The 2019 MLB season is quickly nearing and that means it is season long player prop time! For the 2018 season, I logged winners on 44 out of 67 (66%) season long player prop bets on their over/under marks in statistical categories. Those bets are undocumented outside of my own records, but those who know me well know I am an honest gentleman, and they also know I have a bit of a knack on this baseball thing.
Laying down some of that hard-earned cheddar to have to wait over six months to see any potential return on these season long props can be quite a drawn out process, but hey, baseball is a drawn out sport that is not for the impatient or for the thrill seeking adrenaline junkies. So if you are one that can truly appreciate the thought, deliberation, skill, and strategy that goes into this game that most grown men can only dream of playing for a living, then you should have no problem waiting the six plus months to see your bankroll additions! But if you are one that thinks baseball is “boring,” a.) I don’t necessarily blame you and b.) then you can still read the analysis below, bet it and forget it, don’t watch a single at-bat all season, then login to your account on September 30 for a pleasant monetary surprise.
These picks are based off my personal hand-crafted statistical player projections.
***Unless noted otherwise, all lines are from MyBookie.
***I will be referencing a stat labeled RBI/BIP. This is RBI per ball in play. A “ball in play” in this scenario is defined as any batted ball that does not result in a home run. And to account for the fact that home runs may be solo shots, 2-run shots, 3-run shots, or grand slams, this RBI/BIP play stat involves a constant of 1.565 that is multiplied by the number of home runs. This method is borrowed from Mike Podhorzer of Fangraphs.
So let’s get caught looking at these props!
Trevor Story: Over 99.5 RBI (-115) – As I mentioned in Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Home Runs (Part One), I think Story’s big year last year can have some stick, and I also think he should spend a bit more time out of the cleanup spot than 5th this year. Story spent 39.5% of his plate appearances cleaning up and 52% hitting 5th, but I think at worst those numbers will flip flop this year with the decent chance he is the team’s unquestioned cleanup hitter. The switch in lineup spots wouldn’t necessarily be huge to his RBI total, but in theory it should at least help a bit. In 312 career plate appearances hitting cleanup, Story has an extremely robust RBI/BIP of 14.4%. As the #5 hitter in 549 career plate appearances, his mark is at a healthy 11.7%. Aided by Coors Field as his home park and having proved to be a very capable power hitter, I see no reason to project his RBI/BIP at less than 11.7%, so my RBI projection for him is based off the level of 12.0% RBI/BIP. The Backwards K projection: 106 RBI
Anthony Rendon: Over 90.5 RBI (-115) – I went over some of my love for Rendon in Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Home Runs (Part Two), so since I was pretty high on Rendon’s mark of over 23.5 home runs, it would only seem fitting that I dig his RBI total as well. Throughout his career, Rendon’s most occupied spot in the batting order has been 2nd and then 6th, which are the two spots just outside of the range of the spots that typically have best RBI opportunities (3rd-5th). But last year Rendon did split most of his time hitting 3rd/4th, with some 2nd sprinkled in. He is set to reprise that role for the Nationals in 2019 (probably alternating with Juan Soto based on matchups), especially with Bryce Harper bouncing over to Philly. Rendon’s career RBI/BIP is 10.0%, but he hasn’t been under 10.6% since 2015. With speedster Trea Turner and Adam Eaton (not necessarily in that order) with his career .363 OBP set to be the #1-2 in this lineup, Rendon should continue to be able to maintain similar RBI/BIP marks that he has had over the last few seasons as a whole, especially considering his prowess as an extra base hitter. Pairing this with my projected uptick in home runs for him where he would be driving himself in more, we land on a projected RBI total that demolishes the over/under line. The Backwards K projection: 104 RBI
Eugenio Suarez: Over 90.5 RBI (-115) – Suarez muscle upped to a 48.6% hard% in 2018 when his previous high was 34.9% from 2016. Naturally, with the muscles flashing with the lumber, his home run total landed on a career high of 34, which helped to aide his 104 RBI, also a career high. I am forecasting some regression in his HR/flyball%, but as an emerged hitter in his prime, I think Suarez holds on to some of those gains for 2019 for some RBI assistance. But the most exciting factor in his RBI potential is the table setting crew that he will have this year. Gone are the days of Billy Hamilton’s .299 OBP in Cincinnati and it also appears that Jose Peraza and his pitiful career 3.9% BB% are moving to the bottom half of the order. Suarez won’t necessarily have a set spot in the order, as he can be expected to bat anywhere from 3rd-5th on any given day, but somewhere ahead of him on most days should be Jesse Winker and Joey Votto, and then quite possibly Nick Senzel. Winker seems like the best candidate and most likely to leadoff and all that he has done is post a 13.6% BB% and .397 OBP in 471 Major League plate appearances, which is in line with his Minor League stats. Then of course Votto is Votto-matic as the OBP king (career 16.3% BB%, .427 OBP). When top prospect Senzel factors in, he has the look of a .370 OBP player with the upside for more, but it would be unclear where he slots in. But for Suarez to have at the very least Winker and Votto ahead of him as two .400+ OBP guys, there is probably not a more enviable situation in the Majors from an RBI perspective. The two most comparable ones would be batting behind Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich in Milwaukee, and then batting behind Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez in Boston. But the factor that has me in favor of the Winker/Votto tandem is the fact that they should easily have a combined higher rate of walks than the other duos and *probably* a lesser rate of home runs hit to clear the bases ahead of Suarez. Outside of bases loaded walks, a walk means that the batter has zero chance at driving in anyone for an RBI, which should leave some extra men on for whoever is behind Winker and Votto. Last year Suarez sat on a RBI/BIP of 12.8%, which is on the high side, but given the aforementioned situation, I have him down for a mark of 12.0% for this projection. The Backwards K projection: 99 RBI
