Cubs 2020 roster outlook: Anthony Rizzo remains an all-around rock for Chicago


Each day in March, NBC Sports Chicago is previewing one player from the Cubs’ expected 2020 Opening Day roster. Next up is first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

2019 recap

Rizzo delivered one of his best all-around seasons. In 146 games, the 30-year-old hit .293/.405/.520 with 27 home runs and 94 RBIs, sporting a 141 wRC+, 11.6 BB% and 14.0 K%. Defensively, he won his second straight Gold Glove Award (third overall), tying for fewest errors made (5) among all qualified first baseman.

Perhaps most memorable is Rizzo’s shocking return from injury in September. The big first baseman was expected to miss a few weeks — potentially the rest of regular season — after suffering a nasty ankle sprain on Sept. 15.

Instead, he was back in the lineup four days later, in time for the series opener of a major four-game set against the Cardinals. His second plate appearance of the series was nothing short of dramatic:

St. Louis swept that series, but Rizzo’s return was incredibly gutsy and demonstrative of his leadership. When the Cubs needed him most, he gave them everything he had.

Expectations for this season’s role

2020 is Rizzo’s ninth season (holy cow) as a Cub and as it pertains to his role, things aren’t exactly status quo. He’s the unquestioned starting first baseman but has a new spot in the lineup.

David Ross pegged Kris Bryant as his leadoff man this spring and plans to keep Bryzzo intact. Rizzo will now hit second, rather than his usual No. 3 or cleanup position. He’ll be protected by Javier Báez, giving the Cubs a daunting top of the order.

2020 outlook

Rizzo’s been a steady hitter during his time on the North Side, no matter his lineup position. In 237 career plate appearances in the two-hole, he’s a .300/.401/.515 hitter with a stellar 153 wRC+ and solid walk (10.5 percent) and strikeout (14.8) rates.

It’s not the greatest sample, but there’s no reason his production shouldn’t translate to the second spot. The lineup change is less jarring than it seems, too, considering how inconsistent the Cubs’ leadoff production has been post-2016. Bryant, hitting second, has often stepped up to the plate with one out — with Rizzo behind him. If anything, Bryant, Rizzo — and Báez (hitting third) pacing the lineup gives pitchers no time to settle into a game.

Rizzo’s signed through 2021, but his contract status made headlines in December. His agent, Marc Pollack, said the Cubs informed him they weren't offering Rizzo an extension this offseason.

In response, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said in December the two sides were “pretty far apart” on the length of a potential deal. He made it clear the club wants Rizzo to be a Cub for life and the failed negotiations won’t hinder future conversations, however.

The Cubs have two seasons to work out a Rizzo extension. In the meantime, we can count on him being the dependable player Chicago knows and loves.

The complete roster outlook series:

1. Cubs hoping Kris Bryant stabilizes leadoff spot in 2020
2. Kyle Hendricks is a steady force in the Cubs' rotation
3. Kyle Schwarber is primed for a breakout 2020 season
4. Tyler Chatwood has chance to rewrite the script in 2020
5. David Bote searching for more offensive consistency in 2020
6. One pitch could hold key to Jose Quintana's 2020 success
7. Albert Almora Jr. looking to rebound behind new swing, refreshed mental state
8. Cubs counting on bounce back season from Craig Kimbrel
9. Javier Báez is indispensable, and the best is yet to come
10. New pitch key to Rowan Wick staving off regression
11. New MLB rule gives Victor Caratini chance for bigger role
12. Daniel Descalso can only improve from last season
13. Ian Happ poised to claim starting center field job
14. Jeremy Jeffress can bounce back in Chicago
15. Lineup adjustment could be key to Jason Heyward's success

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