Anthony Rizzo: The Best First Baseman in Round Two

Sep 20, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) hits a single in the first inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Rizzo enjoyed a career year for the Chicago Cubs under former Manager Rick Renteria.  Rick Renteria’s future with the club is currently cloudy as the Cubs were able to land Joe Maddon as their new manager.  However, the coaching changes should not affect the bright future of Rizzo.

In 2014, Anthony Rizzo fully demonstrated why he was a highly-touted prospect under Theo Epstein in Boston, Jed Hoyer in San Diego, and then under both Theo and Jed in Chicago.  Both men clearly saw the long-term value in Anthony Rizzo and their investment paid off tenfold when Rizzo performed like a top five first baseman.

In 140 games, Rizzo had easily the best season of his young career at only age 24.  He paced the Chicago Cubs with 89 runs, 32 homers, 78 RBI’s, 5 steals, and a .286 batting average.  Those types of numbers are making his seven-year, $41 million deal through 2019 look absurdly team-friendly for the ballclub in the Friendly Confines.

While all of this future value is incredibly promising to his Major League club, Rizzo has excellent value right now to his fantasy owners.  After the top four first basemen of Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Abreu, and Edwin Encarnacion, Anthony Rizzo slots in at the number five spot for me.  He even surpasses Edwin Encarnacion in a keeper league due to the fact that Rizzo is only 25 now.

If I were drafting today, then I would consider Rizzo inside my top 15 players for 2015.  I would grab him above Jacoby Ellsbury, Robinson Cano, Adam Wainwright, Freddie Freeman, Jose Altuve, and Ian Desmond.  These great fantasy options are six players who I expect to be drafted in a similar range to Anthony Rizzo.  I think Rizzo has the highest ceiling of all of these ballplayers, but Freddie Freeman could be close on his heels if Freeman hits the 25 home runs that I think he will.

Am I over optimistic because I am a Cubs fan?  Maybe, but Rizzo’s numbers do not lie.  He was ninth in the Majors in homers, eighth in ISO and wRC+, and seventh in slugging, on-base percentage, and wOBA.  I think it is pretty fair to say that Anthony Rizzo was one of the ten best offensive players in 2014 by a large number of metrics including some very comprehensive stats like wRC+ and wOBA.

Rizzo may not have the established credentials as some of the other potential second round picks, but I would be surprised if we see a major regression or a decline in skills.  Based on the typical development of a professional ballplayer from age 24 to 25, we could even see Anthony Rizzo improve in 2015.  I feel comfortable drafting Rizzo in the second round and so should you.