Predicting the Top 10 Finishers for RBI

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What's up RotoBallers. Welcome back to our series on 2017 predictions for fantasy baseball. In 2016 there were only three players with more than 119 RBI, but 35 players finished the season with 95 or more.

While RBI production depends on a player's ability and spot in their team's lineup, the statistic is also largely dependent upon how often a team can provide base runners in front of them.

With that I give you my predictions for the top 10 RBI leaders in 2017.

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2017 Predictions: Top 10 RBI Leaders

1. Nolan Arenado led the league with 133 RBI in 2016 after leading the league with 130 in 2015. As Nolan will turn just 26 years old on April 16th it's amazing to think that he's just now entering his power prime and still more than a full year away from his age 27 season. Hitting cleanup for the Colorado Rockies and their stacked lineup sure helps. Calling Coors Field home and playing 81 games a year at Mile High is a boon as well. This is an easy prediction folks, because as long as Arenado stays healthy and notches over 650 at bats he will either lead the league in RBI or be among the top two or three hitters in the category.

2. Edwin Encarnacion finished tied with David Ortiz for second with 127 RBI last season. In 2015 EE had the fifth most RBI in the MLB with 111. This season Edwin will be doing most of his work in a worse park for right handed hitters, but I expect him to again be among the top five RBI guys in the league. Not only is his new lineup packed with talented hitters in front of him to knock in, but the guy that Encarnacion is replacing (Mike Napoli) managed to collect 101 RBI last season in spite of a .239 batting average. Seeing as how Edwin has a career .266 average and hasn't hit below .263 in the past six seasons I think he should easily top Napoli's numbers and be among the league leaders, especially if he stays healthy.

3. Albert Pujols was fourth in RBI in 2016 with 119. After posting "just" 95 in 2015, I'm very comfortable putting Albert on this list for a few reasons. The first reason is that Pujols is a machine and has posted 103 or more RBI 13 times in his 16 year career. Two of the seasons he didn't collect that many he drove in 95 and 99. The only other time he didn't get there he played in just 99 games. The next reason I believe in Albert these days is because he plays the majority of his games at the DH position. Last season Pujols played 152 games and only manned first base in 28 of them. As he gets older it will become more important to keep him hitting productively and to keep him healthy. The last reason that I believe in Pujols as a steak eater is because of Mike Trout. The fact that Trout hits in front of Pujols is a big deal. Last season Trout posted an OBP of .441 and Albert knocked him in on the regular. I expect a whole lot more of the same again this season.

4. Mookie Betts had a huge season in 2016 as he posted 113 RBI, good for the fifth most in the league. The most impressive thing about that is that Betts did that largely out of the leadoff spot for the Red Sox. It's a tribute to the depth of Boston's lineup as much as it was to Betts himself, as there are rarely any one or two hole hitters that have that many opportunities to drive in runs. To paint you a picture of how hard it is to drive in runs near the top of the lineup, you should know that some guys by the name of Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant only knocked in 102 and 99 runs, respectively. Both of those guys did it out of the two hole and had a much better hitter in front of them more often than Betts did. To be fair to Bryant, his team plays in the National League, and because of that he often had the pitcher hitting just two spots ahead of him. In any case it's rather impressive that Betts is on this list, and a good bet to succeed again. To say that the RBI category is team and lineup dependent is rather evident when a leadoff hitter like Betts is near the top of a prediction list like this one.

5. Anthony Rizzo posted 109 RBI in 2016, which was good for the seventh most in the Major Leagues. In 2015 Rizzo finished with 101 RBI, and as long as he stays healthy, that should be the base line for the lefty slugger as he enters his power prime. It certainly helps when you play for a team that scores a ton of runs and especially when some guy named Kris Bryant hits in front of you and posts an OBP near .400. While Rizzo is great on his own, the lineup around him and player in front of him make him a lock for the middle of this list, as long as he's healthy.

6. Miguel Cabrera has already played in 14 seasons, but is just 33 years old. He will be 34 on April 18th, but that's still remarkably young for a veteran going into his 15th season. Last year Miggy notched 108 RBI, marking the 12th time in 14 years that he put together a campaign consisting of 103 or more. The only times he failed to reach that mark were in his rookie season when he played in just 87 games, and in 2015, when he served the only disabled list stint of his career on his way to 76 RBI in 119 games. While father time is seemingly starting to catch up to Cabrera, he is a remarkably steady run producer and should continue to be as long as he's healthy.

7. Paul Goldschmidt somehow ranked 34th in the league with 95 RBI in 2016. In 2015 Goldy notched a much more impressive 110 RBI and in 2013 he had a staggering 125. This season I expect him to easily clear 100 as he'll have his leadoff man AJ Pollock back, as well as lefty masher David Peralta. When right handed pitchers toe the rubber against the snakes, he can call on Jake Lamb to slide up the order and get on base in front of him. Either way Goldy is a safe bet to be in the top ten and could even shoot up to the top five.

8. Mike Trout finally makes this list as he is the next safest bet to be a great source of RBI. Everyone else that I was considering either doesn't have the track record of past success or a history of staying healthy. Trout "only" had 100 RBI last season and 90 the year before that, but those statistics are no doubt affected by his position in the lineup. In 2016 Mike was in the third slot for 124 games and managed 81 RBI. Of the 33 games he hit in the two hole Trout had just 19 RBI. In 2015 Trout spent much of the season in the two hole. This year Trout will return to the third spot in the lineup and should see an increase in RBI as a result. More often there will be a man or men on base when he comes to bat. It doesn't' get more simple then that, and they don't get any better than Trout.

9. Hanley Ramirez posted an incredible 111 RBI last season and he did it in just 147 games. The only player on the top 30 list of the RBI leader board to appear in less than 147 games was BABIP God Daniel Murphy. The fact that Hanley isn't higher on this list is due to a history of health issues he faced recently in his career. Prior to last season Han Ram played in 128 games or fewer in three consecutive seasons. Now that he plays first base he should have an easier time staying healthy, as it's a less physically demanding position. The fact that Ramirez bats in the middle of the Red Sox lineup means that he's a shoe in to make this list again as long as he gets to 145 or so games, and I think that he can.

10. Mark Trumbo/Chris Davis are both good options to round out this list and I couldn't pick between them. In 2016 Trumbo managed to post 108 RBI, good for the ninth most in the league. Meanwhile Davis had only 84, but posted 117 in 2015 and 138 in 2013. The only other time Trumbo had 100 or more RBI was in 2013 with the Angels when he posted 100 exactly. So while Trumbo had more last season, Davis is likely the better bet to post a bunch of RBI because he's done so more often. Either way one or both of these guys should make this list or come darn close. I'd be shocked to see either one too far from the leader board in 2016 as long as they get the at bats in 2017.

 

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