2022 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Are Anthony Rizzo and Alex Bregman Back?

You might be sitting there thinking that five days’ worth of games is not enough to develop legitimate 2022 Fantasy Baseball trends… and you would be right! But that doesn’t mean we can’t help but wonder if Anthony Rizzo and Alex Bregman are back!

We have much smaller samples for hitters and pitchers than we normally need, but the wheel just keeps on turning in Fantasy Baseball and it doesn’t wait until we have enough data to analyze trends for their sustainability. We have to look at current Fantasy Baseball trends and decide to react or leave it alone.

This weekly column will look at some of the more intriguing trends over the past week and provide actionable advice on how to handle the data we collected.

For this first piece, we will look at two players who could only be described as having disappointing years in 2021: Alex Bregman and Anthony Rizzo. Both are off to solid starts this year.

Alex Bregman 4 14 2 4 6 0.0% 7.1% .429 .429 .857 .563 267
Anthony Rizzo 4 18 2 3 6 22.2% 11.1% .250 .500 .750 .514 233

But what do the early returns tell us? Can we trust these starts from these two former All-Stars and World Series Champions? Let’s dig into the numbers and find out.

2022 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Are Anthony Rizzo and Alex Bregman Back?

Alex Bregman

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In 2021, Bregman battled through wrist injuries all season long, which drained his power potential he showed in 2019-2020 (47 homers in 197 games) and limited him to only play in 91 games. In those contests, he managed only 12 home runs, so he’s already 17% of the way to matching last season! But is a one-weekend hot start indicative of what is to come? For that, we need to dig into last year’s sample as well to see if anything close to his 2018 or 2019 campaigns will ever happen again.

Pay no attention to the fact that Bregman hasn’t taken a walk yet this season. Bregman’s walk rate has been above 11% in every season since 2018 and he has had more walks than strikeouts in two of the last four years. Last season he drew 44 walks and struck out just 53 times, so the batting eye was still there. Bregman’s contact rate has always been elite, averaging over 85% each of the last four years. So far in 2022, it sits at 83.3% and his Zone Contact rate is a perfect 100%. With a swinging strike rate of only 9.3% through four games, it’s clear Bregman’s eye is still as elite as ever. Now, what about the power?

In 2016-2020, Bregman averaged 89 mph in exit velocity with a 5.6% barrel rate. In 2021, even with the injury, he posted an 89 mph average exit velocity and a 6.4% barrel rate. Clearly, there was nothing out of the ordinary there, and it was just the wrist sapping some long-distance power. For his career, Bregman averages an exit velocity of 88.7 mph and a Hard Hit% of 37.2%. So far in 2022, those numbers are 86.2 mph and 38.5%, respectively. There doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about here either.

Also, Bregman is a player who makes a living by depositing balls into the Crawford Boxes in the short left-field porch at Minute Maid Park. He doesn’t get a home game until April 18th, so his power numbers might really start ticking up once those 81 games start. The only concern I see for Bregman is that he already sat out one of the Astros’ first three games of the year. Jose Altuve did the same, so that may be the plan this year to make sure Houston’s stars stay healthy. If that is the case, the Bregman project for about 135-140 games instead of 150. This is a player to target before he gets his power groove at home. But the price right now will be sky-high.

Anthony Rizzo

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Unlike Bregman, Rizzo did end up playing most of 2021. He was on the field for 141 games and 576 plate appearances, but they ended up being perhaps the most disappointing collection of at-bats of his career. No matter whether it was with the Chicago Cubs in the first half or the New York Yankees in the second half, Rizzo was decidedly average no matter where he called home. His splits from the first and second halves of last year are uncanny.

Season Split BB% K% BB / K AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC +
2021 1st Half 9.7% 16.6% 0.58 .247 .342 .429 .771 .333 106
2021 2nd Half 8.2% 13.2% 0.62 .249 .346 .452 .799 .347 119

Again, not awful, but just not the power and production we have come to expect from Rizzo. In four of his six months, he had an OPS below .770 and he slugged over .440 in just one month out of the year. Quite a drop-off from a career .482 slugger.

But with the massive start to the season, is Yankee Rizzo ready to come in and just mash homers to that short porch in the right field? The short answer is, “Yes.” It’s an extremely encouraging sign that Rizzo has a 3-to-1 walk rate to strikeout rate to start the season. He has always possessed a keen eye in the strike zone, but many were concerned when his walk rate plummeted to 9.0% last season. That was his lowest mark since his rookie season.

Rizzo only has 119 career plate appearances at Yankee Stadium, which have led to just a .796 OPS and five home runs. But he can pencil in around 350 plate appearances there this season and that should be a tremendous benefit for his left-handed power. According to Baseball Savant, Yankee Stadium is the ninth-best park of lefty home runs in the past three years. Left-handers hit home runs at a clip 11% above average in that stadium, and that short, 314-foot porch should grab plenty of balls that would otherwise be fly balls in other parks.

Who knows what was burdening Rizzo last year, but surely it had something to do with potentially leaving his home of 10 seasons and moving somewhere else. Now with a contract secured and a ballpark that benefits his stroke, this could be another elite power season from the former All-Star.

So what do you think after reading my first 2022 Fantasy Baseball Trends article of the year. Are Alex Bregman and Anthony Rizzo back?

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