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April 1, 2015

The Darkhorses

Runs and RBI

by BP Fantasy Staff

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Previous articles in this series:

This is the fifth piece in our series about fantasy players we feel PECOTA has underrated.Thank you for your patience. Be sure to read the rules of this exercise in our first post before commenting!

RUNS

Mookie Betts, Red Sox
I also picked Betts for AVG, so this should be no surprise. He’s leading off for a loaded Boston Red Sox lineup and has speed to burn. He’ll be in scoring position constantly as he can hit doubles easily, especially at home where hitting one off the Green Monster in left field is only a short poke away. Did I mention he’s leading off for the Red Sox? He could score 125 runs if everything breaks right. —Nick Shlain

Mookie Betts, Red Sox
In his age-21 season, Betts posted a .368 on-base percentage in the big leagues with a batting average that flirted with three bones. He’s also a good bet to steal 20-plus bases and is expected to lead off for perhaps the most potent offense in Major League Baseball. It’s uncouth to project such big things for someone who barely eclipsed his rookie eligibility; however, it could all prove to be the perfect fantasy storm. —J.P. Breen

Ian Kinsler, Tigers
PECOTA thinks that Kinsler will score 73 runs, good for 75th in baseball. I hate going toe to toe with PECOTA, but I will in this case. Kinsler has scored an average of 99 runs a season over the past seven year, scoring triple digit runs five of the seven seasons. Additionally, Kinsler bats immediately in front of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, and Yoenis Cespedes. —Jeff Quinton

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Call me a sucker for a comeback story. Well, okay, maybe that doesn't exactly apply here. Pedroia's days of being a high-end fantasy option may be over, but one of the two places he can still contribute elite value is runs scored. He'll likely have to be removed from the second spot in the order at Fenway with the Jaws of Life, and with the group projecting to be one of the best in baseball again, he'll get plenty of exercise on the base paths. He scored 72 runs in a shortened season in a down lineup last year, but triple-digits is a possibility if he can stay healthy. —Bret Sayre

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Between a hand that just wasn't right all year and a concussion Pedroia had himself something of a lost season in 2014. But he appears healthy this spring, and somebody's gotta score all those runs PECOTA projects Boston to score. It might as well be Pedroia, who unlike ostensible leadoff man Mookie Betts will very definitely be hitting at the top of the lineup as long as he's in it this season. Pedroia posted a .372 OBP as recently as 2013, and the two dudes likely to hit behind him both boast career marks north of that. A full-season bounce back for Pedroia into even the .350 range should be enough for him to threaten a hundred runs, and something closer to his career .366 mark might just be enough to lead the league. —Wilson Karaman

Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
It isn’t necessarily intuitive to pick a non-leadoff hitter to win a runs scored title. But Puig’s relatively low batting average in 2014 masks the fact that he has been an on-base machine throughout most of his young career. This shouldn’t change in 2015, and with the improved cadre of hitters behind him, it isn’t crazy to anticipate a runs-scored spike. Puig might need a career year from Howie Kendrick and the emergence of Yasmani Grandal for it to happen, but these aren’t the craziest notions in the world. —Mike Gianella

Jose Reyes, Blue Jays
Reyes stayed healthy last year, and as a result he scored 94 runs as part of a very good Blue Jays offense. This year, PECOTA has him down at 85 runs, primarily because it forecasts Reyes to only record 550 PA. Given Reyes’ injury history, home field and age, that’s hardly a stretch on PECOTA’s part, but I think this helps to illustrate that people undervalue Reyes a bit now because of all the nagging injuries he accumulates. He’s largely stayed on the field in three of the past four reasons, and while his days of swiping 40-plus bags are behind him, Reyes can easily get on base and run enough to score in excess of 90 runs again in 2015. —Ben Carsley

Jimmy Rollins, Dodgers
Mattingly has already announced the veteran Rollins will be his leadoff hitter this season, to the cheers of his fantasy owners. While he no longer possesses the OBP skills he once did, Rollins gets on base enough and still has the speed to be a run-scoring force atop the Dodgers lineup. In his 15-year career, he has only had one season with fewer than 600 PAs, so even at his advanced age, he has not been an injury risk. PECOTA sees 81 runs scored for Rollins this season, but I believe he cracks the century mark and will make a run to lead the league in the category. —Keith Cromer

Jimmy Rollins, Dodgers
Jimmy Rollins doesn’t get on base a lot, and he’s at the back-end of his career. This does not add up to an elite run scorer. Jimmy Rollins doesn’t care. He once scored 100 runs in a season with an OBP below .300, and just two years ago he crossed the plate 102 times with a .316 OBP. The wheels still work, and he’ll be hitting in front of Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez, among others. —Matt Collins

Christian Yelich, Marlins
Yelich is fresh off a 94-run campaign in 2014, and with the league lead set at 115 runs, and a significantly improved Marlins lineup behind him, is as decent a bet as there is outside the top 10 to lead the league. A full season of Giancarlo Stanton would help (assuming it finally happens) but the overall improved depth of the Marlins is what will really help him add those 15-20 runs over the course of the season. He's a great hitter with an excellent approach, hitting at the top of a lineup. It's not a complicated formula when finding guys with a chance, and Yelich checks off just about every box. —Craig Goldstein

