Bissell and Collins led off our Fantasy Categorical Breakdown on RBI by looking at the general landscape and some over- and underachievers. I’ve got the deep dive today and I’m going to resist the urge to simply list the projected 3-4-5 hitters on solid offenses that aren’t standard depth contributors.
The Quick Hit Risers
Part of Bogaerts’ ascent to the upper tier of the shortstop ranks is his ability to drive in baserunners. He added 35 RBI to his total from 2014 to 2015 to finish with 81, second most among shortstops. A good portion of that can be attributed to his move up the Red Sox order from back-half regular to three-hole mainstay. The move did wonders for Bogaerts, who improved on an already-stellar .291/.328/.401 output by slashing .339/.373/.434 the rest of the way. The lineup position provided him more RBI opportunities as well, as his 175 plate appearances with runners in scoring position was good for a top 20 mark. There’s no reason for the Sox to reinstall their veterans ahead of Bogaerts in the order, and with the prospect of more pop on the horizon, a position-leading RBI total is a real possibility.
Moustakas finally had the kind of season many expected he would when he was ranked among the game’s best prospects at the beginning of the decade. Moustakas was solid across the board, but his biggest fantasy contribution was the 82 RBI he tallied for one of the league’s best offenses, bettering his 2014 total by 28. Entrenched as the two-hole hitter for most of the season, Moustakas moved down the lineup when Ben Zobrist came to town. In turn, he racked up 43 RBI after the trade deadline, compared to 39 in the four months prior. With Zobrist now having departed, Moustakas may return to the second spot, but if he stays behind Cain and Hosmer, he could be in store for a lofty RBI total in 2016.
The Interesting Cases
Bour is large man with tremendous pull-side power and he got a chance to show it at the big-league level when he took over for an ineffective Mike Morse in mid-May. Bour finished with 73 RBI in less than 450 plate appearances, and I like his chances of achieving a similar number in 2016. The Marlins are the deserving butt of many jokes, but the top third of their order is formidable and assuming Stanton doesn’t clear the bases before Bour steps in, the latter should have plenty of opportunity to pile up RBI. The Marlins wisely limit Bour’s playing time and you’d be wise to follow their lead if daily moves are an option in your league. He posted a robust .845 OPS against northpaws while scuffling to a .573 mark against same-side pitching in 2015.
Duffy came out of nowhere to drive in 77 as the Giants’ primary third baseman in 2015. Duffy lacks prototypical power for the hot corner but his excellence both at the plate and in the field ensures another full-time gig in 2016. He also played nine games at second base, and if that’s enough to add positional eligibility in your league, Duffy’s value takes a big step forward. His RBI total was the sixth-highest among middle infielders in 2015, compared to 13th-most among third basemen, so he’ll be less valuable if that’s his sole eligible position, but be careful not to discount him too much. There’s not much in the underlying numbers that screams fraud. Duffy will likely round out the top third of the Giants’ order, and he should offer a solid RBI total even as his .342 batting average with runners in scoring position regresses.
In the year of the rookie, not enough ink was spilled on the impressive debut from the Phillies’ third baseman. Franco was worth two wins in only half a season, while playing at age 22. Fantasy leaguers were ready for him to graduate in 2014 and instead he played all year in Triple-A and turned in an underwhelming season. If you took the opportunity to buy in dynasties, or if Franco gets passed over in pursuit of newer, shinier toys in next year’s redraft leagues, take advantage. Franco still possesses prodigious power and still plays half his games in an extremely favorable park for right-handed hitters. The 50-RBI total he produced in 80 games is bound to swell to 80 or more over a full 2016 and it won’t be at all surprising if he finishes with a top-10 total at the position.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
I am writing to recommend Ryan Howard as a viable option for RBI in the year 2016. If you didn’t immediately close your browser when you saw his name, I’ll wait for you to stop laughing… Okay, here we go. Thanks for sticking around. Just so you know I haven’t completely lost my mind, you should never, ever play Howard against southpaws if you can help it. He hit .130/.178/.240 against them in 2015, and accordingly, the Phillies are publicly talking about a potential platoon at first base. Howard was useable against righties though, posting a .256 batting average that wasn’t completely soul and category crushing. He also drove in 67 in roughly 400 plate appearances against righties. Howard seemed cooked a full four years ago and many owners will have him off their board completely come 2016, but he is still a middle-of-the-order hitter regardless of whether he should be.
Plouffe’s 86 RBI in 2015 were good for 30th-best in baseball and he has now driven in 80 or more in back-to-seasons. Plouffe was a first-round draft pick way back when and after an underwhelming and extended minor-league career, has carved out a nice role for himself as the kind of boring, productive veteran we often overlook in fantasy. If there’s a warning sign here it’s that Plouffe hit .284 with men on base and .316 with men in scoring position, compared to .215 with the bases empty. He had a spread in 2014 too, though not quite as wide; it’s not likely that a .245 lifetime hitter will maintain that split in perpetuity. Nevertheless, he’ll continue to occupy prime real estate in Minnesota’s batting order and there are worse ways to accumulate RBI than trailing Byron Buxton, Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer, and Miguel Sano.
Suarez was something of a revelation after coming up from Triple-A in the wake of Zack Cozart’s season-ending knee injury. In 398 at bats, Suarez popped 13 homers as part of a .446 slugging percentage and racked up 48 RBI along the way. That’s more thump than the frame and scouting reports might suggest he was capable of and while everyone expects the home run rate to back up, Suarez did enough in his age 23/24 season to think he can hack it as a second division regular. There’s really no reason for the retooling Reds to go back to a 30-year-old Cozart coming off a major injury, making Suarez a sneaky deep-league RBI play in 2016.
Zimmerman isn’t very good at playing full seasons, so instead I’ll tell you that on a per-plate-appearance basis, only Giancarlo Stanton and 2015 RBI king Nolan Arenado drove in more runs. On the one hand, that’s surprising because, well, isn’t Ryan Zimmerman supposed to be too broken or washed up to help us? On the other hand, batting behind a guy who gets on base 46 percent of the time is a good place to be. Zimmerman will play as often as his body will allow and while he isn’t the player he was during an abbreviated but lofty peak, he can still pad your RBI total when healthy.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now