While Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols will not be wearing Cubbie blue, the Cubs may have found the next best thing - a much younger and much more inexperienced next best thing.
That being the up-and-coming prospect Anthony Rizzo.
The North-siders acquired the 22 year-old first baseman in a trade with the Padres in January of this year. However, the trade came with a price.
The deal saw the Cubs send the young and talented Andrew Cashner to San Diego. Cashner, one of the Cubs most promising pitching prospects, may seem like a high price to pay at first glance.
Yes, the right-hander has been rising ever quickly in the Padres' relief ranks, but all signs point to Rizzo making the name ‘Cashner’ fade from relevance on the sidewalks of the buzzing intersection of Waveland and Clark.
While the comparison to the likes of Fielder and Pujols is an outright stretch, Rizzo does have lots of upside and is a promising candidate for the Cubs first baseman of the future.
The new face of Chicago Cubs baseball, Theo Epstein, knew of Rizzo’s promise well before signing on with the North side.
When current Cub’s President of Baseball Operations Epstein was the GM of the Red Sox, he hand-selected Rizzo in the sixth round of the 2007 draft – it is no coincidence Rizzo now calls Chicago home.
Epstein saw something special in him.
Rizzo batted .331 with 26 home runs and 101 RBIs in upwards of 90 Triple-A games last season and is highly regarded as one of the best first baseman prospects in the league.
The numbers are inarguably impressive. And while they got the attention of the Cubs’ front office, Rizzo is no all-star just yet.
As Jed Hoyer, the Cubs’ general manager, puts it, “He still has some development left. We feel what he's done at age 20 at Double-A and age 21 at Triple-A was remarkable."
However, It seems decided that Bryan LaHair has locked up his opening day spot at first base for the Cubs. LaHair is batting .189 this spring where Rizzo boasts a striking .375 batting average.
In other words don’t be surprised to see a mid-season appearance from Rizzo.
When? That is the remaining question. When will Rizzo make an impact in the blue pinstripes? All signs point to a bright future but, for now, let’s allow the 2012 season to be the judge of that.