Unsung position player: Anthony Rizzo

This could just be the circles I hang out in or the articles I read, but doesn't it seem like we've heard more about Javier Baez and Kris Bryant this year than Anthony Rizzo?

I mean, I get that we love prospects, we love the hype, we love to build these kids up as the next great thing. That's fun, it's even natural; after all, we're often bored with mediocrity and we can grow to detest lousy players.

The minor league exploits of Baez and Bryant -- and the recent major league exploits of Baez -- have certainly been enjoyable to follow, but their futures are unknown. Maybe they'll be great, maybe not; hype doesn't guarantee anything.

But the Chicago Cubs already have a great young player in Rizzo, who just turned 25 last week, and we seem to have widely ignored him, at least on a national level. OK, he hasn't been completely ignored -- he did make the All-Star team, after all -- but consider what he's done this year:

  • Second in the National League with 27 home runs. Maybe he doesn't hit them 800 feet like Giancarlo Stanton, but Rizzo has only four fewer home runs. I feel like I've seen every Stanton home run on the highlight reels but very few of Rizzo's.

  • He's seventh in the NL in on-base percentage and sixth in walks -- and walks are good. (Take note, Javier!)

  • He's third among major league first basemen in WAR, behind only Paul Goldschmidt and Jose Abreu, which means he ranks higher than Miguel Cabrera and Freddie Freeman.

I bring up Baez and Bryant because I think what happened with Rizzo flying under the radar this season is that after hitting .233 last year -- in his first full season in the majors, mind you -- fans sort of wrote Rizzo off to some extent. This is what happens with young players projected as potential stars; the expectations are high and the expectations are immediate. Will the same thing happen to Baez and Bryant if they don't hit 30 home runs in their first seasons?

Anyway, Rizzo still had a lot of positives in 2013: 23 home runs, 40 doubles, 76 walks. Those are all good things, even if they were lost in the .233 average. But he also may have been the unluckiest hitter in the majors last year. He had one of the lowest averages on balls in play (.258) in the majors, even though his "hard-hit" percentage ranked 24th among qualified batters. His line-drive percentage was league average. So there were no obvious pointers (like excessive infield popups) that explained the .258 BABIP.

He wasn't bad -- just unlucky. He still had the same skills that had impressed everyone during his partial season in 2012. This year, his BABIP is up (.297), his line-drive rate is up 2 percent and a higher percentage of his fly balls have cleared the fence instead of landing just short.

The exciting thing is he's still young enough to improve. Maybe you've moved on to Baez and Bryant. But the best Cubs hitter for the next six years? Don't be surprised if it's Rizzo.