Charting a New Course Without Their Captain: Examining the Anthony Rizzo Trade

Anthony Rizzo by Rich Biesterfeld (@Biest22)

It seemed almost unimaginable that Chicago Cubs legend, Anthony Rizzo, would wear another uniform, but that day has finally arrived. The de facto Cubs captain will continue to don pinstripes, albeit in Yankee blue rather than Cubbie blue. After arriving during the 2011 offseason, Rizzo immediately stepped into the role of the face of Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs. He embodied “The Cubs Way” on and off the field. Anthony Rizzo’s departure conjures up intense emotion from Cubs fans and deserves its own post to reflect on the impact that Rizzo had on the team, the fans, and the entire community.

The social media farewell is one that the Cubs’ team has, unfortunately, perfected over the last year. This one is flawless. If you can stomach it please do give it a watch.


A Cubs Legend

Anthony Rizzo was far more important to the Cubs franchise than his on-field accomplishments, but they are certainly impressive:


Examining the return

Kevin Alcantara

Perhaps the most exciting player brought over in the Rizzo trade is Alcantara. The outfielder exudes tools and athleticism though he has significant swing and miss to his game. As a 19-year-old will immediately add to a stellar group in the Arizona Complex League and is off to a blistering .360/.488/.520 pace through 8 games. It’s a small sample size, but it’s always better to be on a great pace than not. Alcantara was a big prospect in the 2018 international free agency class and appears as if he’s realizing his high potential. He is a likely corner outfielder long-term, but one who looks like he has the bat to succeed there. The 7 strikeouts in 25 at-bats (again, small sample-size alert) points to a real area of focus. Alcantara’s swing will evoke some Alfonso Soriano comparisons. Fangraphs is the publication overwhelmingly high on Alcantara (ranks 2nd in the Cubs system), but most publications (MLB Pipeline and Baseball America) rank the young outfielder in the Cubs top 15 prospects

Built like a younger Dexter Fowler, Alcantara now approaches 200 pounds and could have plus tools across the board once he fills out and gains more experience. His bat speed, projectable strength and leverage give him well above-average power from the right side of the plate and produce some of the highest exit velocities in the system. He made a reasonable amount of contact in his 2019 pro debut but will need to improve his discipline when he faces more advanced pitchers.

A plus runner, Alcantara covers plenty of ground in center field with long, fluid strides. If he slows down as he adds strength and needs to move to a corner, his solid arm strength would fit nicely in right field. Besides his tools, his baseball IQ and work ethic also earn praise.

MLB Pipeline

I’ve made no change to Alcantara’s FV from last year since I can’t find anyone from outside the Yankees org who has seen him, though his ranking among the 50 FV prospects in the system has changed based on continued conversations about him with front office personnel from other clubs. For context, Alcantara was fourth on my international list in 2018, and was one of the players the Yankees promoted from the DSL to the GCL in the middle of the summer of 2019. He was part of New York’s DR instructs in the Fall. Athletic 6-foot-6 outfielders who can rotate like Alcantara can are rare, and this young man might grow into elite power at maturity. He is loose and fluid in the box but does have some swing-and-miss issues, though it’s not because lever length is causing him to be late — it’s more of a barrel accuracy issue right now. This is one of the higher ceiling teenagers in the minors, but of course Alcantara might either take forever to develop or never develop at all. (DR Instructional League)


Alexander Vizcaino

Though more highly rated than Alcantara, Vizcaino brings an even higher amount of risk with his profile. The 24-year-old right handed began the season with an a shoulder injury, but had been starting with mixed success in high-A. Vizcaino’s fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90s with good ride up in the zone and solid sinking action towards the bottom of the zone. This suggests he throws two distinct fastballs. The change-up (also referred in some places as a split-change) really falls off the table according to multiple reports. Video is incredibly hard to come by, but for a glimpse of Vizcaino, see the video below.

Alexander Vizcaino in a July 21, 2021 outing

A velo bump and uptick in changeup quality (he now has one of the nastier cambios in the minors) were the cornerstones of a 2019 breakout for Vizcaino, who was promoted to Hi-A Tampa for his final five starts of the year. While he now has 70-grade fastball velocity, his long arm action and three quarters slot create sinking action on the pitch that ends up generating groundballs more than swings and misses. The whiffs are going to come from the changeup, which bottoms out as if a trap door has opened beneath it just as it approaches the plate. At this age, I think the breaking ball refinement necessary to make Vizcaino a starter is unlikely, but I would have said the same thing about his fastball and changeup last year. (Alternate site)


Wrap up

None of the players will be able to replicate what Anthony Rizzo has brought to the Chicago Cubs organization, but after 10 seasons, Jed Hoyer and company made the decision to target prospects who could represent the next generation of Chicago Cubs. Neither prospect has what you would consider a high floor, but rather each of Alcantara and Vizcaino represent high upside that one can dream on. As the prospects from each of these franchise-altering trades filter into the system, separating the minor league players from the Cubs legends is almost impossible. However, I am encouraged by what I’ve seen from both Alcantara and Vizcaino and dream of celebrating more Cubs wins in the future.


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