"We do like our players if at all possible to get a full season of at-bats at the Triple-A level," Epstein said Wednesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "And by full season I really mean 162 games because that's what they are going to face at the big-league level where the season is six months long instead of five months in the minor leagues. He's getting there. He's getting real close to having that full season under his belt."
Rizzo, who was acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres for pitcher Andrew Cashner in the offseason, has played in 60 games with Triple-A Iowa this season. He played in 93 games for Tuscon last season in the Padres system so he is fast approaching that 162-game figure. The Cubs are not admitting that by having him on the roster for more than 104 days this season it would make Rizzo eligible for agency in 2017 instead of 2018.
Rizzo has made the most of his 60 games at Iowa. He leads the Pacific Coast League with 22 home runs and is second with 57 RBIs while batting .367. He also leads the minor leagues in slugging (.753) and OPS (1.182).
"People might look at the numbers and think this guy is a natural great hitter," Epstein said. "He's got a little bit of a higher maintenance load in his swing where he tinkers with his hands sometimes. He's done a really nice job of finding a comfortable hand position and found some rhythm to his load that he's able to repeat on a consistent basis.
"His mental approach is outstanding as well, kind of taking a day-to-day routine with him to the ballpark which is something he'll need when he gets up to the big leagues because slumps, especially for young players, are inevitable at the big-league level. I'm proud of all the progress he's made, and he's getting real close to being ready.
"That said we don't necessarily have a spot for him, an obvious spot at the big-league level so that will require some adjustments and when the time is right to make those adjustments we'll make them."
Bryan LaHair has played well at first base for the Cubs this season, batting .304 with 12 home runs and 25 RBIs. He likely could move to left field to accommodate a Rizzo promotion but that spot is blocked by Alfonso Soriano and his two-plus years left on his mega contract.
Rizzo was not in the lineup for the Iowa Cubs game against Omaha on Wednesday after leaving Tuesday's game early with a knee injury which is not considered serious.