Anthony Rizzo doesn't need to have a huge comeback season to prove he's a viable player. All he has to do is one thing: raise his batting average.
One of the Chicago baseball myths of 2013 was that Rizzo was awful. He wasn't. Awful doesn't drive in 80 runs for a bad team. Awful doesn't hit 23 home runs in his first full year in the major leagues. And awful isn't a Gold Glove finalist. Rizzo played pretty well last year, but he often failed in the most important times of the game. That sticks with people.
Rizzo's .233 batting average was bad enough, but he hit just .191 with runners in scoring position. In games deemed "late and close," he wasn't much better at .219.
Rizzo also struck out 127 times. Turn a few of those strikeouts into hits and that will be the difference for him. Of course, that's easier said than done, and he doesn't want to sacrifice any of his power so, yes, there is work to be done at the plate. When he makes contact, he's at the league average in line-drive percentage (20 percent), so his problem is those strikeouts.
So what's more likely to happen: Rizzo strikes out even more, or he gets a few more hits to raise that batting average? His history -- granted it's limited and from the minors -- suggests he's not just a power hitter. His combined minor league average over six seasons is .303, including .331 and .342 his final two years. That suggests improvement over time.
In his first extended stay in the big leagues in 2012, he hit .285. He knows how to hit for a good average, but he's still learning how to do it. No other parts of his game suffered last year even when he did struggle at the plate.
Starlin Castro simply has a larger mountain to climb to return to being an All-Star player. Rizzo needs just two more hits a month to be respectable -- three or four more could see him as an All-Star himself. That's not asking for much, and Rizzo should be up to the task.
Jesse Rogers covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com.