Who'd you rather? Allen Craig or Anthony Rizzo?

Sometimes you have to use the spaghetti method in fantasy baseball. You throw a couple guys at a position and see which one sticks. I think I’ll do this with first base this year.

First base isn’t as deep in years past, at least in terms of sure bets. Instead, there are a half dozen young first basemen who could hit 25-30 home runs, but each player brings their own risk, whether it be injury concerns, small sample sizes, or batting average concerns. Do you go with Ike Davis, Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Davis, or Freddie Freeman?

Then there are two more who could be added to that list: Allen Craig and Anthony Rizzo. Considering that what you could project from these two is eerily similar, who’d you rather have as your fantasy baseball first baseman?

Allen Craig

When Allen Craig swings at the ball, he hits it, no matter what type of pitch it is (OK, he struggles a tiny bit against change ups, but we’ve all been there). He only had a 6.9% swinging strike rate last season and overall he’ll strikeout out only about 17% of the time, which is much better than league average. It’s an obvious point, but it’s impossible to get a hit on a ball that you don’t put in play, so Craig’s batting average won’t suffer like these jokers who strike out in 30% of their at bats. Expect Craig’s average to be at or above .300.

He won’t steal any many bases, but he’ll hit in the heart of a very good Cardinals lineup, so the runs and RBI (more on this later) will be there. In fact, he’s a nice bet for 100+ RBI.

Craig’s positional odyssey is no longer relevant because he’ll call first base home in 2013. What is still relevant is his injury history, however, as wrist, knee, groin (ouch) and ankle injuries have kept him on the pine previously. In fact, he’s never had a season of 600 plate appearances. 600 is a magic number because if you project his homers out across 600 plate appearances, you get around 26 home runs, yet I’ve seen early projections call for him to get 30+ home runs.

I don’t get the 30+ number, and I think that’s a number they’re just making up. I expect the below, given he can stay on the field for at least 560 plate appearances:

Allen Craig 88 26 101 3 0.305
Anthony Rizzo

Allen Craig has two first names and will turn 29 during the 2013 season, whereas Rizzo will turn only 24 and has a name that’s a character from Grease (or so I’ve heard).Anthony Rizzo

At 6’3″, 220lb, Rizzo is a big left handed hitter who was fantastic in 87 games with the Cubs, but a few numbers like his SO% and BB% didn’t match his numbers in the minors. There is certainly a concern that we just can’t trust this small sample size, but in looking at this numbers month-by-month, you can see that Rizzo made adjustments at the plate, which is a very positive sign in a young hitter.

Rizzo will also hit in the heart of the lineup, but it’s harder to get as excited about the run and RBI opportunities as you would with the Cardinals. Here’s a fun little RBI formula for you (HT to Patrick Davitt):

3-4-5 Hitters:
(0.69 x GP x Team OBP) + (0.30 x Total Bases) + (0.275 x HR) – (.191 x GP)

6-7-8 Hitters:
(0.63 x GP x Team OBP) + (0.30 x Total Bases) + (0.275 x HR) – (.191 x GP)

9-1-2 Hitters:
(0.57 x GP x Team OBP) + (0.30 x Total Bases) + (0.275 x HR) – (.191 x GP)

The above is an easy and fun way to get a rough and dirty RBI total, based upon position in the batting order. Obviously, you’d take that baseline figure and massage the numeros according to several factors, like talent of player, players around him, home stadium, etc. I don’t expect you to geek out and begin to project your own RBI totals; I shared that entirely to illustrate that where you bat in the lineup matters. Rizzo should bat 3rd.

Anthony Rizzo 82 29 93 4 0.284

When I started writing this I had decided that I’d choose Allen Craig because he has a larger number of at bats, which allows us to project him with greater reliability. Then I decided I’d take Anthony Rizzo because his upside looks great compared to Craig’s injury history.

Now that I’m at the end I’m going to call it a push. While you may see this as a copout, the truth of the matter is that either of these guys would look good at first base and you’ll want to select the player  that you can get cheaper, either at a value in the auction or in a later draft round.

Remember also that first base plays well in the utility slot. I’ve decided I’m going to pass on the higher priced players at first base and instead target two guys just a little later, seeing which one sticks.

Tags: Allen Craig Anthony Rizzo Cardinals Cubs First Base

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