In 2011, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo made his MLB debut with the San Diego Padres. In 128 at-bats, Rizzo had a .141 batting average with one home run and a .523 on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS). After a 1-for-25 slump in July, Rizzo was optioned back to Triple-A.
At that time, Jed Hoyer was the Padres’ general manager. Along with Theo Epstein, Hoyer joined the Cubs after that season. Shortly afterward, the Cubs and Padres agreed to a trade that reunited Hoyer and Rizzo, who became the best prospect in the Cubs’ farm system.
Hoyer didn’t make the same mistake twice. In 2012, Rizzo spent the first three months at Triple-A. That patience helped him when he was called up in late June. In 337 at-bats, Rizzo had a .285 batting average with 15 homers and an .805 OPS. 321 of those at-bats came when he was the No. 3 hitter. He persevered under constant losing and other difficult circumstances.
Josh Vitters struggled in his first stint. Epstein suggested that prospects would play 162 games at Triple-A. Despite that, Vitters was promoted after 110 games. He finished the season with a .121 batting average, two homers and .395 OPS.
Let’s consider Mike Trout. From his first to second MLB stint, Trout’s WAR surged from 0.6 to 10.7. He finished second in the American League MVP voting to Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera.
Many fans are hoping that this franchise can field a pennant contender within two seasons. That’s about the time that many of their top prospects will reach the 25-man roster. These players include Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Arodys Vizcaino, Junior Lake, Albert Almora and Dan Vogelbach. Hopefully, Starlin Castro and Rizzo both evolve into regular All-Stars. Brett Jackson and Vitters may surprise in their second chances.
Cubs fans have waited more than one century for a World Series champion. What’s another couple or few seasons? It’ll be interesting to see if ownership or management are pressured into promotions because of declining attendance, fan interest, etc.