Ronald Acuna Jr.: Over 89.5 RBI (-115) – Acuna proved to be everything as advertised as a rookie last season and I don’t figure the 21-year old to slow down too much to experience any significant sophomore slumping. The bigger question that is very crucial to this player prop is where will Acuna bat in the Braves lineup? He spent 61.8% of the time in the leadoff spot last year, but his bat prowess may play better outside of the leadoff role as long as the Braves have another solid option to be that table setter, which they do have in Ender Inciarte. Inciarte may be the solution to leadoff against right-handed pitching, but I would suggest Ozzie Albies as the choice for against left-handed pitching. Either way, I tend to lean towards Acuna occupying the cleanup spot the majority of the time for the Braves as manager Brian Snitker appears set on Josh Donaldson and Freddie Freeman as the 2-3 combination. It also sure is helping that Acuna is smashing the ball out of the cleanup spot in Spring Training, likely solidifying his role to start the season. The Backwards K projection: 99 RBI
Nick Castellanos: Over 87.5 RBI (-115) – Castellanos is another player who I gushed over in the post on Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Home Runs (Part Two) as I have him down for 33 home runs. The 33 home runs may seem ambitious, but I have to trust my analysis there and obviously if he gets to 33 home runs that is going to boost his RBI mark. The caution here is that Castellanos now seems probable to bat from the 2-hole for the Tigers this year, at least for as long as Miguel Cabrera’s health can hold up to occupy the 3-spot, according to some recent comments from manager Ron Gardenhire. Hitting 2nd all season long will hamper the RBI opportunities for Castellanos, but he still would have a pathway to hit these overs even if he does hit 2nd most of the way. I am less enthused on this prop then I was when I was projecting Castellanos to hit 3rd and Cabrera 4th, but the wager is in so I will be riding it out. The Backwards K projection: 93 RBI
Travis Shaw: Over 87.5 RBI (-115) – Shaw appearing here makes it as the fourth player to appear on LIKES for both their overs on home runs and RBI. As mentioned in the blurb on Eugenio Suarez, last year hitting behind Lorenzo Cain (.395 OBP) and Christian Yelich (.402 OBP) should have been a great RBI spot. Granted, Shaw spent most of his time hitting cleanup, so he was not directly behind the Cain and Yelich as the 1-2 combo. But still, hitting 4th the majority of the team should have provided some solid RBI chances. Shaw was really unable to capitalize on that as he was left with a rate of 8.4% for RBI/BIP. This was well below his overall career mark, but it has a lot to do with some tough luck on his BABIP where he sat at .242. It makes sense that if his BABIP was down then his RBI/BIP would be down too. Things seem to point to Shaw experiencing some positive regression in BABIP, more towards his career mark of .286, which will also help him drive in Cain and Yelich more. Shaw’s career RBI/BIP from the cleanup spot is 11.8%, so I think with some gains on his BABIP, he can come back somewhere around his career RBI/BIP of 11.1%. The Backwards K projection: 94 RBI
Mike Trout: Over 97.5 RBI (-115) – We all know Trout is an absolute beast as an offensive player, but some things are just completely out of his control. One of those things is that he cannot put on base the other Angels hitters who bat in front of him. So whether he just has had some horrible OBP guys ahead of him or if it is just by the strike of some heinous variance, Trout has had some absolutely terrible yearly RBI/BIP marks in his career, even when considering where he hit in the order. He peaked at a RBI/BIP of 13.0% in 2016, but that was with him spending 79.5% of the time as the #3 hitter. In 2018, his RBI/BIP hit an all-time low at 4.5%, which is low enough to make even the likes of Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton chuckle. The good news, though, is hitting out of the 2-hole in his career (where he should continue to hit this year), he has a RBI/BIP of 8.7%, which matches his career mark inclusive of anywhere he bats. Somewhat conservatively, I have him projected at a RBI/BIP of 8.0% because of the volatility that he has shown in this department. Unfortunately, that volatility leaves this as only a lean. The Backwards K projection: 104 RBI
Freddie Freeman: Over 93.5 RBI (-115) – As it goes with Freeman, as I mentioned in Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Home Runs (Part One), Freeman is an amazing hitter but has some inconsistencies from year to year in different departments, but definitely not in a bad way to harm his overall offensive output — it is more a bad way if trying to project a certain stat category for him. His home runs and RBI are those areas and while my projection for him is good enough to make this a like instead of a lean, I am keeping it at a lean and will invest in Freeman elsewhere. The Backwards K projection: 100 RBI
Matt Olson: Over 87.5 RBI (-115) – Olson’s rookie year pace in only 216 plate appearances was not going to be sustainable, but he still held his own as a sophomore last year primarily hitting 5th. Olson might get a bump up to the 3-hole this year, at least versus righties, which would be nice for probably a little bit better RBI opportunities and some extra plate appearances. But he does have some unsavory looking splits against lefties while the A’s do have some right-handed hitting options that can take his spot in the lineup when a southpaw is starting. I do not necessarily anticipate him being platooned or semi-platooned, but the possibility exists, which only leaves this as a lean. The Backwards K projection: 92 RBI
Gleyber Torres: Under 85.5 RBI (-130) – Torres arrived in the Bronx with some swag to hit 24 home runs with 77 RBI in only 123 games played. Never having displayed that type of power in the Minors before, it is fair to wonder if this should be the expected norm going forward. I definitely have my doubts and I think Torres will be one of the impressive rookies from last year to be more susceptible to a sophomore slump. But given the uncertainty, it is not something that I want to wager on to find out despite the projection indicating that this is good enough to be a LIKE. The Backwards K projection: 78 RBI