The first year of the Seattle Mariners “Retooling” was largely a success. The team saw it’s a fair share of prospects graduate to the big leagues, used veteran assets to gather even more young talent and saw much of that talent find success.
Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert and Julio Rodriguez were the most notable of the bunch which left a few Mariners prospects flying under the radar in 2019, possibly none more important than 3B Joe Rizzo.
In the early parts of last year, I discussed Rizzo’s future value and how he could reach his full potential in this article.
Rizzo did that and more in 2019. He owned a slash line of .295/.354/.423 over the course of 518 at-bats with High-A Modesto. He set a new career-high with 10 home runs and 63 RBI. Compare that to 2018 which saw the third baseman hit .241/.303/.321 and 4 home runs, it’s clear that Rizzo found something with his swing.
His lack of power numbers is still a bit of a concern but it is headed in the right direction. 43 of his 153 hits went for extra bases compared to just 27 in 2018. He also cut down on his swing and miss rate. His 21.3 K% dropped down to just 16.5% in 2019 while his BB% remained at 7.9%. He owned a .342 BABIP, up from .303 in 2018. He had a WRC+ of 115 as well, up from an abysmal 71 in 2018.
His fielding still remains a bit suspect. He committed 15 errors in nearly 750 innings at third base. He does come with a bit of versatility as he played 71 innings at 2B in 2019. He shouldn’t have a hard time sticking at third base as long as he can cut down on the mistakes, which is a big deal if you’re the Mariners.
For Rizzo in 2020, his goal will be to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. He was a star at the plate in high school and now is the time for him to show just what he can do in the big leagues. Ideally, his power tool will continue to improve as he edges closer to the big leagues. It doesn’t seem likely that Rizzo will ever hit 30 home runs but 15-20 long balls a year seems realistic.
If nothing else, Rizzo has upped his trade value should Mariners want to use that avenue. While it seems a but unlikely at this point in the Mariners rebuild, a lot can over the course of the offseason. If Rizzo can continue on his current timeline, he could be on pace to replace Kyle Seager once his contract expires. Otherwise, Rizzo could make for a nice secondary piece in a deal that nets Seattle a player that is big-league ready.
Rizzo is still just 21 years old and won’t be 22 until March of 2020. He was the Mariners’ second pick, after Kyle Lewis, in the 2016 draft. He will likely make the jump to AA Arkansas in 2020 and as the only real 3B prospect within the Mariners top 30 prospects, he had a real chance to make his way to Seattle next September.
2019 was a big year for Rizzo and 2020 will prove to the Mariners just what kind of player he is. Only time will tell.