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Fantrax Staff Debate: Anthony Rizzo vs. Cody Bellinger

One of the most enjoyable parts of fantasy sports in debating which players are better than others. We’ve all done it. You’re hanging out with some friends, probably enjoying a beer or two, and you get into a long discussion over which player is better than another one. Sometimes it might get heated, but that’s okay. We aren’t all going to agree on every single player. That would make fantasy leagues incredibly boring.

The same can be said here at Fantrax. We have a great group of writers and podcasters (that might not be a word but who cares) who are all very knowledgeable, but we don’t always agree. So we figured we’d have some good ol’ fashion debates about two players that are close in potential 2018 fantasy value.

After covering the catcher position, we move to first base and dive into two top-five options at the position. One is a seven-year vet with consistently strong production, while the other is a hotshot youngster coming off a rookie season for the ages in 2017. Which elite option should you be taking in the second round?

Previous Staff Debates

Willson Contreras vs. Buster Posey

Mike Zunino vs. Yasmani Grandal

Anthony Rizzo vs. Cody Bellinger

Tale of the Tape

Rizzo   Bellinger
28 Age 22
6’3 Height 6’4
240 Weight 220
7 Years 1
572 AB 480
0.273 AVG 0.267
32 HR 39
109 RBI 97
99 R 87
10 SB 10

Eric Cross (@EricCross04)

Don’t worry, Cody, I got you! It seems like I’m the lone supporter in this article for Bellinger. Everyone below makes some good points, and Rizzo certainly is an excellent player, but he’s no Bellinger.

I found myself sitting at pick 19 in the second round of our Fantrax staff league draft, with both Bellinger and Rizzo waiting for me to pick one of them like puppies at a pet store. You always wish that you could take both puppies, but that’s too expensive, so only Bellinger came home with me. Don’t worry, though. Rizzo went two picks later.

The Rizz has been mightily consistent in the power department over the last few years, posting three straight seasons of 30+ home runs, 100+ RBI, and 90+ runs. In fact, in both 2016 and 2017, he hit 32 home runs with 109 RBI. Like I said, very consistent. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Rizzo isn’t an elite fantasy talent. That’d be foolish of me and not something I believe in, either. Rizzo is an excellent pick in the 2nd round, but the upside/floor combination of Bellinger is too enticing to pass up.

In just 480 at-bats, Bellinger cranked 39 home runs to go along with 97 RBI, 87 runs, and 10 stolen bases. Those numbers were similar to Rizzo’s and done in 92 fewer at-bats. However, like with most young players, we saw Bellinger struggle some near the end of the season as pitchers made adjustments. Now it’s his turn to make the adjustments back. He started by bulking up and adding 15 pounds of muscle this offseason. Boy, do I like hearing that. That’s not a guarantee of additional production, but it’s a good start.

One area to focus on is his hard contact and HR/FB ratio, which both dropped as the season progressed. That might worry some, but not me. Like I mentioned above, I’ve seen this with countless players, and the talented ones always seem to adjust back. Even a 40% hard contact rate and 20% HR/FB rate should equate out to 35 or so homers, and that seems like the floor for Bellinger in 2018.

Rizzo and Bellinger could put up similar statistical seasons, but if they do, that’s because Bellinger came in on the low end of his statistical upside window. As you’ll see below, the vote will heavily favor Rizzo, but this one is easy for me. The dual 1B/OF eligibility is just gravy. Grab some Bellinger stock and don’t look back.

Van Lee (@ManlyVanLee)

Look, I know it is always thrilling to take the exciting, fun, young player. It’s great to see that player perform and to, later on, shove it in your friends’ faces how they doubted you! You were positive they were going to be up and destroying opposing pitching on the way to netting you a championship. Hitting a walk-off home run to win Game 7 of the World Series is child’s play compared to being able to say you saw a breakout before it happened.

Here’s the thing, though: The breakout already happened. Last year, Bellinger went from “hopefully he plays!” to almost hitting 40 home runs. So with an ADP right now at pick 23, Bellinger is no longer a player who could give you an insane edge based on his draft position, and instead is one that has to virtually repeat his numbers just to provide the value for the pick. And as far as the repeat goes, his insane 30.1% HR/FB ratio from the first half dropped to a much more repeatable 19.4%.

That means the 25 homers he hit in 292 plate appearances in the first half is not as likely to be indicative of his power as the 14 homers in 256 plate appearances in the second half. He’s more of a 30 home run hitter than 40. He’s also played only 153 games above Double-A, so the repeatability risk is high here.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, we have a still young (28 years old) Anthony Rizzo putting up another ho-hum really great offensive season again. He had a triple slash line that nearly included a .400 OBP (.273/.392/.507), had his fourth straight season of hitting 31-32 home runs, and a third straight season of 195+ runs and RBI. He’s a model of consistency, and he’s a stud. He plays in a great ballpark for hitters, has a great lineup around him, and deserves far more praise than he gets.

