CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs will be sending two position players to the All-Star Game next week in Cincinnati, but the fourth-best pitching staff in the National League won’t be represented.
Rizzo was a shoo-in choice for his second All-Star team, elected by his peers as one of only three NL players currently with an on-base percentage above .400. His near one-to-one walk-to-strikeout ratio (40 BBs, 42 K's) combined with a career-high 12 steals and a league-leading 17 hit-by-pitches gave him the edge over any competition.
“It’s a great honor to get that from the players,” Rizzo said. “It’s going to be a great experience. Hopefully I can slow the game down even more this year.”
Rizzo was selected in the final voting by fans last season, but this time he’ll be able to make travel plans for his family ahead of time. And he’ll be going with his third baseman, who was selected by manager Bruce Bochy.
“That’s pretty special for both of us,” Bryant said. “He’s taken me under his wing. Proud to call him a friend. He’s a great teammate.”
Bryant adds “All-Star” to a list of accomplishments that keeps getting longer since he was named the Golden Spikes Award winner in 2013 as the nation's best amateur player. A few months later he was Arizona Fall League MVP then minor league Player of the Year last season before being called up in April.
“It’s all happened so quickly,” Bryant said. “I’ve been having so much fun in my baseball career so far.”
Bryant currently leads all NL rookies in on-base percentage (.383) and RBIs (49). All eyes have been on him since being drafted No. 2 overall in 2013.
“He’s come up with all the hype and pressure people have put on him and he’s not fazed one bit,” Rizzo said of his teammate.
Bryant has fond recollections of watching All-Star Games of the past.
“Everybody has a smile on their face,” Bryant said. “I remember Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds. That’s one of my favorite moments.”
Bryant, who won the Double-A Home Run Derby last season, said he has been asked to participate in the major league's version and assumes he’ll be in it.
“I'm open to it,” he said. “I think I might be in it. Home runs are fun.”
Who should have made it: Rizzo, Bryant, Jake Arrieta
Players got it right when it came to selecting Rizzo, and Bochy gets credit in picking Bryant over third baseman Matt Carpenter or anyone else as he replaced Giancarlo Stanton on the roster. Remember, Bochy has never seen Bryant play a regular-season game, but the Cubs and Giants did play each other in spring training. That’s when Bryant burst onto the scene as he led the Cactus League in home runs this year.
But Bochy may have gone with a homer pick when he took pitcher Madison Bumgarner over Arrieta or even Jason Hammel. Both Cubs pitchers have ERAs under 3.00 while Bumgarner is ranked 20th in the NL with a 3.34 mark. He’s also given up 13 home runs, five more than Arrieta. There’s no discernible reason Bumgarner was chosen ahead of Arrieta other than the fact he pitches for Bochy's Giants.