I’m a pretty boring guy. Like if we met in a bar and randomly struck up a conversation, you probably wouldn’t walk away from that interaction with an overly positive or negative impression of me. I don’t have many hobbies (outside of fantasy sports), I listen to the same two albums on repeat, I have nothing but black and dark blue shirts in my wardrobe, and 9 times out of 10 I end up having sex in the missionary position. I guess that’s why it’s fitting that my first article for Razzball is about Anthony Rizzo, a player that won’t get the ol’ juices flowing when you’re doing your 2021 draft prep.
Listen, being boring is not the worst thing. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with my life. I likely won’t ever be rich, famous, or influential on a large scale. I’d also be willing to bet that in about 200 years nobody will even know I existed (okay Torres, let’s not talk about your existential anxiety in your first article). But all that is okay. Being boring and steady has helped me tremendously throughout my life, just as a boring draft pick can be a boon to your fantasy team.
We all love that feeling when we’re in the draft room and one of our league mates blurts out “nice pick” after we’ve selected a trendy sleeper. It’s unlikely that saying Anthony Rizzo’s name will elicit that type of reaction in draft rooms this year. You probably won’t get many pats on the back. You also probably won’t look at your team afterwards and feel like rosterbating (I know I’m not the only person that does this.) But that’s okay because we can rest easy knowing that we’re getting a rock-hard (er, solid) first-baseman at a nice discount.
Perennially a top-50 pick, we’re now seeing Rizzo barely in the Top-100 according to early NFBC data. Is this fair? Is life fair? The answer to both is no. I get it, Rizzo’s numbers at the end of last year weren’t pretty. You were banking on more than 11 home runs and a .222 average when you drafted him in the first 5 rounds. The counting stats were also disappointing, given the poor offensive environment that he was hitting in. Rizzo apparently was operating in some weird vortex in the Central standard time zone that caused several hitters there to underperform. Was it Covid-related? Did the Monstars from Space Jam come down and steal the skills of guys like Christian Yelich, Kyle Schwarber, and Keston Hiura? I’ll leave it to Dr. Fauci and the medical experts to figure that one out.
I’m not taking much from the shizz-show of a 2020 season and neither should you. This is so obvious that I feel stupid even repeating it. Listen people, last year was an incredibly small sample. While we have one trillion different metrics at this point, let’s go back to one of the most basic ones. Rizzo had a .218 BABIP last year, while his career BABIP is .286. All of the other skills are pretty much in line with what Rizzo has done historically. The only thing that was out-of-whack for Rizzo was that 17% infield fly-ball rate he posted last year, which would easily be a career high. I’m willing to take that with a grain of pepper and assume that he’ll regress close to his career rate. The bottom line is that the dude has a combination of contact skills and power that very few players have. Combining 2019 and 2020, there are only four players who have a contact percentage above 80% and a maximum exit velocity of above 114MPH. Two of them are first-rounders (Mike Trout and Jose Ramirez), one of them is named after a vodka brand (Ketel Marte) and the other one is Tony Rizzo. Those are elite skills with a proven track record that you can draft at a non-elite price tag.
I see other first-base eligible players like Dom Smith and Alec Bohm going in the same range as Rizzo in drafts. While I understand the upside of those guys, you’re essentially hoping that they do what Rizzo is projected to do in a full season. Steamer has Rizzo projected for a .270 batting average, 31 home runs, and 6 stolen bases in 2021, which would make him the 3rd-most valuable first baseman according to the Fangraphs Auction calculator (by the way, go get a membership and support Fangraphs). Is there upside for much more than that projection? I don’t see it, especially now that the Cubs are trading off all their good players and likely won’t be contenders again until all MLB players are being compensated in Bitcoin.
As a self-professed injury snob, I do feel it’s my obligation to inform you that Rizzo has a history of minor back issues, though that hasn’t really interfered with Rizzo’s ability to stay on the field throughout his career. However, Rizzo would become less of a target if you hear any negative news about his posterior region in the coming months. If that happens, it means I would have completely wasted both your time and my time with this article. But that’s okay, because I feel like we just bonded and now we don’t need to have that boring introductory conversation in person.