RBI

Matt Adams, Cardinals
At least against right-handed pitching Adams figures to be conveniently perched in the cleanup spot behind three guys with career OBP's against righties of .392, .374, and .379. And just as importantly, the third guy in that equation (Matt Holliday) has seen him over-the-fence power start to fade a bit over the past couple seasons, meaning less of those pesky instances where Adams will stride to the plate after the bases have just been cleared. Adams showed a knack for beating the shift last season, and that brand of contextual hitting is exactly what the doctor ordered to rack up huge RBI totals in the middle of the St. Louis lineup. A third straight season of improving contact rates and a BABIP pushing .340 should put him squarely among the league leaders. —Wilson Karaman

Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
Donaldson is projected to hit fifth in a Blue Jays lineup that boasts multiple high-OBP hitters at the top of the order. The move to Toronto should give a boost to Donaldson’s overall offensive numbers, as he posted an .874 OPS away from O.co Coliseum a season ago and launched 18 of his 29 home runs on the road. The RBI opportunities should be plentiful for the third baseman in his new surroundings, and he has an outside shot to win the RBI title this year. —Keith Cromer

Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
Donaldson has hit 53 homers over the past two seasons and has become a household name. He’s performed at an All-Star level. Now, the 29-year-old gets to leave the unfriendly ballpark in Oakland and gets to play everyday in the bandbox known as the Rogers Centre. Consider this: Donaldson hit .276/.361/.513 away from O.co Coliseum last year. He hit .309/.400/.477 the year before on the road. So, yeah, I’m on board. —J.P. Breen

Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
He led the majors in RBI last year, and while Matt Kemp is gone from the lineup, having Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, and Yasiel Puig hitting in front him give him a trio of guys who could always be in scoring position. Even if Kendrick ends up hitting fifth (a distinct possibility), any signs of life from Joc Pederson could place him in the two-hole (and Carl Crawford is a solid option against right-handed hitters too). Point being, there are a ton of options for solid to high on-base hitters to hit in front of Gonzalez who is exactly the consistent type of hitter (who plays in most every game) who racks up RBIs. —Craig Goldstein

Matt Holliday, Cardinals
There aren’t too many one-two punches at the top of lineups that can match St. Louis’ in on-base ability. Matt Carpenter has a career .379 OBP, while Jason Heyward’s is .351. This is very good news for Matt Holliday. Last season was a down-year for the veteran, but he still managed 20 home runs and 37 doubles. If he can move a bit closer to his previous career norms, he should produce a lot of runs in a weirdly underrated Cardinals offense. —Matt Collins

Mike Napoli, Red Sox
Yes, I'm sticking with the "Boston's offense will be pretty damn good" approach to selecting these contextual-stat darkhorses. Napoli had a rough year in 2014, not only with nagging injuries sustained on the field, but his struggled with sleep apnea off of it. The slugger will be hitting behind multiple potential All-Stars and, despite the fact that his RBI numbers have historically been held down by his patience at the plate, he will step up to the plate with runners on much more than he has been accustomed to--even during their World Series run in 2013. —Bret Sayre

Albert Pujols, Angels
Pujols isn’t a major dark horse, he just missed the cut for the PECOTA projected top 10 in RBI and has knocked in at least 100 runs in two of three seasons with the Angels. It’s still worth noting that despite Pujols’ age he is another year removed from knee surgery and seems to be moving around even better this spring. He could also see more baserunners when he comes to the plate if Kole Calhoun is able to stay healthy all season and Mike Trout, who stole just 16 bases last year, steals more bases this year. —Nick Shlain

Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox
PECOTA thinks that Ramirez will drive in 71 runs, good for 69th in baseball. Whereas he has batted higher in the order at other times in his career, Ramirez will be batting fourth behind Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz. Those guys figure to get on base a lot and even if one of the top two guys falters, the Red Sox have other potentially above average options to plug in. And maybe the move to left field helps his health? I am not sure, but a high batting average and some injury luck should lead to Ramirez driving in many a run. —Jeff Quinton

Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
Rizzo’s been right around 80 RBI in each of the past two seasons, and this year PECOTA has him projected to drive in 87. That’s a nice bump, and it makes sense given Rizzo’s step forward last year and his improved supporting cast. Still, given how much better we can expect Chicago’s offense to be this year, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Rizzo edge into the 90s in terms of RBI, especially if he stays on the field for 150-plus games. He’s not exactly a sleeper, but don’t overlook the upside that still exists here. —Ben Carsley

Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
I’m required to write at least 75 words here, but the premise is simple: if Troy Tulowitzki stays healthy, it’s not difficult to envision him winning an RBI title in that park. It’s more likely that Tulo plays his usual 100-110 games and doesn’t do it, but if he holds up for just one year after the surgery and gets into, say, 140 games, some sick offensive numbers could be in the offing. He was on his way last year before he finally shut it down. —Mike Gianella

BP Fantasy Staff is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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Related Content:  Fantasy,  Runs,  Rbi,  Runs Scored

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