Future Friar: Anthony Rizzo

Time for our fourth Future Friar installment as we try to introduce you to some of the players you are likely to see at PETCO Park in the future. Today we visit someone you are probably fairly familiar with already. He made his debut this year and is likely to return before the season is over. He figures to be a large part of the Major League team going forward. Meet…Anthony Rizzo.

Anthony Rizzo, 22, was born on August 8, 1989 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He played his high school ball at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, hitting .468 his senior season. That performance resulted in his selection in the sixth round of the 2007 Draft by the Red Sox.

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In the Sox minor league system, Rizzo hit .284 (307-for-1080) with 85 doubles, 38 home runs, 180 RBI and 170 runs scored in 282 games over four seasons before being acquired by the Padres as part of the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston.

While posting solid numbers on his journey through the minors, Rizzo faced his largest challenge off the field. At the age of 18, while playing with the Red Sox Single-A Greenville affiliate, he was diagnosed with  limited stage classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma. To combat the disease, Rizzo underwent six months of chemotherapy treatments after which doctors informed him that the cancer was in remission. When he returned to the field, he picked up right where he left off, terrorizing minor league pitching. He played two more seasons in the Sox system before joining the Padres last offseason.

After a solid performance at Big League camp for the Friars, Rizzo was sent to Triple-A Tucson to begin the 2011 campaign. It was here that his numbers really took off. Over the first couple months of the season, Rizzo hit .365 with a .444 OBP and .715 SLG (1.159 OPS), earning a promotion to the Padres. He made his Major League debut on June 9, collecting a triple for his first Big League hit.

The trip to the Majors served as a reality check for Rizzo, as his numbers came back down to earth. He was optioned back to Triple-A on July 21, his offensive attack picking right back up. Upon his return to Tucson, he hit safely in nine of his first 12 games, going 18-for-48 (.375) with seven doubles, six home runs and 22 RBI.

“Rizz has had an MVP-type season at Tucson, hitting for both average and power along with excellent run production,” says Padres Vice President of Player Development Randy Smith. “He has continued to improve as the season has progressed from a defensive and offensive standpoint.  All in all a tremendous season from a guy who just turned 22 in August.”

In 80 total games at Triple-A this year, Rizzo has hit .345 (105-for-304) with 31 doubles, one triple, 23 home runs, 95 RBI, 56 runs scored, a .422 OBP and .681 SLG. In addition to his hot bat, the 6-3, 220 pound first baseman has committed just 11 errors in 689 chances at first base, posting a .984 fielding percentage.

Here’s a great fan video of Rizzo’s first hit from the Padres June 9 win over the Nationals. Skip ahead to 1:30 for the good stuff.

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