Anthony Rizzo, is the Risk Worth the Potential Reward?

The draw in Anthony Rizzo is his very impressive power, but a career .174 ISO in over 1200 plate appearances is at least somewhat worrisome when you are looking to draft Rizzo and hoping the power shows at the MLB level.

At the end of last season, J.P. Breen covered Rizzo and what to make of him. Breen did a great job of detailing the struggles Rizzo had against lefties and the fact that he had previously been fine against southpaws. With a 115 wRC+ against righties and a 72 wRC+ against lefties, any improvement at all against lefties would be a huge help to his fantasy value.

At the end of the article J.P. mentions that Rizzo could represent a bargain on draft day, but it appears that many are still banking on the upside of Rizzo rather than his Major League performance to date. Various places have Rizzo between 12-15 at first base, which to me seems a bit high. Yes there is upside of him potentially going off for 30+ homers with a solid on base percentage which would hopefully lead to a lot of run production, but a lot of that looks like hope more than betting on a likely scenario.

ZiPS projects Rizzo at 27 home runs with a .336 OBP over 655 plate appearances, along with his ISO bumping up over the .200 mark. That’s definitely better than last season, but not markedly so. A healthy 27 home runs would have ranked eighth last year among first basemen, but a good deal of his peers had higher than .340 OBP’s. Rizzo’s strikeout rate was very low so there’s definitely an opportunity for his average and OBP to rise, but if I’m looking at a home run dependent first baseman with a low-ish OBP I’d much rather look at Adam Dunn than splurge earlier than hoped on a sleeper from past years who has yet to make his mark.

Rizzo is definitely a big risk vs. reward type player, but my problem is recognizing how likely he would be to reach the level that would make him a big reward at around 100 ADP. It’s definitely possible he goes for 30 and a .350 OBP as Steamer projects, but with a lackluster lineup around him there’s reasons to be pessimistic about him reaching the type of run production levels you would want with those types of numbers.

I like Rizzo and still think he is a really good player to own in long term leagues, but I do struggle with drafting him over surer things in redraft formats. At first base I like to get sure things, and take my risks at lesser producing positions. If you think this way, then avoid Rizzo unless he drops in your league.

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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

20 Responses to “Anthony Rizzo, is the Risk Worth the Potential Reward?”

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  1. stan says:

    You have to wonder about a supposed top prospect who has gotten dumped by two different organizations after Jed Hoyer left them. Top prospects don’t get traded very often these days so it makes me suspicious that this guy got traded twice… to the organization where the guy that drafted him happens to work. Its like Jed Hoyer is the only one who thinks he’s going to live up to the billing.

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  2. SeaBass says:

    Maybe Hoyer can’t see the massive hitch Rizzo has in his swing?

    Cubs fans are really banking on him and Castro bouncing back. Pitchforks are especially coming out if Baez or Bryant falter. Oh boy.

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    • stan says:

      I agree on all counts. Rizzo had that nice run two years ago but it sure seems like MLB pitchers have figured him out.

      As far as the Cubs banking on Castro and Rizzo, I feel bad for Dale Sveum. I think they fired him almost entirely because those two didn’t produce.

      I wonder if the Cubs will stick with Castro if Baez and Bryant are both ready. I know he has a long-term deal but maybe they could get someone to take that contract off their hands and they can just start fresh. They sure won’t get much of anything for him in trade.

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      • tylersnotes says:

        this is a pretty damn pessimistic point of view. Rizzo’s contract is absurdly team-friendly. Even if he is a bit of a bust given his potential, and last year is his true talent at 1.6 WAR, he could potentially be underpaid for the rest of his contract.

        FWIW, the projections all see him as better than he was last year, and he’s got a long way to go before he turns into Ike Davis or ryan howard

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  3. jdbolick says:

    He does appear to be that annually amusing case of an underperforming player getting such wide expectations of improvement that he’s somehow going as high if not higher than if he hadn’t underperformed.

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  4. Please consider this piece on Rizzo and his “struggles” vs. LHP. To my knowledge no one has addressed this properly yet:

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    • Jim says:

      So… do you just go around to all these different websites and plug your blog? Because I’m seeing you popping up everywhere in the comments.

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      • Feeding the Abscess says:

        I haven’t seen the other instances, but this instance seems pretty relevant, at least.

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      • Jim, I’ve only posted this one comment. Don’t mean to be plugging myself–as it was easier for me to reference the argument I’m making easily by sharing the link. I think it’s relevant to the discussion. I haven’t posted anywhere else so I’m not sure to what you are referring.

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      • aritosantiago says:

        It’s bad to plug your blog? He’s trying to make a new for himself. Self-promotion is a really smart way to make a name for yourself. And I agree with Feeding the Abscess; anyone who clicked on this article is clearly interested in reading about Rizzo. Joseph is just providing you even more, relevant analysis.

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    • Lucky Strikes says:

      This is the best, most in-depth look at Rizzo I’ve seen this winter. Well done.

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      • Gus says:

        Weird… cause that’s word for word what the first commenter on his website said… What a coincidence! It’s almost like you guys are the same person or something.

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  5. rocket man says:

    He was 23 last year fellows.

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  6. Brendan says:

    On the left side portion of the plate against lefties in 2013, Rizzo had a .272 ISO. However, his BABIP on the portion was .000. There is conflict in the statements claiming Rizzo can’t hit lefties hard. I’m unconvinced. It seems Rizzo is poised for a hell of a year when all numbers are regressed, including HR/FB%.

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  7. STEEV says:

    With Trout and Braun at 2 of my 3 OF spots, would you rather keep Wil Myers as an OF/UT or Rizzo at 1B? I have a few weeks before I have to commit to either, but I have been leaning Myers. Three year max on keepers in our league.

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  8. tribetime33 says:

    For Rizzo, he might have to wait for the Cubs to even contend for a championship. Rizzo hasn’t shown any superstardom yet. He looks like he’ll have his good years in the next 2 to 3 years. But…. he looks like his stats will go down in the next 4-3 years. I would say the Cubs should use him as a trade weapon from now on.

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  9. Eric Crapton says:

    Worth remembering his abysmal BABIP last year. If we regress his number to league average (+.040) he’s got a .363 OBP last year (#7 for 1B); even assuming he’s a below-average BABIP type given his profile, he’s still got a .343 OBP last year (#13) when bumped by .020.

    I’m being (perhaps more than) a little hamfisted here, but I think it’s fair to say that a 24-yo with bad luck last year is a solid bet to put up much stronger baseball card stats this coming year.

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