable when it comes to physique – Rizzo being 6’3″ 220 lbs and Jackson being 6’2″ 210 lbs. BJacks is righty who bats left while The Riz is a full lefty. Neither man is out of shape and both are big enough to make anyone say “I wouldn’t really want to fight that guy”.
This means we can essentially rule out some physical differences between the two men.
While the two men do play different positions, its impossible to realistically compare their defense against one and other as first basemen and outfielders are subject to different metrics when attempting to quantify their stats, so its easiest to just stick to batting stats. Its like trying to compare apples and oranges, and then getting frustrated with both, giving up and eating them.
Both Jackson and Rizzo have had very successful minor league careers playing over 400 games each and both having 1500+ career AB. While Rizzo was a product of the Padres’ system for a long time before being picked up by the Cubs, Jackson has been in the Cubs’ system for his entire career. Take the discrepancies of playing in different leagues away from this arguement, as both the Iowa Cubs and the Tucson Padres were memebers of the Pacific Coast League and not the International League.
As far as equal comparisons go, this is about as good as it gets. Both guys have similar experience levels and similar builds – however it becomes very clear why Rizzo is top dog in this scrap when we dig in to the batting numbers:
Rizzo is a career .303/.372/.542 in the minor leagues with 87 jacks, 343 RBI, 181 BB, and 23 stolen bags. These are extremely impressive numbers from the young man and shows that not only does he see the ball well at the plate, he can generate a lot of power off the bat from his relaxed batting stance. Take note that this has not always been the case for Rizzo as he has had struggles at the plate in the past and has since made certain adjustments like changing the position of his hands and standing up taller in the box to aid in his plight for more effective hitting. I’d say he’s done a bang up job so far.
What makes Rizzo a real weapon is his raw power. He see’s the ball very well and has no issues with contact in almost every part of the zone. The likelyhood of opposition batters trying to blow balls past him is slim, and you wont catch him swinging at too many bad pitches (as his career BB would indicate)
Jackson also has some very nice power, but falls just short of Rizzo. He has a career .282/.279/.488 in the minors with 55 dingers, 207 RBI, 224 BB, and 91 stolen bags. These are also impressive numbers but is pale in comparison of the power that Rizzo can demonstrate so effortlessly.
However, Jackson does excel in a few catagories. His 91 career stolen bags absolutely blows Rizzo out of the water, and Jackson is known for his speed and smart base running. This is too be expected though, as a center fielder must be quicker than your average position player in order to cover more ground while fielding the ball. Its worth noting that Jackson was only caught stealing 25 times in his minor league career.
Jackson also has a knack for hitting triples. I know its odd, but its worth looking into. Rizzo only ever hit 3 triples during his stint in the minors where Jackson hit 34 of them…
Thirty-four triples?! Jesus.
While its quite obvious that Rizzo, a power hitter, would never be trying to place a ball quite as accurately as an AVG hitter, its still interesting to note that Jackson had the ability to turn over on balls and rip them down the line into the furthest corners of the ball park (which is widely accepted as the best way to hit triples). This is a testament to Jackson’s bat, as when he makes contact, he can essentially pick the ball up and drop it where he pleases.
Emphasis on “when” Jackson hits the ball. Jackson had 478 career Ks in the minors, significantly more than Rizzo who only had 389. This includes the extra 2 years that Rizzo spent in the rookie league and in high-A ball.
Jackson has accumulated 89 more Ks playing 2 fewer years. Its a problem for Brett, and its shinning through to his MLB numbers as well.
Now that both player’s are on the big league roster, its quite obvious who is sinking and who is swimming. Rizzo’s BA is into the .300’s while Jackson has carried over his strike-out ways to the bigs K-ing 14 times in 24 AB (58% K/AB). In all fairness, Rizzo had 49 games in the majors before being acquired by the Cubs with the Padres and was only hitting .181 with 48Ks in 128 AB (38% K/AB). The major league learning curve is a very steep one, and Rizzo has the blatant advantage of experience on his side.
While both players have very promising futures in the Major Leagues, its not certain that Jackson will remain in the bigs for the remainder of the year, while Rizzo’s spot is almost certainly set in stone. This makes him the clear choice as the Cubs’ current top prospect.
The devil is always in the details.
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