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Predicting the RBI Leaders of Every MLB Team in 2013

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2013

Predicting the RBI Leaders of Every MLB Team in 2013

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    There are those among us who believe that RBI is a relatively meaningless statistic when it comes to measuring a player's value.

    I'm not one of those folks.

    A player could reach base 50 percent of the time he steps into the batter's box, but if he's not crossing home plate, his efforts are meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

    Ultimately, baseball is a game about outscoring your opponent.

    While most teams are blessed with multiple bats in their lineups capable of producing runs, someone has to wear the crown as his team's RBI king. Let's take a look at who will be sitting on the RBI throne for each team at the end of the 2013 season.

Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones

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    2012 RBI Leader: Chris Davis (85)

    Adam Jones had his breakout season in 2012, hitting .287 with 32 home runs and 82 RBI. He finally started living up to the hype that surrounded him as a prospect with the Seattle Mariners years ago.

    Entering the prime of his career, the 27-year-old center fielder sits in the middle of a Baltimore lineup that lost one of its biggest run producers over the winter in Mark Reynolds, who took his 23 home runs and 69 RBI west to Cleveland.

    Jones will be looked to to pick up some of that slack, and he'll rise to the challenge. 

    On pace for nearly 90 RBI at the 2012 All-Star break (he entered the break with 44), Jones will crack that mark for the first time in his career in 2013.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 96

Boston Red Sox: Will Middlebrooks

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    2012 RBI Leader: Adrian Gonzalez (86)

    Three of Boston's four leading run producers in 2012—Adrian Gonzalez, Cody Ross and Mike Aviles—are no longer with the team, leaving Dustin Pedroia as the only holdover from 2012 who drove in at least 60 runs.

    But in hitting second in Boston's lineup, Pedroia's run-producing opportunities are sure to be few and far between, leaving the bulk of the work for the bats that follow the All-Star second baseman.

    David Ortiz would normally be the pick to lead the team in RBI, but with Big Papi still sidelined by an Achilles tendon injury that ended his 2012 season prematurely and no timetable for his return, it could be quite some time before we see him taking regular at-bats with the club.

    Will Middlebrooks, who burst onto the scene last year, hitting .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI in only 75 games, also saw his 2012 campaign end prematurely due to injury—a broken wrist that essentially cost him the final two months of the season.

    Unlike some youngsters who struggle under the pressure of having runners on base when they step to the plate, Middlebrooks embraced the role as a run producer. He hit .321 with 41 RBI when runners were in scoring position, and .333 with 49 RBI with runners on base.

    Middlebrooks will continue to thrive with runners on base in 2013, marking the first season in what is sure to be a long career of being Boston's primary run producer.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 82

New York Yankees: Robinson Cano

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    2012 RBI Leader: Curtis Granderson (106)

    As with Boston, three of the New York Yankees' four biggest run producers in 2012 won't be on the field when the 2013 season starts, two of them for completely different reasons than their division rivals.

    Both Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are injured, while Nick Swisher, third on the team with 93 RBI in 2012, took his run-producing talents to Cleveland during the offseason.

    That leaves All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, entering the final year of his contract, as the key piece of the Yankees' once-formidable lineup.

    While Cano posted the highest OPS of his career in 2012 with a .929 mark, it was the first time since 2009 that he failed to crack the 100-RBI plateau, finishing the season with a respectable 94.

    He'll get back into triple digits this season, proving to the team once again that he is worth what is sure to be a record-setting contract for a second baseman at the end of the season.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 108

Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria

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    2012 RBI Leader: B.J. Upton (78)

    While nobody has ever considered Tampa Bay to be an offensive juggernaut, the team has had its fair share of 100-RBI performances. The Rays have five players recording seasons with at least 100 RBI 10 times over the team's 15-year existence.

    Yet nobody has broken the 100-RBI barrier in Tampa Bay since Evan Longoria knocked in 104 runs back in 2010. That streak isn't going to end in 2013, as Longoria remains the star of a fairly bland lineup in Tampa Bay, one without the dynamic (and maddening) B.J. Upton for the first time in nearly a decade.

    Of course, for Longoria to lead the team in RBI this season, he'll need to stay on the field—something that he's struggled to do in each of the past two seasons, playing in only 207 of a possible 324 games over that span.

    But a healthy Longoria is a productive Longoria, and the 27-year-old third baseman will avoid a disastrous injury in 2013, returning to his run-producing ways.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 92

Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista

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    2012 RBI Leader: Edwin Encarnacion (110)

    Sidelined by a wrist injury that ultimately ended his 2012 season last August, 32-year-old Jose Bautista is healthy and returns to a Toronto lineup that added some big pieces during the offseason.

