Draft This, Not That: Pass On Anthony Rizzo To Draft Trey Mancini?!? It’s Not As Crazy As You Think…

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When you think of potential options at first base what’s your first impression when you hear these two names:

  1. Anthony Rizzo
  2. Trey Mancini

Like most your first thought will likely be that Rizzo is among the elite, while Mancini is a borderline option.  However as we head into 2020 it’s easy to envision that being a misconception, and those who realize that could be handsomely rewarded.

Just by looking at our preliminary rankings (click here to view), where Rizzo was ranked eighth, tells you that our impression is that he’s not going to be an elite option in 2020.  While Mancini comes in ranked below him, it also wouldn’t be shocking to see him outproduce the bigger name.  We’ll get to that in a second, but considering the likely draft day costs that tells you all you need to know. That’s what this comes down to… Value. Even if you do believe that Rizzo is the better player, is he that much better to justify the pick differential?

As to the actual production, which backs up the decision making, let’s take a look:

Power

Rizzo – When we think of first baseman we think of power hitters, and while Rizzo once presented as one that hasn’t been the case in recent seasons.  Despite the power surge throughout baseball he managed to hit 27 HR last season, his second straight year under 30 HR.  With a limited line drive rate (37.3% in ’19, 33.7% for his career) and a regression in his fly ball rate (31.9%), envisioning a rebound could be misguided.

Mancini – He erupted for 35 HR in ’19, and by adding 38 doubles and 2 triples it’s easy to imagine him coming reasonably close to maintaining the pace.  It’s not like a 23.6% HR/FB is unreasonable (after a 20.9% mark in ’18), and he’s clearly maturing and starting to tap into his power more (his fly ball rate jumped from 26.5% to 31.9%).  We saw signs of the alteration late in ’18 (46.1% groundball rate in August of ’18), and the fact that he bounced back quickly after his groundball rate ballooned in August ’19 (57.5% to 43.2% in September) speaks volumes about his maturation.

Advantage – Mancini

Average

Rizzo – A career .273 hitter, Rizzo has been at or above that every year since 2014.  He hit .293 last season, though the regression in his power is going to have an impact on his average.  He does make good contact (8.1% SwStr%), but he also lacks speed and doesn’t have a track record of elevated line drive rates (37.3% in ’19 was a career high).  He is what he is at this point, so think around .280ish.

Mancini – He hit .291 last season, nearly matching Rizzo’s line drive rate (37.1%).  He also has continued to show a willingness to use the entire field (26.7% Oppo% in ’19), despite the spike in power, and that will help him maintain an elevated BABIP.  There are going to be questions about his contact rate (11.8% SwStr%), though he’s also improved each season and as he further matures against non-fastballs he could take another step forward.  Even if he takes a step backwards, he’s right on par with Rizzo

Advantage – Draw

Runs/RBI

Rizzo – It will be interesting to see where he’s used in the lineup, but he’s consistently proven capable of putting up 180+ between the two categories.

Mancini – The lack of a supporting cast could hurt him, though it didn’t last season as he posted 97 RBI and 106 R.  Maybe he falls short there, but if he can come reasonably close to the HR/AVG he posted last season (which we believe he can), another 180+ season should be in the cards.  In fact, with any improvement of the players around him we’d expect at least 190+ hitting in the middle of the lineup.

Advantage – Draw (but Mancini could easily win)

Conclusion

Is it really crazy to think that Mancini will outproduce Rizzo in ’20?  Obviously we have a long way to go and a lot can change, but Mancini is a player that belongs on your radar as you prepare for next season. We’ll really dive into him as we get closer to Draft Day 2020, but for now keep an open-mind. Depending on their ADP, waiting on Mancini over Rizzo could reap huge reward, especially considering the level of player you could get instead of Rizzo early in your draft.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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