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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fantasy baseball: Is Anthony Rizzo a starter?

It's too soon to know if the Cubs first baseman is another Matt LaPorta.

You know, the type of player who mashes in the minor leagues but can't seem to get it going in the majors.

(It's OK, Indians fans. LaPorta will represent the International League on Monday in the Triple-A home run derby. I'm sure it's a career highlight.)

What is encouraging about Rizzo's first six games with the Cubs isn't his .304 average, two homers and five RBI. It's not his .985 OPS, either.

It's this: Rizzo has struck out three times in 23 at-bats.

No big deal, you say?

Maybe, but consider this: In 2011 with the Padres, Rizzo -- the key piece in San Diego's trade of Adrian Gonzalez to Boston that year -- fanned 46 times in 128 at-bats. He also hit .141 with one homer, nine RBI and a .523 OPS in the hitters' hell known as Petco Park.

Even in Triple-A, Rizzo was a strikeout machine, fanning a combined 141 times in 613 at-bats in 2011 and '12. In that span, he was terrific in plenty of other areas -- a .336 average with 112 runs scored, 49 homers and 163 RBI.

In 2012 with Class AAA Iowa, Rizzo was phenomenal, hitting .342 with 23 homers, 62 RBI and a 1.101 OPS in 257 at-bats.

There aren't as many stud first basemen in fantasy this season, which makes Rizzo a starter in many leagues.

I would consider him a must-start in NL-only leagues until the strikeouts start piling up and the batting average plummets.

In mixed leagues, Rizzo should be a starting option if you're lacking in the power departments.

If you're playing him, continue to monitor his strikeouts.

One K per four to five at-bats isn't unheard of for a power hitter. If Rizzo goes back to his San Diego days of one K per three at-bats, he shouldn't be a fantasy starter.

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