    With Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera hitting ahead of him, Bautista will step to the plate with runners on base more often than not in 2013.

    That's great news for Bautista and the Blue Jays, and terrible news for the opposition, as Bautista, who has driven in 292 runs since the start of the 2010 season, is one of the elite run producers in the game today.

    It wouldn't be shocking to see both Bautista and Encarnacion crack the 100-RBI mark in 2013, but Bautista, hitting ahead of Encarnacion in Toronto's explosive lineup, will wind up with more than his younger teammate.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 118

Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman

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    2012 RBI Leader: Freddie Freeman (94)

    With the additions of B.J. and Justin Upton to a lineup that already featured Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla, Atlanta has plenty of options to choose from when figuring out who will be the team's RBI leader in 2013.

    But with Heyward hitting second in the lineup, his RBI numbers figure to take a bit of a hit. While it's tempting to select one of the Upton brothers—either Justin, hitting third, or B.J., hitting fifth—the pair have such an inconsistent track record that it's a risky proposition to bank on either one.

    That leaves Freeman, Atlanta's cleanup hitter and one of the more overlooked up-and-coming youngsters in the game today, as the logical choice.

    Freeman, 23, set career highs in home runs (23) and RBI (94) in 2012, and there's no reason not to expect him to improve upon those numbers in 2013. Look for Freeman to begin what promises to be a lengthy stretch of 100-RBI seasons in 2013.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 106

Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton

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    2012 RBI Leader: Giancarlo Stanton (86)

    Picking Giancarlo Stanton to lead the Miami Marlins in RBI this season was about as difficult as dunking on a Nerf basketball net attached to your bedroom door.

    One of the premier sluggers in the game today, Stanton, 23, is literally and figuratively the biggest offensive threat the Marlins have.

    Actually, he may be the team's only offensive threat.

    Would it surprise anyone if teams pitched around him all season long? I'd be shocked if the opposition didn't put Stanton on base every chance it got, forcing the rest of the Marlins lineup to produce.

    That said, Stanton is simply too talented to not put up numbers in 2013, though those numbers will be lower than they would be were he surrounded by MLB-caliber talent in South Florida.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 85

New York Mets: David Wright

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    2012 RBI Leader: David Wright (93)

    Since his first full major league season in 2005, David Wright has been tied for or led the New York Mets in RBI outright five times.

    After the 2013 regular season has come and gone, that number will rise to six.

    The heart and soul of the Mets, Wright finds himself in the middle of a talented but underwhelming lineup, one that has the potential to pack a solid punch but remains largely unproven.

    Yet when those batting in front of him do reach base, they'll have a legitimate chance to cross home plate whenever Wright steps up to bat.

    A case could be made for first baseman Ike Davis in this spot I suppose, but after watching the way David Wright swung the bat for Team USA in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, hitting .438 with 10 RBI in only four games, I'm not about to pick against Captain America.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total:97

Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard

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    2012 RBI Leader: Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz (68)

    Another rather obvious choice for his team's RBI lead in 2013, Ryan Howard is undoubtedly the best run producer in Philadelphia heading into the 2013 season.

    Fully recovered from a torn Achilles tendon that cost him all but 71 games in 2012—and let's be honest, Howard was clearly not himself when he returned to action—the 33-year-old slugger is poised to reassert himself as one of the game's premier run producers.

    With a trio of former All-Stars hitting ahead of him in Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Michael Young, Howard will have ample opportunity to put runs on the board for a Phillies squad that is trying to remain competitive yet rebuild at the same time.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 102

Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper

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    2012 RBI Leader: Adam LaRoche (100)

    After winning the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year award, what will the phenom, Bryce Harper, do for an encore?

    Put himself in the thick of the discussion for National League MVP.

    One of the most naturally gifted players to break onto the scene in decades, the 20-year-old outfielder finds himself hitting third in a stacked Washington lineup heading into the 2013 regular season.

    While both third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and first baseman Adam LaRoche are capable run producers in their own right, neither has the explosive potential of Harper, who I'm convinced will avoid the dreaded "sophomore slump" and continue his ascension into the realm of the top 10 players in baseball.

    You'd have to be a clown to question whether Harper will put together a monster season for the Nationals in 2013, which includes leading the team in RBI.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 110

Chicago White Sox: Adam Dunn

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    2012 RBI Leader: Adam Dunn (96)

    Adam Dunn is the prototypical swing-for-the-fences player. While that approach has led to batting averages that hover around the Mendoza line and insanely high strikeout totals, it has also led to Dunn being one of the game's premier run producers for more than a decade.

