A comparison of two prospects: Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo

The Cubs recently acquired top prospect Anthony Rizzo and some thought he may be the top prospect in the Cubs organization. I didn’t see how that would be possible when you consider their positions and John Sickels agrees with that. Both Brett Jackson and Rizzo were the top prospects of their organizations according to Baseball America prior to Rizzo joining the Cubs. I’m guessing he’ll be ranked 2nd in the Cubs organization. My opinion before I started looking more closely at it was that Jackson was the superior prospect by quite a bit.

It’s important to point out that Rizzo is a year younger than Brett Jackson, but Jackson is young himself so I’m not sure how much of a factor this really is. I looked at the numbers for each stop along the way to compare the two.

Rookie League

Player PA H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG wOBA XBH% ISO BB% K%
Rizzo 24 6 0 0 1 .286 .375 .429 .385 .045 .089 12.5% 8.3%
Jackson 15 5 0 1 0 .455 .533 .636 .512 .067 .078 20.0% 26.7%

Both players breezed through rookie league, but the age at which they did is most apparent at this level as Jackson went to college and Rizzo was drafted out high school.

Brett Jackson had a stop in short-season rookie league while Rizzo was promoted directly to A ball.

Low A

Player PA H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG wOBA XBH% ISO BB% K%
Rizzo 361 104 27 0 9 .317 .374 .482 .389 .101 .057 8.6% 20.8%
Jackson 128 33 5 1 7 .295 .383 .545 .436 .107 .088 11.8% 25.2%

Jackson continues to hit more extra base bits, walk considerably more often and also strikeout at a much higher rate than Rizzo. Both players had impressive stints in A ball.

High A

Player PA H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG wOBA XBH% ISO BB% K%
Rizzo 364 88 28 0 8 .278 .357 .442 .359 .101 .079 9.8% 19.9%
Jackson 312 83 19 8 6 .316 .420 .517 .424 .108 .104 14.8% 20.3%

Jackson was in High A at age 21 while Rizzo was there at 19 and 20. Age doesn’t make up for the significant difference here. Jackson out-hit Rizzo in every way. Even the strikeout rate was nearly equal.

Player PA H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG wOBA XBH% ISO BB% K%
Rizzo 467 109 30 0 20 .263 .334 .481 .361 .108 .071 9.5% 21.6%
Jackson 565 126 23 9 16 .266 .370 .454 .378 .086 .104 14.0% 24.3%

Rizzo’s season at AA was basically the same as his season at High A. Jackson was worse at AA, but he’s still out-hitting Rizzo. Rizzo did hit for more power, but Jackson got on base at a much higher rate. Strikeouts become even more of a problem for Jackson while also becoming one for Rizzo at this point.

AAA

Player PA H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG wOBA XBH% ISO BB% K%
Rizzo 413 118 34 1 26 .331 .404 .652 .433 .152 .073 10.8% 21.8%
Jackson 215 55 13 2 10 .297 .388 .551 .404 .118 .091 11.8% 30.2%

Rizzo had one of the most impressive offensive seasons of any minor leaguer last year. Jackson held his own too, but the strikeout rate becomes alarmingly high.

Career

Player PA H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG wOBA XBH% ISO BB% K%
Rizzo 1629 425 119 1 64 .296 .366 .514 .385 .115 .070 9.7% 20.9%
Jackson 1341 331 61 22 40 .292 .393 .491 .402 .094 .101 13.8% 24.0%

Rizzo is more of a power hitter than Jackson, which shows in the slugging, extra base hit percentage and isolated power. Jackson is more patient at the plate though Rizzo isn’t at all impatient. Jackson is also going to strikeout a lot more. Overall, Jackson has been the better hitter by about 20 points of wOBA. The number there that most stands out to me is the number of triples each player has. Jackson is a considerably better athlete, which is why he’s playing CF and Rizzo is stuck at the other end of the defensive spectrum.

As a result, Jackson is quite a bit better as a prospect than Rizzo. When you consider the defensive adjustment used in WAR, Rizzo would have be as much better as he was in AAA to be of equal value to Jackson. Centerfielders and Shortstops are worth +0.25 WAR for their position alone. 1st base is the easiest position on the field and the defensive adjustment is -1.25 WAR.

As you can see, for Rizzo to be equal to Jackson he’ll have to be 1.5 WAR better as a hitter. Rizzo is also not a very good baserunner while we can expect Jackson to excel at it.

Both of these players are good prospects and it’s awfully nice to have one organization’s top prospect as the Cubs number 2, but Jackson is the better prospect here and it’s not particularly close.

CAIRO projects a .316 wOBA and 1.9 WAR for Brett Jackson over 600+ PA. It projects a .289 wOBA and 0.1 WAR for Rizzo over 450+ PA. Oliver projects a .330 wOBA and 1.5 WAR for Jackson and .339 wOBA and 0.6 WAR for Rizzo. Bill James projects a .342 wOBA for Jackson and .318 for Rizzo. So there are two who expect more offense from Jackson and overall, the value difference is significant. Brett Jackson is a very good prospect. There are reasons to be concerned. He strikes out a ton, but he does a lot of very good things. Rizzo is also a good prospect, but he’s going to have to hit more than Jackson has to in order to be successful.


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