Loading scores...
Draft Strategy

2015 Category Sleepers: RBI

by Seth Trachtman
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

The following is Week 8 of the 10-part series of sleepers for each 5x5 roto category (BA, HR, RBI, R, SB, W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV).  Now that we are onto the categories that are more playing time and opportunity based, I’ll mention more names for you to stow away as you prepare for your drafts.  With offseason movement still rampant, the opportunity for many of these players is still very much to be determined. 

 

Before reading any further, it’s important to note the definition of a sleeper.  In this case, it’s a player who will exceed draft day ADP AND projections in a particular category. 

 

RBI is one of the traditional stats that drives stat heads crazy.  Sure, the best hitters in the game usually rank among the elite in the category, but actual totals are heavily dependent on opportunity.  We only need to look at Ryan Howard’s 2014 season (.223-23-95) for an example. 

 

Fantasy owners sometimes overlook the simplest of concepts in projecting RBI hitters and potential sleepers for the category.  An analysis of past production by batting order is a great exercise to help project the leaders and breakouts in the category.  Below is a breakdown of the average RBI per game by lineup spot over the last three seasons.

 

Average RBI per Game

 

2012

2013

2014

Average

Batting 1st

0.358

0.371

0.353

0.361

Batting 2nd

0.435

0.412

0.426

0.424

Batting 3rd

0.587

0.555

0.575

0.572

Batting 4th

0.620

0.597

0.561

0.593

Batting 5th

0.556

0.499

0.498

0.518

Batting 6th

0.466

0.457

0.434

0.452

Batting 7th

0.443

0.414

0.400

0.419

Batting 8th

0.370

0.369

0.340

0.359

Batting 9th

0.281

0.290

0.269

0.280

 

 

It’s quite clear that batting order spots 3-5 are the most productive for RBI, as expected.  Since teams usually stack their best hitters in these spots, it comes as little surprise.  However, the RBI production isn’t just about the talent at those spots.  The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball by Tango, Lichtman, and Dolphin gives a great breakdown of RBI opportunities by spot in the batting order, albeit with data from the 2000s hitting era.

 

Batting Order

PA empty

PA men on

% with men on

Number of Runners On

1

3.11

1.72

36%

2.39

2

2.63

2.09

44%

2.77

3

2.38

2.23

48%

3.00

4

2.19

2.31

51%

3.20

5

2.28

2.11

48%

3.10

6

2.29

1.97

46%

2.84

7

2.20

1.94

47%

2.74

8

2.17

1.85

46%

2.61

9

2.13

1.77

45%

2.48

 

 

Batting order spots 3-5 see a significant increase in plate appearances with men on, as well as more runners on during those plate appearances.  This is particularly important to remember in-season when you are trying to beef up on the RBI category via trade or waiver pick up.

 

With all these facts in mind, the list of RBI sleepers below is dependent on both hitting ability AND possible opportunity to hit 3-5 in the batting order.

 

 

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Twins

 

Arcia went through some major growing pains in his sophomore season, but few realize that he finished tied for sixth in homers among all of MLB during the second half with 15.  Those 15 home runs only netted him 39 RBI due in part to a .239 batting average and poor performance ahead of him in the lineup, but he did hit fourth or fifth in the batting in 46 of his 98 starts.  The Twins have addressed the loss of Josh Willingham by signing Torii Hunter, but Arcia should still see some at-bats hitting fifth in the batting order.  While Arcia is only hitting .241 through 723 major league at-bats, he’s a career .314 minor league hitter and still a threat to show a better batting average if he can remedy his contact issues.  Regardless, Arcia should be a popular sleeper in 2015 for his power and resulting RBI potential and still seems reasonably priced with a 232.22 average draft position in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship Draft Champions leagues.

 

 

Travis d’Arnaud, C, Mets

 

D’Arnaud was quietly a starter-quality fantasy option during the second half, hitting .265-7-22.  While he didn’t pile up many RBI, d’Arnaud found himself hitting almost exclusively in the five hole during the second half of the season with great success.  The Mets have added Michael Cuddyer to the lineup this offseason, but d’Arnaud’s success last season in the middle of the order should encourage manager Terry Collins to keep him where he had success last season.  D’Arnaud is currently just the 13th catcher drafted in the NFBC ADP, but has upside for 60-plus RBI and far more potential.