    Dunn, 33, has eclipsed the 100-RBI plateau in six of his 12 major league seasons, finishing with more than 90 RBI eight times.

    He'll add to his impressive totals in 2013, leading the Chicago White Sox in RBI (and home runs) for the second consecutive season.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 102

Cleveland Indians: Nick Swisher

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    2012 RBI Leader: Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana (76)

    Moving from the New York Yankees to the Cleveland Indians might seem like a step backward for Nick Swisher, but the 32-year-old slugger finds himself in perhaps an even better situation than what he left behind in the Bronx.

    Hitting cleanup in an Indians lineup that features a pair of All-Stars in center fielder Michael Bourn and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera ahead of him—along with a future All-Star in second baseman Jason Kipnis—the best numbers of Swisher's career could lie ahead of him.

    While he has two seasons with at least 90 RBI under his belt—and five with at least 80—Swisher has never really been looked at as the primary run producer on any of the teams with which he's played.

    Until now.

    With the talent hitting ahead of him in Cleveland's lineup, Swisher will eclipse his career-best 95 RBI with the Oakland A's back in 2006, falling just shy of breaking triple digits for the first time.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 98

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera

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    2012 RBI Leader: Miguel Cabrera (139)

    Arguably the best baseball player on the planet, Miguel Cabrera has done nothing but produce at the plate for the better part of a decade.

    On the heels of his historic 2012 season, one that saw him win the American League MVP award after becoming the game's first Triple Crown winner in nearly 50 years, big things will be expected from Miggy in 2013.

    Still in the prime of his career, Cabrera will deliver once again. For the second consecutive season (and third in four years), he'll lead baseball (and the Tigers) in RBI.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 127

Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer

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    2012 RBI Leader: Billy Butler (107)

    It's been a decade since the Kansas City Royals had a pair of players drive in at least 90 runs in the same season. Carlos Beltran (100) and Raul Ibanez (90) accomplished the feat back in 2003.

    That streak will come to an end in 2013, as both first baseman Eric Hosmer and designated hitter Billy Butler will deliver with runners on base consistently for an improved Royals squad looking to contend for a playoff spot.

    Yet only one will lead the team in RBI, and the nod goes to Hosmer, who is looking to put a dreadful 2012 campaign behind him and reestablish himself as one of baseball's best up-and-coming stars.

    While his numbers with Team USA at the 2013 World Baseball Classic were pretty awful (.200/.231/.240), Hosmer did pick up five RBI in six games.

    He was swinging the bat well for the Royals before he left camp, and I not only believe that Hosmer will pick up where he left off, but if you're looking for a dark-horse MVP candidate in the American League, the 23-year-old first baseman is your guy. 

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 97

Minnesota Twins: Josh Willingham

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    2012 RBI Leader: Josh Willingham (110)

    I was tempted to put either Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau in this spot, but with Mauer's relative lack of power and the fact that I believe Morneau will be dealt out of Minnesota before the end of the season, last year's RBI leader, Josh Willingham, was the only logical choice.

    Willingham put up the best numbers of his career for the Twins in 2012, with 33 home runs and 110 RBI to go along with an OPS of .890.

    He'll struggle to match those numbers in 2013, but 25 home runs and 95 RBI are certainly attainable for the 34-year-old left fielder.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 95

Chicago Cubs: Alfonso Soriano

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    2012 RBI Leader: Alfonso Soriano (108)

    He's a shell of the player he once was, but 37-year-old Alfonso Soriano remains productive at the plate for the Chicago Cubs, cracking the 100-RBI mark for the third time in his career (and first in Chicago) in 2012.

    Expecting Soriano to duplicate those numbers in 2013 may be asking too much, but breaking the 90 RBI mark isn't a stretch on an improving Cubs team that may not be as bad as some people expect in 2013.

    It won't be long before first baseman Anthony Rizzo takes the RBI lead away from Soriano, but the youngster will have to wait until 2014 (the final year of Soriano's contract) to do so.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 92

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto

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    2012 RBI Leader: Jay Bruce (99)

    Hampered by a knee injury that ultimately required surgery and cost him more than a month of the 2012 season, Joey Votto didn't look quite like a perennial MVP candidate last year.

    Healthy and motivated, Cincinnati's 29-year-old first baseman is poised to take advantage of the team's offseason addition of leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo, who, though he lacks top-end speed, is an on-base machine. 

