Just like with pitcher wins, RBI have become somewhat outdated in breaking down baseball and analyzing the sport. However, despite their archaic nature, RBI are still vital in many fantasy formats, leading to additional fantasy relevance for a number of players.
And while many of the game’s best hitters, both in fantasy baseball and real-life baseball, post strong RBI numbers, there are a number of players to be found later in drafts who can add significant value to fantasy rosters with their ability to drive in runs.
For fantasy managers who prefer to go pitching-heavy in the early rounds, finding these late-round RBI options can be crucial in roster building.
Or, simply for fantasy managers looking to hoard offensive production, these players are worth a look as well. At any rate, these are some late-round RBI targets to consider.
*All NFBC data via NFBC.
Joc Pederson – 238.93 ADP*
Pederson has had some quality seasons at the plate in his career before. Prior to 2022, he’d topped a 125 wRC+ on three different occasions, routinely collected ISO metrics north of .200, and logged a career-high 36 home runs during the 2019 campaign.
However, the 2022 season was well and truly a breakout year for Pederson. Or a career year rather.
The slugger hit .274 with a .353 on-base percentage, 23 home runs, and three stolen bases in 433 plate appearances in his debut season for the San Francisco Giants.
He established new career highs in just about every category but home runs. Those career highs were ever-present in his batted-ball data too, with new personal bests coming in xwOBA (.367), xwOBAcon (.443), hard-hit rate (52.1%), xSLG (.502), and average exit velocity (93.2 MPH). For context, all of those metrics were very good.
Back with the Giants for another season after accepting the one-year qualifying offer in the offseason, Pederson should once again play a key role in a much-improved San Francisco lineup that’ll also feature new arrivals Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger, as well as a full-season from trade deadline acquisition J.D. Davis.
Going back to 2022, Pederson logged 180 plate appearances with men on base, with 100 plate appearances coming with runners in scoring position.
With Haniger, Conforto, and Davis logging full seasons in a lineup that finished last year with the 10th-most runs scored in the league last season, those opportunities should only increase this year. And if the former Dodger is anywhere near as productive as he was in those situations in 2022, it’ll only benefit his RBI numbers.
And while it remains to be seen just where Pederson will hit in Gabe Kapler’s lineup, the outfielder and designated hitter should routinely hit in the top four in San Francisco – at least if last season’s lineup trends are anything to go on.
If anything, should Pederson continue having a set place in the top half of the Giants’ lineup, it’ll only be a positive where RBI opportunities are concerned as it should give him more opportunities with runners on base.
In fact, given how much better Pederson was with runners on base, scoring position or no, it’d certainly make sense (speculatively speaking) if the Giants hit him second, third, or fourth instead of leadoff in the top half of San Francisco’s lineup. It’s also worth noting that, though in a tiny sample size, Pederson has hit third in each of the three Spring Training games he’s played this year. If that trend continues with regularity, he’ll only see more RBI chances.
J.D. Martinez – 215.56 ADP*
Martinez hit .274 with a .341 on-base percentage in 596 plate appearances in 2022 with the Boston Red Sox, logging an 8.7% walk rate for the second-straight year and finishing with a nearly identical strikeout rate (24.3%) as he did in 2021 (23.7%). He also logged a 119 wRC+ for the American League East club.
Still, it was a relatively down year for Martinez from a power standpoint, at least compared to his past lofty standards.
The slugger hit 16 home runs in his last season in Boston in those 596 plate appearances.
Despite that, he could be due for some positive regression in 2023, or rather, he should finish with more home runs if he makes the same type of contact.
Martinez’ expected home run metric for all but five stadiums was greater than his actual home run total of 16. That list includes Dodgers Stadium, where the former Tiger will now be playing half his games.
As it happens, Martinez’s expected home run metric at his new home stadium was 24 last season, a far cry from the 17 expected home runs at his last home stadium, Fenway Park.
Elsewhere, it’s worth noting that while his hard-hit rate dropped from 49.4% to 41.7% from 2021 to 2022, his barrel rate finished at an identical 12.5% in both campaigns.
He steps into an ideal fantasy situation in Los Angeles where he should be in a position to hit behind the likes of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Will Smith.
Last season, the Dodgers finished with the most plate appearances in the league with runners in scoring position.
And with Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Justin Turner all playing elsewhere in 2023, Martinez could be the biggest beneficiary of all the RBI opportunities in Los Angeles outside of Betts, Freeman, and Smith.
Jake Fraley – 302.01 ADP*
Despite only outscoring seven teams, the Reds supported a number of fantasy-prominent hitters thanks to Great American Ballpark and its hitter-friendly nature.
We saw it with Brandon Drury, Tommy Pham, and Fraley last year, and we might see it with Fraley again this year with the other two no longer in town following mid-season deals at last season’s trade deadline.
Fraley, in his first season in Cincinnati, hit .259 with a .344 on-base percentage, 12 home runs, and four stolen bases in 247 plate appearances last season while adding 33 runs scored and 28 RBI. Unsurprisingly, those numbers included some strong home splits.
However, Fraley held his own on the road as well, which is certainly a positive for his fantasy prospects heading into next season. Drury in particular wasn’t quite as effective on the road in 2022 as he was at Great American Ballpark and didn’t find the most success at the plate following his trade away from Cincinnati to San Diego last season.
Given the departures of Drury and Pham, Fraley seems all but guaranteed plate appearances in the top three or four batters in the Reds. Of course, that’s all entirely speculative, but the Reds didn’t do much to add to their lineup via trades and free agency outside of Wil Myers, Will Benson, and Curt Casali.
There’s obvious platoon risk here, considering Fraley hit just .143 with a 31 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers last season.
Still, there’s plenty of upside for RBI here, given his hitter-friendly ballpark, past production, and potential plate appearances near the top of the order when he does play. That last bit is especially crucial. Because while it isn’t a particularly deep lineup, if Myers, Jonathan India, and Joey Votto can all have bounce-back seasons, it could position Fraley nicely to drive in runs on a consistent basis.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)