Who is the best hitter in the National League? The easy and “right” answer, insomuch as one exists, is Bryce Harper, as we’re mere months removed from watching him put up the best season at the plate by a 22-year-old since Ted Williams. But with Harper currently producing at the plate at a rate more comparable to guys like Odubel Herrera and Stephen Piscotty, it’s natural to ponder the question: “If not Harper, then who?”
There are a few viable candidates but two who stick out are the only two National League players other than Harper to post a wRC+ above 150 since 2014: Paul Goldschmidt, who has been consistently elite with the bat for four seasons now and, the subject at hand, 26-year-old superstar, Anthony Rizzo.
In the previous sentence, you could argue I threw around the word “superstar” a bit cavalierly. It’s a word from which I tend to shy away because it’s so incredibly subjective as to be functionally meaningless. I don’t know that there are more than two players in the game right now – Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw – who are labeled “superstars” with anything resembling universal agreement. Anthony Rizzo certainly wouldn’t receive universal billing as a “superstar.” I don’t know if he’s a superstar by your definition – shoot, I just paired him with that term and I’m not completely convinced he’s a superstar by my own subjective definition – but I do know this: Anthony Rizzo is an extraordinarily talented baseball player and, so far this year, he’s putting up what looks like the best season of his major-league career.
He has set or matched his career high in most key offensive rate stats from on-base percentage to wOBA to strikeout and walk rates. But not only is he putting together a strong season by his own standards, his stats stand out in comparison to his competition in the National League:
There are a variety of different ways to go about building a prototype for an ideal hitter, but a great starting point would be a guy doing exactly what Rizzo is doing right now: exhibiting plate discipline, getting on base, and hitting for power. That’s an impressive trifecta — and, at the core of that offensive profile, lies the key improvements Rizzo has made.