    With Choo and All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips hitting ahead of him, Votto will have ample opportunity to put runs on the board when he steps into the batter's box for the Reds in 2013.

    He'll lead the team in RBI, but right fielder Jay Bruce, who led the team in RBI last season, will give him a stiff challenge for the lead.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 105

Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun

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    2012 RBI Leader: Ryan Braun (112)

    No matter which side of the fence you land on when it comes to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, who has had a cloud of suspicion hanging over his head since failing a drug test toward the end of the 2011 season, there's no denying that the 29-year-old left fielder is one of the most complete players in the game.

    Milwaukee owns one of the most productive yet underrated offenses in the game, scoring the most runs in the National League in 2012 (776) and the third-most in baseball behind the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.

    Braun is a major reason for that success.

    With five consecutive seasons of at least 100 RBI, averaging 109 per year, there's no reason to expect that his latest PED distraction, tied to the biogenesis clinic in South Florida, will impact his production for the Brewers in 2013.

    Expect another MVP-caliber season from the All-Star once again.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 115

Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen

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    2012 RBI Leader: Andrew McCutchen (96)

    The most gifted baseball player in Pittsburgh since some guy named Barry Bonds roamed the outfield, Andrew McCutchen will once again pace the Pirates offense in 2013.

    Pittsburgh's leader in literally every offensive category in 2012, the 26-year-old All-Star, just hitting the prime years of his career, will improve upon his impressive numbers in 2012, landing him in the thick of the National League MVP race for the second year in a row.

    With a full season of outfielder Starling Marte atop the lineup and second baseman Neil Walker hitting in the two-hole, McCutchen will have ample opportunity to bring runners across the plate.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 105

St. Louis Cardinals: Allen Craig

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    2012 RBI Leader: Matt Holliday (102)

    If you're looking for underrated players in baseball, look no further than St. Louis, where the Cardinals have a pair of overlooked stars in center fielder Jon Jay and first baseman Allen Craig.

    It's easy to look past the duo with names like Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday around, but both are tremendous talents who only make the superstars who surround them better.

    Of the two, it's Craig, hitting cleanup in the Cardinals lineup, who will benefit the most from being surrounded by such talented players.

    The 28-year-old broke out in 2012, hitting .307 with 22 home runs and 92 RBI.

    He'll build on those impressive numbers in 2013, pushing the 30 home runs while breaking triple digits in RBI for the first time in his short major league career.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 107

Houston Astros: Carlos Pena

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    2012 RBI Leader: J.D. Martinez (55)

    Chances are that Carlos Pena will finish the 2013 season with a batting average under .200. But on a Houston Astros team that is still years away from contending, he'll be one of the most productive batters.

    Not even the most optimistic Astros fan expects much of anything from the club in 2013, especially as it makes the move from the National League Central to the American League West, having to go up against teams like the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers multiple times during the season.

    Simply put, there isn't much in the way of big-time talent on this Astros squad.

    But when batters do find their way on base, Pena, who has averaged 91 RBI a season since 2007, remains capable of moving runners along and putting some runs on the board.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 74

Los Angeles Angels: Albert Pujols

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    2012 RBI Leader: Albert Pujols (105)

    There are two choices for who people think will lead the Los Angeles Angels in RBI during the 2013 season: Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton.

    Really, you can't go wrong with either one, as both will be incredibly productive in a potent Angels lineup, one with the dynamic Mike Trout leading things off.

    Both All-Stars will eclipse 100 RBI during the season, but it's Pujols, one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen, who will edge out Hamilton for the team lead.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 114

Oakland A's: Yoenis Cespedes

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    2012 RBI Leader: Josh Reddick (85)

    Had Yoenis Cepedes not missed time with a wrist injury during his rookie campaign in 2012, there's little doubt that the Cuban import would have broken the 100 RBI mark. As it were, he finished the season with 82 RBI over 129 games.

    As long as he remains healthy in 2013, reaching triple digits won't be an issue for the 27-year-old outfielder.

    With a year of getting acclimated to not only the major leagues but to the United States, Cespedes will put up bigger and better numbers than he did for the A's in 2012.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 102

Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager

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    2012 RBI Leader: Kyle Seager (86)

    While Seattle went out and added three established run producers this past winter in Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse, it's a holdover from 2012, Kyle Seager, who will once again lead the team in RBI in 2013.

    Seager, who seemingly came out of nowhere to hit 20 home runs with 86 RBI last season, will benefit from having those veteran bats behind him in Seattle's lineup, seeing more pitches to hit.

