As you complete your fantasy drafts there always feels like there are holes in your roster. How we go about fixing those mistakes is paramount to our success. So when you find yourself in need of RBI over the final few rounds of (think ADP after 240), where do you turn? Here are a few options with the potential to deliver at least 75 RBI in 2023:
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
Cheap RBI Options To Target
Michael Conforto – San Francisco Giants
With the Giants’ deal with Carlos Correa falling through, Conforto becomes the team’s big addition and potential thumper in the middle of the order. It’s easy to forget about Conforto after he missed all of 2022 and struggled the last time we saw him (.232 with 14 HR over 479 PA in ’21). Remember he did put up 90 RBI back in 2019 and the Giants lack potential options in the middle of their order. It’s easy to argue that Conforto is the best option, considering the alternatives are Joc Pederson, Mitch Haniger, and Mike Yastrzemski.
Someone needs to drive in runs, and a healthy Conforto has proven capable. While there’s the potential for him to fall into a platoon (he’s a career .227 hitter against southpaws), it’s fair to argue that his bat will be too valuable to sit regularly. He brings a strong approach (12.1% career walk rate), something San Francisco normally looks for. He’s also shown the ability to hit home runs, with three straight seasons of 27+ from 2017-2019.
Playing 2023 at 30 years old, do we think Conforto has forgotten how to produce? He signed a deal with an opt-out after 2023 for a reason, as he’ll use this year to rebuild his value and prove he can produce. In the middle of the lineup, that should mean plenty of RBI. At this price point, it’s easy to classify him as a source of cheap RBI when searching for options late in your draft.
Spencer Torkelson – Detroit Tigers
Maybe he should’ve found himself on the Post-Hype Sleeper column. His rookie season was a complete disaster as he hit .203 with 8 HR. It was so bad that the Tigers ultimately sent him back to Triple-A.
He had 91 RBI across three levels of the minors in 2021…
He was a number one overall draft pick…
It’s not like the Detroit lineup is overflowing with talent…
With a year of struggles under his belt, Torkelson should be better primed to emerge this season, now with everyone sleeping on him. The real surprise is that he struggled against all types of pitches in his rookie season:
- Hard – .230 AVG / .383 SLG
- Breaking – .202 AVG / .298 SLG
- Offspeed – .071 AVG / .071 SLG
He didn’t just forget to hit. Coming out of the draft, MLB.com described him by saying:
“Torkelson has a special bat, with the ability to hit for both average and power from the right side. He’s extremely patient and controls at-bats well, drawing plenty of walks. When Torkelson does swing, he combines physical strength and bat speed to generate massive power from line to line, including elite raw power to his pull side. He gets to that power during games with relative ease, too, thanks to natural hitting ability that allows him to hit all different pitch types to all fields.”
It’s a story we’ve seen before. Someone struggles in their first taste of the Majors and explodes the next season. Remember Mike Trout hit .220 in his first taste of the Majors, before hitting .326 with 30 HR the next year. There’s a clear path to playing time and a spot in the middle of the order for him to take. The Tigers are going to score runs, and there’s a good bet that he is the man to drive them in. At this price point, he’s an easy pick and a great source of potential RBI.
Jorge Soler – Miami Marlins
Remember the year Soler slugged 48 HR and drove in 117 runs? Forget it because he’s not that player. Of course, he’s just a year removed from 27 HR and 70 RBI over 602 PA. While he’s struggled with his average year after year (.228 or lower each of the past three seasons), that doesn’t mean that he’s not primed for a rebound. Even as he’s struggled he’s routinely:
- Hit the ball hard – Average Exit Velocity of 91.2 mph in ’22
- Shown a strong command of the strike zone – 29.4% O-Swing% in ’22
The elimination of the shift should help improve his luck, considering his pull-heavy approach (50.3% Pull% last season). The power is also going to be there, as he hit 13 HR last season and they went an average of 416 feet. Of the 565 players with at least 25 batted ball events, that places him 22nd.
Then there are the opportunities that should present themself. While a healthy Jazz Chisholm should be a key to the lineup, who else is a guarantee? Would it be surprising to see Soler outperform Garrett Cooper or Avisail Garcia, putting himself in the middle of the order? Which Chisholm and Luis Arraez ahead of him, that should mean ample opportunity.
Power + Opportunity + Potential AVG Improvement…
That’s the formula for 75+ RBI, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he far outperformed that number.
Trey Mancini – Chicago Cubs
The Cubs’ lineup has the potential to be potent, though that comes with quite a few caveats. There’s wondering whether or not Seiya Suzuki can figure out and develop as hoped. Can Cody Bellinger rediscover his form? Does Eric Hosmer have anything left in the tank? Maybe the biggest question is whether or not Matt Mervis ultimately makes the roster and potentially eats into Mancini’s AB.
Most curious, though, is whether or not Mancini can return to an All-Star level talent. In 2019 he slugged 35 HR to go along with 97 RBI and 106 R for the Baltimore Orioles. Even last season, when he was clearly not as productive, he managed to kick in 63 RBI on “only” 18 HR.
Now he moves to Wrigley Field, where in the summer the ball flies out of the ballpark. Plus, with all the questions would it really be surprising if Mancini finds himself in the middle of the batting order even if he doesn’t start the season there?
Mervis’ arrival would likely eliminate value for Hosmer, but Mancini should be able to carve out an everyday role. Let’s not forget the journey he’s been on, including battling cancer before returning to win the Comeback Player of the Year in 2021. He won’t necessarily be the same player that he was, but he doesn’t need to. The potential is there for him to continue producing cheap RBI this season and lead the team in RBI.
Super Deep Options
- Ramon Urias – Baltimore Orioles – I spoke about Urias as a Buy Low Hitter before, noting that a 70 RBI season is possible (click here for the article). Under that pretense, is 75 really a stretch? As a middle infielder that makes him an ideal cheap source of RBI.
- Carlos Santana – Pittsburgh Pirates – When he was younger he routinely drove in 80+ runs a season. Even last season he had 60 RBI in 131 games. Over 162 games, that’s a 74 RBI pace. Hitting behind the emerging Oneil Cruz and Ke’Bryan Hayes, with Bryan Reynolds still there, a healthy Santana should see plenty of opportunities to produce.
- Christian Encarnacion-Strange – Cincinnati Reds – Cincinnati has a gaping hole at third base and a need in the middle of its order. Spencer Steer could get the first shot, having seen time in the Majors in ’22. However, Encarnacion-Strange could prove the better option. He had 114 RBI last season, between High-A and Double-A, showing potential. He needs to learn to command the strike zone better, but with the 3B job still up in the air those in deeper formats may want to throw a dart and hope he emerges.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Savant
For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!