On more than one occasion I’ve been asked the following question: “Would you rather keep Eric Hosmer or Anthony Rizzo?” Well, Rizzo appears first in our countdown for 2013, so if this season is your primary concern, then I’d say Hosmer. But to be perfectly honest, I like Rizzo a lot more than I thought I would just one year ago.
In 2011, Rizzo stepped to the plate 153 times and registered 128 at-bats, 46 of which ended with him walking directly from the batter’s box to the dugout in disgust. His 30.1 K% that year was abysmal, and the fact that it was right-handed pitching that was giving the left-handed Rizzo the most trouble (.131 BA, 37.3 K%) was concerning.
Somehow last year Rizzo became a whole new hitter, though. His 16.8% strikeout rate was better than what he’d consistently put up in the minors, but not only was he making contact, he was making solid contact (24.4% line drive rate). I didn’t think Rizzo had what it took to be a .285 hitter at this stage of his career, but he proved me wrong. Now he just has to work on putting the ball in the air (30.1 FB% last year). If he can bat .280 with 30 homers, he’ll be a much sought-after fantasy option.
At a Glance
Strengths: HR, RBI, SLG
Neutral: R, BA, OBP, OPS, BB
Best-case scenario: Paul Konerko (CHW)
Likely scenario: Will Middlebrooks (BOS), Eric Hosmer (KC), Dayan Viciedo (CHW)
Worst-case scenario: Garrett Jones (PIT)
Anthony Rizzo 2013 Fantasy Projection
Rizzo has two things going for him: a history of good walk rates and an extremely long leash in Chicago. In his minor league career Rizzo drew a good amount of walks and always posted above average OBPs, something that will help him as he continues to pave his way at the major league level. And he’s the guy Cubs (and former Red Sox) GM Theo Epstein has pegged to be Chicago’s first baseman of the future (you might remember Rizzo was a former Red Sox top prospect). At the very least, Rizzo will get around 600 plate appearances near the heart of the Cubs lineup, and that’ll mean 70-80 RBI minimum.
But not so fast with Rizzo. Look, I love how he cut his strikeout rate in half last year, but that was a major improvement. It’s not that I don’t think he can repeat that performance, I just don’t want to draft Rizzo expecting him to put up a second straight season with a strikeout rate better than anything we’ve seen since high-A ball back in 2009. Something around 20% seems like a good (and safe) estimate to me, and that probably means a drop in batting average. And Rizzo is going to want to hit more fly balls this year, too. Those flies have to come from somewhere, and that’ll probably eat into his 24.4% line drive rate, another bad omen for his batting average.
I’d love to project more than 80 RBI in 2013, but David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz aren’t the best guys to be setting the table for Rizzo. All in all, there’s a ton of potential here — you might have noticed we projected his best-case scenario as Konerko — but I think a lot of people are going to jump on Rizzo early in drafts this year, which means you’re probably going to have to overpay to get him in one-year, redraft leagues.