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As we continue the Fantasy Categorical Breakdowns series this offseason, this week we will be taking a deeper dive into the RBI and runs scored categories. Yesterday George Bissell did an excellent job in presenting his survey of the overall RBI/Runs landscape, and today Matt Collins and I will take a retrospective look at players in both leagues who took big steps forward in 2015 in these statistical categories, as well as identify a handful of hitters who regressed from the previous season. I will address the runs category here, and Matt will give his perspective on the RBI breakdown in a separate piece on the site today.

In doing the research for this piece, I chose to only include players who played in at least 115 games in each of the past two seasons. That appeared to be the best threshold to give a fair assessment of the over/under achievers in this counting stat from the past season.

Overachievers

Lorenzo CainKansas City Royals

2014: 55 runs (T-132nd)
2015: 101 runs (T-9th)

Fantasy owners have been waiting for Cain to have a breakout season for years, and the toolsy outfielder delivered on his potential in 2015, earning $35 in standard AL-only 5×5 formats. Cain posted career highs in nearly every offensive category this past season, and the biggest jump was in runs scored. The Royals scored 73 more runs as a team in 2015 from their 2014 season, with Cain and teammate Eric Hosmer (see below) both producing significant gains in this category. The third-place finisher in the AL MVP voting in 2015, Cain’s +46 run gain this past season earned him a top-10 finish in this category and marked the first time he has scored more than 55 runs in any season. Cain was especially productive down the stretch, as he touched the plate 57 times over his last 73 games. Cain’s value will be high in 2016 drafts in all 5×5 scoring formats.

Eric Hosmer – Kansas City Royals

2014: 54 runs (T-137th)
2015: 98 runs (T-14th)

Like his teammate Cain, Hosmer set career highs in multiple offensive categories this past season including OBP (.363), which helped the first baseman produce a +44 run gain in 2015. Hosmer has now cracked $23 in earnings in standard AL-only 5×5 scoring formats in three of his first five big-league seasons. Entering his age-26 season in 2016, the third-overall pick in the 2008 MLB draft will be a highly targeted corner infielder in all formats next season.

Yunel EscobarWashington Nationals

2014: 33 runs (T-251st)
2015: 75 runs (62nd)

Escobar had not posted a batting average higher than .258 or an OBP over .332 in any of the previous three seasons, so his .314 AVG and .375 OBP in 2015 were certainly not expected. The dramatic spikes in those categories were a contributing factor to the veteran infielder’s 42-runs-scored improvement last season. He was aided by a BABIP 40 points over his career mark, and heading into his age-33 campaign, it appears unlikely Escobar can produce a repeat performance in 2016 from a runs-scored perspective.

Dexter FowlerChicago Cubs

2014: 61 runs (T-104th)
2015: 102 runs (T-7th)

With all the young hitting studs on the Cubs’ 2015 roster, who would have predicted this eight-year veteran would lead Chicago in SB, triples, and runs scored (102)? Fowler stayed healthy over a full season for the first time in his career, playing in a career-high 156 games, and even though he posted his worst OBP and AVG of his career, his 102 runs scored bested his previous career high by 18 runs. Fowler is a free agent so his 2016 employer is uncertain, but if ends up back with the Cubs, expect him to be a solid source of runs, giving him value in standard 5×5 formats.

Shin-Soo ChooTexas Rangers

2014: 58 runs (T-116th)
2015: 94 runs (T-19th)

It was a tale of two halves as Choo’s .343/.455/.560 post-break slash line stood in direct contrast to his .221/.305/.384 triple slash in the first half. Coming off an injury-plagued 2014, and trying to do too much in the first half of 2015, Choo went back to being patient at the plate in the second half, thriving to the tune of a .455 OBP. That helped lead to a monster summer, especially in the runs-scored category, to the delight of his 5×5 owners. Choo scored 50 runs over his last 59 games of 2015, and if he picks up in 2016 where he left off last year, the veteran outfielder should be another strong runs play next season.

Underachievers

Miguel CabreraDetroit Tigers

2014: 101 runs (T-5th)
2015: 64 runs (T-103rd)

Yes, it’s difficult to include Miggy in any article where he is deemed as an underachiever, especially in a season where the future Hall of Famer captured his fourth batting title in five years. However, Cabrera had been a steady earner in this category over his career, and had averaged 107 runs scored over the previous five seasons heading into last year. Yes, Cabrera was limited to 119 games last year due to injury, which obviously greatly impacted his numbers in this counting stat, but his .54 runs per game in 2015 represented the second-worst rate of his career and was well below his career average. Am I worried that Miggy will not return to his 100-run annual average in 2016? No, I am not, but Cabrera was still an underachiever in this category last season, so he merited inclusion on this list.

Jose ReyesColorado Rockies

2014: 94 runs (T-10th)
2015: 57 runs (T-135th)

Like Cabrera, Reyes was hampered by injuries last year that limited the former batting champion to only 116 games played split between Toronto and Colorado. However, Reyes’ 57 runs scored were the lowest total of his career, as was his .49 runs-per-game rate. In fact, Reyes crossed the plate more times in his injury-plagued 2013 season in 100 fewer PA. That said, Reyes still put up $21 in overall fantasy earnings in standard mono 5×5 scoring formats this past season, so depending on how things play out for the switch-hitting shortstop’s domestic violence case this offseason, he could be a nice buy-low candidate in 2016.

Carlos GomezHouston Astros

2014: 95 runs (9th)
2015: 61 runs (T-117th)

It was a disappointing season all around for Gomez and his fantasy owners, considering his ADP was eighth in 2015 drafts. A wrist and rumored hip injury certainly contributed to Gomez’s struggles this past season, especially in the second half of the year. Gomez’s .304 OBP after the break was concerning, and led to the emotional outfielder’s dismal 29 runs scored over his final 63 games. When healthy, Gomez is an electric player, so hopefully we will get to see that version next season.

Freddie FreemanAtlanta Braves

2014: 93 runs (T-14th)
2015: 62 runs (T-113th)

Admittedly, I find it hard to criticize Freeman based on the Braves’ organizational decisions in 2015, but in the end, he disappointed owners from a runs-scored perspective last season. The Braves scored a league-worst 573 runs this past season, which was 115 runs bellow the league average total of 688, and combined with Freeman missing 44 games due to injury, it is not surprising that he scored 31 fewer runs than he did in 2014. Freeman is still an OBP machine, so expect a bounce-back in 2016, potentially making him a bargain heading into 2016 drafts.

Christian YelichMiami Marlins

2014: 94 runs (T-10th)
2015: 63 runs (T-109th)

I am a huge believer in Yelich, and predict a batting title is in this young outfielder’s future within the next three years. However, despite being the owner of one of the prettiest left-handed swings in the game today, Yelich struggled early in the season and was hitting .227 on June 26th. He picked it up in the second half, registering a .342/.392/.473 triple slash to post his first .300 AVG season at the age of 23. However, his Marlins teammates could not take advantage when the sweet-swinging outfielder was on base, leading to Yelich’s paltry total of 63 runs scored. The runs were down in 2015, but I expect a big season for Yelich in 2016. I believe that Barry Bonds’ presence with this talented young hitting team should produce improved offensive numbers across the board for the Marlins—and I predict Yelich will see improvement in every statistical hitting category in 2016.

Thank you for reading

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