    That, coupled with the Mariners' decision to move the outfield fences in a bit at Safeco Field for the 2013 season, will allow Seager to improve on his run production slightly. The Mariners offense should be significantly more productive than it was in 2012 as well.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 91

Texas Rangers: Adrian Beltre

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    2012 RBI Leader: Josh Hamilton (128)

    Much has been made of Texas' decision to allow Josh Hamilton to depart via free agency. While replacing his run production in the middle of the team's lineup is a nearly impossible task, it's not as if the Rangers are left with nobody to pick up the slack.

    The addition of designated hitter Lance Berkman will help, and right fielder Nelson Cruz remains a solid run producer. But it's third baseman Adrian Beltre who will replace Hamilton's name atop the team's leaderboard.

    Beltre, 33, has put together three consecutive 100-RBI seasons—a streak that won't come to an end in 2013.

    The Rangers simply have too much talent around Beltre for the All-Star not to produce at the plate. While he won't reach Hamilton's gaudy numbers, Beltre will remain as productive as he's been since joining the Rangers prior to the 2011 season.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 105

Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt

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    2012 RBI Leader: Jason Kubel (90)

    Justin Upton is gone, dealt to Atlanta for third baseman Martin Prado and additional pieces, while outfield prospect Adam Eaton is set to assume the everyday leadoff duties for skipper Kirk Gibson's club.

    Amazingly enough, these changes likely mean a more productive offense for the Diamondbacks than what the team had with Upton in the mix.

    Eaton and Prado are adept at getting on base, while second baseman Aaron Hill and catcher Miguel Montero are just good all-around players.

    First baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who was solid in his first full season in the big leagues last season, hitting .286 with 20 home runs and 82 RBI, is in position to benefit the most from Arizona's improved lineup.

    With four batters ahead of him who know how to get on base and last year's RBI leader in Arizona, Jason Kubel, hitting behind him, Goldschmidt is a lock to improve upon his rookie campaign.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 96

Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki

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    2012 RBI Leader: Carlos Gonzalez (85)

    A perennial MVP candidate, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki missed the final four months of the 2012 season after undergoing surgery to repair a groin injury.

    Healthy heading into the 2013 season, Tulowitzki will reclaim his spot as the best—and most productive—member of Colorado's offense.

    With Dexter Fowler finally coming into his own atop Colorado's lineup and the continued presence of the uber-talented Carlos Gonzalez hitting in front of Tulowitzki, the All-Star shortstop will once again put up numbers that garner him serious MVP consideration.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 106

Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp

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    2012 RBI Leader: Andre Ethier (89)

    Hindered by a shoulder injury that was far more severe than he believed and required surgery to repair—something Matt Kemp was surprised to find out, as he told Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles back in October—Los Angeles' All-Star center fielder is healthy and ready to produce for the Dodgers in 2013.

    If you remember, Kemp started the 2012 season on fire, hitting .417 with 12 home runs and 25 RBI through the first 23 games of the regular season.

    He's capable of putting up monster numbers, and with the amount of talent surrounding him in the Dodgers lineup, only injury can keep Kemp from having a monster season in 2013—a season that will find him pacing the Dodgers in multiple offensive categories, including RBI.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 118

San Diego Padres: Chase Headley

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    2012 RBI Leader: Chase Headley (115)

    After years of performing as a complementary player and not a superstar, Chase Headley broke out in a big way last season, leading the National League in RBI and earning himself a fifth-place finish in the National League MVP voting.

    There's good news and bad news for the Padres and their third baseman.

    The good news is that Headley's production isn't a fluke—he's always been regarded as a solid hitter.

    The bad news is that he's sidelined with a fractured thumb, an injury that is expected to keep him out of action until early to mid-May.

    There's simply no way Headley will come close to equaling his gaudy RBI totals of a year ago in 2013, but he'll still produce enough upon his return to be the team's best run producer.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 89

San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey

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    2012 RBI Leader: Buster Posey (103)

    The reigning National League MVP, San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, will once again be a major run producer for the defending World Series champions in 2013.

    Posey, 25, put together the best season of his young career in 2012, winning the NL batting crown with a .336 batting average to go along with 24 home runs and 103 RBI.

    While he remains one of the best players in the game and will continue to be an excellent run producer in the cleanup spot for the Giants, teams very well may start pitching around him to get to right fielder Hunter Pence, a former All-Star who hasn't produced since joining the Giants at last year's trade deadline.

    Posey will put up MVP-caliber numbers once again, but his RBI totals will dip slightly from a year ago.

    Projected 2013 RBI Total: 96

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