MIAMI — What kind of players are the Yankees getting in Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo?
Terrific all-around players, not to mention good clubhouse guys, Cubs hitting coach Anthony Iapoce said Friday morning.
Iapoce has plenty of standing to comment on both.
He was the Rangers’ hitting coach from 2016-18, which overlapped with Gallo’s breakout seasons in ’17 and ’18 when he hit a combined 81 homers (41 and 40, respectively).
And Iapoce has been the Cubs’ hitting coach since October 2018.
"You’re getting a hitter with power," Iapoce said of Rizzo by phone from Washington, where the Cubs were scheduled to play the Nationals on Friday night. "Anthony’s always been able to handle the bat. You’re getting the guy who loves the big situations, loves to drive in runs, can do anything, move runners. Whatever the game dictates, he’s going to bring to the table."
That's music to the ears, no doubt, of Yankees fans who have grown frustrated with a righthanded-heavy offense that has been mostly one-dimensional and has underperformed all season.
"He’s a high on-base guy. He’s not afraid to see pitches and take a strike if he needs to," Iapoce said of Rizzo, who came into Friday hitting .248 with 14 homers and a .792 OPS in 92 games this season, including .364 with three homers and a 1.280 OPS in his last six games. "But again, he’ll do whatever the situation dictates, whether it’s driving him in or if there’s a man on second base in extra innings like you’ve seen this year and last year with that new rule, he’ll just get the guy over."
Iapoce, a New York City native who was a standout at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in Queens before earning a baseball scholarship to Lamar University, continued: "He’s able to pass the baton to the guy behind him. He takes pride in a two-strike approach and battling in at-bats. He takes pride in the things that sometimes we lose sight of in baseball."
Rizzo, 31, a four-time Gold Glove winner who will be a free agent after this season, is a .269 career hitter with 243 homers and an .853 OPS.
As for Gallo, Iapoce praised the 27-year-old’s obvious power and athleticism.
"With Gallo, you’re getting the best athlete on the field," said Iapoce, who texted with Gallo shortly after the trade became official. "He can play multiple positions, can get on base. Obviously, can hit the long ball, which is his strength, but being able to do it on both sides of the ball is what stands out. Playing rightfield, if they need to play him anywhere else, he would be happy to, and he’s a great baserunner as well . . . I’ve seen him play third base, first base, leftfield, centerfield, rightfield, all above average."
Gallo, who won the Gold Glove last season in rightfield, entered Friday hitting .223 this season but with 25 homers and an .869 OPS.
Iapoce said there’s another element of Gallo’s game that gets overlooked.
"You talk about him being one of the best athletes on the field, but he also has a high IQ defensively and on the bases, which I think also gets lost," Iapoce said. "He’s a very heads-up baserunner. He knows when to take extra bases. He can steal a base if needed. And in the outfield, he can throw to all the bases. Doesn’t just have a strong arm, but he’s also very accurate and he understands situations of when to dive, when to not. So not only is he one of the best athletes on the field, but also on the bases and defensively, he’s very intelligent and just understands the game."