By Bruce Levine-
WRIGLEY FIELD (CBS) — Who would you take if you had a choice between Anthony Rizzo and American League Player and Rookie of the Month Jose Abreu?
As interleague play begins between the Sox and Cubs, both first basemen are off to great starts. Abreu leads all of baseball in home runs (12) and RBI (33). Rizzo has been the player the Cubs expected to see, solving lefthanded pitching for the first time in his career, hitting over .333 against them.
The question is intriguing because each player is under contract control for many years to come. Abreu and Rizzo are both signed through 2019. The Cubs have options for two more years after that.
On defense, Rizzo is the clear-cut better player. Rizzo has Gold Glove caliber ability and may be near that status soon. Abreu, although better than advertised with the leather, still has work to do in the areas of foot work and digging out balls at first base.
Power may be a toss-up. Abreu appears to have more raw power. Rizzo does not have to take a back seat to anyone with 40 home run potential and a chance to be among the leaders in slugging this season.
“This is just a cycle of the game,” said Paul Konerko, who has hit well over 400 long balls during his career. “When I was coming up, I saw guys who were on the way out who were power hitters. I said to myself I am going to take their spot. I had my run and now someone else will take my spot.”
Hitting for average may be a toss-up. Abreu has always hit for a high average in Cuba with a .341 lifetime average. With more big arms in the major leagues, it would be hard to imagine Abreu joining league leaders in batting average at season’s end. All that speculated, he has done major damage without having faced big league pitching before. Rizzo was a triple crown threat in his ascension to the majors at a couple of minor league stops.
Age would be a criteria if you’re investing in either player for the future. Rizzo is 24 and Abreu was listed at 27 when the Sox signed him to a six year deal last November.
“The game is evolving and everyone seems to be getting better,” Adam Dunn said on Monday. “It is good to see guys like them come up. Watching guys that are coming up [power hitters] is great. There is nothing more exciting than to see guys hit them out of the park.”
With either Rizzo or Abreu, it appears you can’t go wrong!