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Late-Round Fliers for RBI Production

RBI production is a valuable stat in all fantasy baseball formats, but it is not always an easy stat to predict. Locating solid RBI production late in drafts becomes even more difficult.

Ideally, you want players who will hit in the middle of lineups, which are expected to score plenty of runs. Now, this may sound obvious to most, but locating players like this later in drafts can be quite difficult, as so many of them tend to be drafted early.

This article will lay out a few players that fit into this mold. Each of these players should be able to provide RBI value to fantasy owners in the later rounds of drafts.

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Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies

Ryan McMahon had a decent 2020 in his second full season of action as he slashed .215/.295/.419 with nine HR, 26 RBI, and 23 R. While the average and OBP leaves quite a bit to be desired, the HR and RBI totals were actually pretty solid given it was a shortened season. A deeper look into his power metrics should tell us why he is a candidate to provide further production in 2021.

In 2020, McMahon produced an exit velocity of 90.1 mph, which ranked him in the top 29% of the league. He also produced a hard-hit rate of 43% and a barrel rate of 11.2%. These ranked him in the top 30% and 25% of the league, respectively. These are a big reason why he was able to hit nine bombs across his 172 at-bats. He also produced a 9.3% walk rate, which is nothing to sneeze at, however, his strikeout rate of 34.2% will have to improve a bit if he is going to have major success at the Major League level.

The fact that he plays at Coors Field will certainly help his RBI production in 2021 as well because it has consistently ranked at the top of the league for park factors in terms of runs scored. If this was not enough to see that McMahon should be a solid producer of runs in 2021, he is also projected to bat cleanup for the Rockies.

McMahon currently has an ADP of 231, which means he is being drafted in the 19th round of 12-team mixed leagues. He will provide plenty of value for fantasy players at this ADP. Players would be hard-pressed to find a cleanup hitter in a park as solid for hitting as Coors Field this late in their drafts. McMahon will also bring value to the table with his position eligibility as he is eligible at multiple infield positions in several leagues.


Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros

Yuli Gurriel struggled in 2020 by slashing .232/.274/.384 with six HR, 22 RBI, and 27 R. This came on the heels of a 2019 campaign in which he slashed .298/.343/.541 with 31 HR, 104 RBI, and 85 R. 2020 easily could have been an anomaly for Gurriel as his career slash line is .287/.365/.468, and he hit at least .291 in the three seasons prior to 2020. He also averaged 88 RBI per season from 2017-2019 as well as over 20 HR per season in that same span. Granted, the HR totals are anchored by the 31 bombs in 2019, but he has solid power nonetheless.

In 2020, Gurriel put up a career-low hard-hit rate as he posted just a 36.5% rate. This is a guy that had posted a 38.1% rate the previous year and also averages a rate of nearly 39% for his career.

Gurriel's down season across the board is exactly why fantasy players can get him on the cheap in 2021 as he is currently posting an ADP of 258, which means he is not being selected until the 20th round in most 12-team mixed leagues. He is projected to hit sixth in the Astros lineup in 2021, which should give him ample opportunities to post solid RBI totals. He is also eligible at first and third base in many leagues, which should also add to his value in 2021.


Josh Naylor, Cleveland Indians

The Indians were pretty high on Josh Naylor in 2020 as he was a key piece in the Mike Clevinger deal. Naylor will likely rotate between the outfield and first base, which means he will provide added flexibility on fantasy rosters. In 2020, he slashed .247/.291/.330 with just one HR, six RBI, and 13 R across 98 AB. While these stats certainly do not jump off the page, there is hope he could turn it up in 2021 with regular playing time.

Naylor was once a top 100 prospect, so the ability is certainly there for him. However, he has only seen 350 AB over his first two big-league seasons and only saw 97 AB in the shortened 2020 season. Looking at his 2019 power metrics, we see that he posted an exit velocity of 89.6 mph and a hard-hit rate over 36%. These numbers do not jump off the page, but they are certainly respectable for a first-year player. In 2020, he cut down on his strikeouts as he went from a strikeout rate of 22.9% to a rate of 11.5%. This is definitely something you want to see from a player in their progression.

The bottom line with Naylor is that he has the potential to break out in 2021 and is basically being given away in drafts with a current ADP of 414. This means he is being drafted in the middle of the 34th round (or not at all) in 12-team leagues. He is worth a flier as your final pick in drafts. Place him on your bench for a few weeks to start the season, and if he does not perform, it did not really cost much to try him out.

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