Fantasy Throwdown: Adrian Gonzalez vs. Anthony Rizzo: Should We Target The Veteran Or The Emerging Youngster?

We all know that first base is the deepest position in fantasy sports. There are more than enough viable options that there is no need to reach for one specific player, because there seems to always be another option. However when you are deciding who you want to draft, one of the interesting dilemmas is if you want to look at one of the established veterans or one if the young emerging stars?

One of the best comparisons is the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalaez or the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo? Let’s take a look and try to determine who is the better fantasy option:

Power:
Gonzalez – 18 HR
Rizzo – 15 HR

Gonzalez - After hitting 30+ HR four times as a member of the Padres, it was understandable that most people projected big things from him in Boston. However, it just wasn’t to be. Part of the problem could’ve been line drives clanging off the Green Monster, as he hit 82 doubles over his time in Boston.

It makes sense, as his power comes more from line drives then fly balls. Only twice has he posted a HR/FB above 16.4%, coming back in 2008 and 2009 (16.4%, 16.4% and 9.6% the past three seasons).

While we would all expect to see an improvement in his power, we shouldn’t expect him to return to the realm of 35+.

Rizzo - Another former Padre, Rizzo erupted for 15 HR in 337 AB in his first season as a Chicago Cub. Like Gonzalez, Rizzo uses more of a line drive approach for his power as opposed to a significant number of fly balls. Last season he posted a 30.2% fly ball rate, with an 18.1% HR/FB.

Over 613 AB at Triple-A (all in the PCL), he launched 49 HR. While the league inflates numbers, there is no questioning the fact that he possesses power. At 23-years old it is still developing and playing half his games in Wrigley Field, with the summer winds blowing out, will help (though not 7 of hs HR came at home in ’12).

There is the chance he takes the next step, but it is more likely that he is in the same 25-32 HR range.

Advantage – Draw, though Rizzo has more upside at his age

Average:
Gonzalez – .299
Rizzo – .285

Gonzalez - Over the past three seasons he as hit .298, .338 and .299 so it is pretty safe to call him a .300 hitter. A little extra power will help to ensure that, as does a career line drive rate of 21.4% (career worst season is 19.4%).

Rizzo - He posted a .310 BABIP, which we can actually classify as unlucky given his 24.4% line drive rate. That said, there are a few reasons to think that he may “only” be a .285-.290 hitter.

For one, do we really expect him to maintain that type of line drive rate? Another is the strikeout rate, which was at 16.8% in the Majors. Considering his marks of 21.5% and 18.3% at Triple-A, there is a little reason to be skeptical.

An improvement in hs BABIP and power will help offset it, but be realistic in your expectation.

Advantage – Gonzalez by a hair

Stolen Bases:
Gonzalez – 2
Rizzo – 3

Gonzalez - He has four career stolen bases… Enough said.

Rizzo - He actually had 10 SB in 2010, 9 in 2011 and 5 last season. It may not be much, but when two first baseman are close this could easily be the tipping point.

Advantage – Rizzo

Runs:
Gonzalez – 75
Rizzo – 44

Gonzalez - He doesn’t have much speed, but he has scored over 100 runs three times in his career. Why? Because he gets on base and, especially this season, has a good lineup around him. While you may not want to project 100, you would think he should score at least 90.

Rizzo - The Cubs lineup is unimpressive, and that is going to hurt Rizzo in this regard. He’s going to score, thanks to his power and average, but seeing him reach 90 may be a stretch.

Advantage – Gonzalez

RBI:
Gonzalez – 108
Rizzo – 48

Gonzalez - Everyone complained it was a down year despite exceeding 100 RBI, something he as done five times in the past six seasons (he had 99 in the one year he missed out). Given his past production and the Dodgers lineup, 100 is a near given.

Rizzo - Like with runs scored, the lineup around him is going to hurt a little, but not enough this time. Given the other numbers 100 is a definite possibility.

Advantage – While we would expect 100+ from both, the advantage goes to Gonzalez due to the upside

Conclusion:
Would it surprise me if Rizzo out produced Gonzalez in 2013? It wouldn’t, but I also wouldn’t bet on it. With similar power and a better supporting cast, Gomzalez is the better bet for this season. However, if you are a dynasty league owner, it is only a matter of time before Rizzo becomes the better option.

What are your thoughts?  Which first baseman would you prefer?  Why?

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5 comments

  1. carlito says:

    im nervous about rizzo…. he could be this years hosmer. I think once teams figure him out it could be lengthy adjustment period.

  2. Pat says:

    I am in a keeper league and almost definitely keeping Rizzo, but something the article missed that needs to mentioned is how much he struggled against lefties. Unless, he shows substantial imporvement against lefties – his average upside and POTENTIALLY long term upside is capped. You could certainly do worse at back-up 1B/UTIL than Rizzo though…

  3. Mikeup says:

    I’ll take Encarnacion over both Rizzo and Freeman. I think the projections for Rizzo (30/100/.290?!) are beyond optimistic for a young guy with a line-drive swing who still has so much trouble with LHP. Rizzo may be a 30 HR hitter, but that is his absolute peak and it’s still a couple of years away, if he ever gets there.

    Meanwhile, EE finally consolidated skills he had shown all along into a single, mostly healthy season with enough AB to put it all together.

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