Red Sox's Rizzo Tapped Into Power Potential In Double-A
BOSTON—Even Anthony Rizzo was surprised. Yes, the first baseman had always had power dating to his high school days. In 2009, as a 19-year-old at two levels of A-ball, he had hit a dozen homers.
But this year was different.
"This year, there were a couple balls I hit where I got into the dugout and I said, 'I didn't know I could do that,' " Rizzo said. "Hopefully as I get older, stronger, more mature, even more power is to come."
In his age 20 season, Rizzo showed why the Sox believe he can emerge as a middle-of-the-order force. Though he was the second-youngest position player in the Double-A Eastern League, Rizzo was far from overmatched.
After hitting five homers with high Class A Salem to start the year, Rizzo became the first 20-year-old to hit 20 homers in the Eastern League since former Sox prospect Dernell Stenson did so in 1998. His 20th homer came in his final game of the year.
"Right then and there, I reflected on my season and said, 'Great year,'" said Rizzo.
Rizzo finished the year hitting .260/.334/.480 with 25 homers, 42 doubles and 100 RBIs between the two levels.
"We haven't seen this kind of power production from a player in the last five years that I've been here, especially not from a high school kid," Sox farm director Mike Hazen said. "He's an exciting hitter. The numbers speak for themselves, I think. To do that at that age and at that level is pretty impressive."
Rizzo, a 2007 first-round pick out Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., worked with Portland hitting coach Dave Joppe to rely more on his lower half. That, in turn, put him in better position to stay back and attack his pitch.
"I really got myself to a good position where I was recognizing pitches faster, seeing the ball better," Rizzo said. "I was laying off the good sliders and changeups and attacking the fastballs."
His rapid rise in the Sox system is all the more remarkable given that he missed almost all of the 2008 season while being treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Now, as one of the top position prospects in the Sox system, the major leagues feel close at hand.
"This year was the first time that during the year I visualized it being real and me being there soon," Rizzo said. "I'm working harder than ever to get there."
• The Red Sox added righthander Stolmy Pimentel, second baseman Oscar Tejeda and catcher Luis Exposito to their 40-man roster.
• Through 20 games in the Dominican League, infielder Yamaico Navarro had as many walks (14) as strikeouts (14), hitting .261/.400/.478.