 

 

Ike Davis, 1B, Athletics

 

Fantasy owners have exercised enough patience with this former Mets top prospect, but he could still see regular playing time in 2015 after Oakland added him.  The A’s lineup has seen massive turnover in the offseason, and Davis is penciled in as the starting first baseman.  He had sub-par numbers as a first baseman between the Mets and Pirates last season, but Oakland’s lineup now has limited pop and could lean on Davis in the middle of the order.  Davis’ 78 career home runs rank third on the team’s current roster behind Billy Butler and Coco Crisp.  If the team doesn’t make any power additions, Davis should have a strong opportunity to hit in the middle of the order.  He needs to show major progress in order to help in mixed leagues again, but Davis has proven capable in the past.

 

 

Evan Gattis, C, Braves

 

Gattis’ mention comes with an asterisk, as it’s up in the air as to where he will be playing in 2015.  Gattis is currently slated to start in the outfield for the Braves, but he’s been a prominent name in trade rumors for the rebuilding team.  After trading Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, Gattis is arguably Atlanta’s most powerful bat on the roster.  He’s hit 43 homers in only 723 total at-bats over the last two seasons, and most often found himself hitting fourth or fifth last season.  If Gattis remains on the roster, he will almost certainly hit cleanup behind Freddie Freeman in a lineup that is decidedly anemic at the moment.

 

 

Michael Morse, OF, Marlins

 

Morse is coming off a rebound season with the Giants, hitting .279-16-61.  That season netted him a lucrative two-year deal with the Marlins to be their new first baseman, giving the team another power threat behind Giancarlo Stanton.  The Marlins lacked power around Stanton last season, hitting Casey McGehee and his four home runs in the cleanup spot the entire year.  Morse will almost certainly hit fourth of fifth behind Stanton this season, with Marcell Ozuna likely manning the other spot.  The move to first base also should help the oft-injured Morse stay on the field.

 

 

Domingo Santana, OF, Astros

 

Houston surprisingly hasn’t addressed their outfield this offseason, though there is still time.  They currently have a projected starting outfield of Dexter Fowler, George Springer, and Robbie Grossman/L.J. Hoes/Jake Marisnick fighting for the last spot.  That final spot doesn’t leave much to be desired in terms of offensive potential, which opens the door for Santana.  He really struggled in his major league debut, but Santana remains a strong prospect after hitting .296-16-81 at Triple-A Oklahoma City in his age 21 season last year.  Despite going 0-for-17 with the Astros, Santana will get a long look in spring training and should slot in as a middle of the order bat when he does arrive for good.

 

 

Yasmany Tomas, 3B, Diamondbacks

 

Arizona’s middle of the lineup suddenly shows elite power potential after adding Tomas this offseason.  The jury is still out on where Tomas will play (third base or outfield), but he’s said to show significant power potential.  The Cuban makes sense as the team’s No. 5 hole hitting behind Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo if he is a legit 20-plus home run hitter, as the scouting reports suggest.  The Diamondbacks got rid of Miguel Montero this offseason, and the only other player on the roster other than the aforementioned trio with a 20 home run season to his name is veteran Cody Ross, a candidate to be cut in spring training after two injury-plagued years.  Hitting behind such potent power as Goldschmidt and Trumbo could be a gold mine for RBI in Tomas’ rookie season.

 

 

Kennys Vargas, DH, Twins

 

With full apologies to Matt LeCroy, Vargas could be Minnesota’s biggest and best young DH prospect since David Ortiz.  Listed at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, Vargas hit 26 homers between Triple-A and the majors last season.  However, it was his RBI total that should turn heads.  Minnesota hit him in the cleanup spot for most of his time in the majors, and he had 38 RBI in only 53 games.  The Twins haven’t done much to address their offense in the offseason, with Torii Hunter their only notable addition.  Vargas is locked in as a middle of the order hitter despite the transition to new manager Paul Molitor, and shows 100 RBI potential already, especially if Joe Mauer can rebound as the team’s No. 3 hitter.