Yesterday, George Bissell broke down the landscape of the league as far as runs and RBI go, and the results shouldn’t be too surprising. These are highly contextualized stats that rely heavily on teams and lineup placement, making it hard to predict who will excel in these categories and who will disappoint. Today, I’ll be looking at five players who exceeded expectation in the RBI department, and five players who disappointed. I’ll also attempt to determine whether these trends can be expected to continue into 2016, or if they were one-year flashes in the pan.
2015: 130 RBI (1st Place)
2014: 61 (T-89th)
In just about every way, 2015 was a breakout campaign for Nolan Arenado, as he jumped from the “quite-good” tier to being one the elites of the game. His jump forward in RBI hardly tells the whole story of his improvement, but fantasy owners benefited heavily from it. They shouldn’t expect to keep benefiting, however. While Arenado is going to be a great player for a long time, the contextual factors do not favor him in 2016. The good news is he’ll still be at Coors, which will help his power numbers. Unfortunately, Troy Tulowitzki will be gone for the whole season, and there’s a chance one or both of Carlos Gonzalez and Corey Dickerson will be gone too. It’s looking like it will be a much weaker offense in Colorado next year, and it’s hard to knock runners in when there’s never any on base.
2015: 117 (3rd)
2014: 72 (T-60th)
Unlike Arenado, 2015 represented a bounce-back campaign for Chris Davis, not a breakout. We had seen this kind of production from him back in 2013, but his poor follow-up performance created some skeptics. It’s clear the power is there, and that alone will get him quite a few RBI in any season. However, if a player is to go from the good to the elite in this category, he needs to come through with singles when runners are on second or third. With his propensity to strike out at such a high rate, that will always be a question mark for Davis. He should be able to be near the top of this leaderboard again in 2016, but just how high up he’ll end will be largely dependent on which team signs him in free agency.
2015: 106 (8th)
2014: 42 (T-181st)
This was probably the weirdest jump made by anyone this season. Obviously, part of the reason Morales’ RBI total was so low in 2014 is the fact that he sat out a significant portion of the year thanks to draft-pick compensation, but this was still strange. The Royals’ DH was primarily a beneficiary of breakout seasons from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. The Royals lineup should still be good at setting up RBI opportunities for the middle of the order, but losing guys like Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist is sure to hurt them. This seems like a flash in the pan for Morales.
2015: 94 (21st)
2014: 75 (T-50th)
If anyone can demonstrate the fickle nature of RBI, it’s McCann. The Yankees catcher put up an almost identical season to his 2014, but the RBI results varied wildly. He had the same number of doubles, the same number of triples, and just a few more home runs. Those extra long balls certainly made a difference, but he was helped more by an improved Yankees lineup. Unfortunately, it’s a lineup with a lot of aging players who can expect decline this year. That will hurt McCann’s RBI output in 2016, even with another identical season. A couple big keys for him will be whether or not Brett Gardner is still around on Opening Day, and whether Starlin Castro can get back to his old form.
2015: 86 (T-30th)
Obviously I had to bring up Alex Rodriguez in this conversation. No one knew what to expect from him coming into the year, and he blew away just about all expectations. He was a huge reason for the improved Yankees offense, and took advantage of his RBI opportunities. Unfortunately, he’ll be another year older in 2016, and it’ll be another year of not knowing what to expect, both performance-wise and health-wise.
2015: 90 (T-24th)
2014: 116 (1st)
It’s hard to say someone with 90 RBI was a disappointment, but that’s just the reputation that Adrian Gonzalez has earned for himself over the years. He’s been as consistent as humanly possible in this category, knocking in at least 100 runs in seven of the last eight years, with 99 RBI in the one year he failed to reach 100. His 2015 was something of an anti-McCann year, as he had a typical Gonzalez season with poorer performance around him. In order to get back to his previous peaks, he’ll need a rebound from Yasiel Puig as well as steps forward from Joc Pederson and Corey Seager.
2015: 64 (T-95th)
2014: 103 (T-9th)
There weren’t many players who had more disappointing 2015s than Victor Martinez. Unlike Gonzalez, his downturn can be placed squarely on his shoulders, not his teammates’. The Tigers still had a fine lineup, but Martinez’s numbers dropped across the board, particularly in the power department. Him missing games due to injuries certainly hurt his final total, but he wouldn’t have been anywhere near the 100-RBI mark even if he played 162 games. It’s hard to imagine him ever getting to that level again, but he should be able to improve upon his 2015 with a completely healthy winter and spring.
2015: 44 (T-184th)
2014: 85 (T-28th)
While Martinez was one of the top veterans heading into the season, Marcell Ozuna was one of the favorite young players for fantasy players. After having a breakout year in 2014 in which he showed off legitimate power, big things were expected for him in 2015. Instead, he fell on his face and the Marlins did not help him recover. The power potential is still there, and if he stays in Miami he’ll be in a solid situation for RBI totals. Hitting behind Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon, and Giancarlo Stanton should do nothing but pad his stats, assuming he can get back to his old ways of course. A trade to a better hitters’ park could help matters too. Ozuna is still a wild card heading into 2016, but he’s setting up to be a nice buy-low candidate.
2015: 44 (T-184th)
2014: 92 (T-19th)
Woof. Coming into the season, Adam LaRoche was one of my favorite mid round targets at first base, and that went just about as poorly as one could have expected. LaRoche wasn't helped by a mostly atrocious White Sox lineup, but he didn't do himself any favors either. At this point, he looks to be little more than a platoon guy and shouldn’t be counted on going forward. Chicago is shopping him, so that could change things, but it’s hard to imagine a new team will be any more confident in him at this point.
2015: 73 (T-64th)
2014: 91 (T-22nd)
Like Gonzalez, Evan Longoria has long been one of the most consistent fantasy players in the game. Even with stats like RBI that are so hard to predict, you knew you were always getting upper-echelon performance. Well, the contextual factors finally caught up to him in 2015. His personal production was actually up across the board, but the Rays lineup was no help to him. Beyond Logan Forsythe, there was never anyone getting on base ahead of Longoria. There’s no reason to believe the third baseman’s performance will drop off next year, but the Rays lineup also doesn't look to be improving. If you draft Longoria, look to get your RBI from another position.