This one’s a no-brainer. Rizzo may not be as exciting as Bellinger, but he’s way better and way more bankable. Vote Rizzo 2018.

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Nathan Dokken (@NathanDokken)

First off, if Rizzo has second base eligibility in your league, this isn’t a discussion. He’s then the second best 2B option behind Altuve. In all other circumstances, this is a closer competition. Cody Bellinger was ridiculous in his debut, smashing 39 HR with 10 SB in just 132 games. He also played 46 games in the outfield, giving you a little extra flexibility in your draft. Bellinger hit for a ton of power, and deservedly so with a 43% hard contact rate. He also put the ball in the air a TON – his 47.1% FB% was 10th in MLB. While some of those fly balls led to homers, many others led to easy outs, and I’m worried that you will see an average closer to .250 than .270 in 2018.

Rizzo is the model of consistency that you can rely on to be a foundational piece for your team. Each of the past three years he’s hit 30+ HR with 90+ R, 100+ RBI, and a .270+ average. He’s even going to chip in some stolen bases, averaging 10 steals per season over the same three-year span. I like both of these players this year, but I lean Rizzo because of his proven track record of reliability.

Mick Ciallela (@themick23)

Cody Bellinger took the National League by storm in 2017. “Belly Bombs” were seemingly a nightly occurrence, and Bellinger was unanimously named the NL Rookie of the Year. Bellinger is as good a bet as anyone to lead the National League in home runs in 2018. But there are a couple of things I’m concerned about. Bellinger’s 17.6 percent line drive rate and 69 percent contact rate suggest that his .267 batting average is on the higher end of his range.

In addition, only 14 of his 39 home runs were hit after the All-Star Break. In forecasting Bellinger’s 2018 range of outcomes, I think it’s much more likely that he hits .255 with 35 home runs than .275 with 45 homers. The former numbers would be nothing to sneeze at, but would keep Bellinger a notch below the elite at first base.

Anthony Rizzo, meanwhile, has been as consistent as they come, and he had another stellar season in 2017. Rizzo set career-highs in runs, walk rate, and strikeout rate, and tied career-bests in home runs and RBI. Rizzo’s relatively poor .273 batting average was the result of a .242 first half BABIP. His .290 second-half batting average and .313 BABIP were much more in line with his recent production and provide a much more likely baseline for Rizzo’s 2018 outlook.

Still just 28 years old, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Anthony Rizzo just yet. I think a .290-100-35-110-8 season is well within reach for Rizzo in 2018. Those would likely be top-three numbers at the position. Rizzo may not have the ceiling that Bellinger has going forward, but Rizzo has a much safer 2018 floor. Particularly in the early rounds and at positions like first base, I prefer more bankable production. Therefore, I am more inclined to draft Rizzo over Bellinger in 2018 drafts.

Ryne Milkins (@Ryhhno)

Again, I have to go with the “seasoned” vet in Anthony Rizzo. Despite being just 27 years old, Rizzo has been one of the game’s most consistent players year in and year out. He put together his third straight 30/100 season in 2017, hitting 32 homers and knocking in 109 runs.

In his rookie season, Bellinger batted .267 and hit an impressive 39 homers for the Dodgers. An incredible first half helped Bellinger beat out Rizzo for a spot on the NL All-Star team. By the end of the season, though, their numbers were very similar.

These two are and will be very similar players moving forward. They both have a ton of power, don’t let the big stage get to them, and play a solid first base. For the sake of argument, though, Rizzo would be my choice.

Rizzo’s consistency has been incredible since joining the Cubs. He’s already a proven star, and while Bellinger might very well be on his way there, he’s yet to prove he can do it again.

Bellinger is already ahead of the curve after his All-Star rookie season. He’ll be a serviceable first baseman for years to come, but for me, I need to see more of the same before taking him over Rizzo.

Overall Fantrax Verdict: Anthony Rizzo 8-2

Anthony Rizzo Andy Singleton, Keith Farnsworth, Mick Ciallela, Nathan Dokken, Ralph Lifshitz,

Ryan Cook, Ryne Miklins, Van Lee.

Cody Bellinger Anthony Franco, Eric Cross.

Thank you for reading and we hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members.  Got a question that we didn’t cover here? Then follow us on Twitter (handles above) and ask there.


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