When all was lost against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night, the New York Yankees laid down and accepted defeat after a nine-run first inning that knocked rookie starter Jhony Brito out of the game. Aside from one player who hasn’t been getting enough attention for his hot start this season, there wasn’t even a peep of resiliency from the squad.
If you watched the game, you know that Anthony Rizzo was the only bright spot for the Bombers, launching two homers and reaching on an infield single. On a night when the Yankees were trying to end the game as early as possible, Rizzo was the only player aside from Anthony Volpe to record a hit and one of just two who didn’t strike out, with the other player being Aaron Hicks, who filled in for Aaron Judge over just one at-bat.
The Yankees have needed Anthony Rizzo’s contributions:
Rizzo has been exceptional across 12 games and 52 plate appearances, hitting .326 with a .423 OBP, three homers, eight RBIs, and posting a 179 wRC+. He currently features an 11.5% walk rate and 11.5% strikeout rate, showing patience and resiliency at the plate.
Coming off a solid 2022 season where he hit .224 with a .338 OBP and a career-high 32 homers, this is exactly what the Yankees hoped for after inking him on a new two-year, $40 million extension.
Rizzo has not only become a fan favorite but represents one of the teams tougher lefties, hitting right behind Judge in the No. 3 spot. Defensively, he’s about as stout a first baseman as you can find, posting a .989 fielding percentage this season over 106 innings and a .995 fielding percentage over 1,034 innings last year.
Impressively, Rizzo already has three defensive runs saved and two outs above average across a small defensive sample size, which is only part of why the Yankees wanted to keep him around for the next few years. The team’s long-term solution at first base isn’t known, so retaining a consistent slugger that capitalizes on the short right porch in Yankee Stadium was an easy decision, even though it cost them a pretty penny.
Rizzo is about as good as they come as a locker-room guy. He’s become great friends with Judge, which played a big role in bringing back the superstar slugger when he nearly signed a significant extension with the San Francisco Giants.
Ultimately, the Yankees are a better team with Rizzo on it and he’s already proven his worth to start the year. With many players struggling and injuries already taking hold, the Yankees need their first baseman to contribute every day.
However, he does have a chronic back issue that is being well-maintained, but it could knock him out for a few games later in the year. General maintenance is the name of the game when it comes to the Italian Stallion, but his reliability doesn’t go unnoticed, and it is undoubtedly valuable.