The rise to prominence of the Royals and Blue Jays can be traced in part to a rare ability to produce offense in pressure situations. Yes, we're talking clutch hitting, and it's worth noting as we weigh in with bold 2016 forecasts.Ranking first and second in batting average with runners
The rise to prominence of the Royals and Blue Jays can be traced in part to a rare ability to produce offense in pressure situations. Yes, we're talking clutch hitting, and it's worth noting as we weigh in with bold 2016 forecasts.
Ranking first and second in batting average with runners in scoring position last season, Toronto and Kansas City hit .286 and .281, respectively. They were 1-2 in go-ahead runs batted in; the Royals, with 163, delivered four more than the Blue Jays.
The World Series champion Royals batted .349 in 129 postseason at-bats with men in scoring position. The Blue Jays slipped to .204 in 103 at-bats, and the National League champion Mets hit .218 in 87 at-bats. With two outs and men in scoring position, Kansas City hit .269 in postseason play, New York and Toronto .186.
The Royals stood alone at the top with a .278 regular-season average with two outs and men in scoring position. The three-time champion Giants were second at .272. The Blue Jays fell to 11th, hitting .243 in these situations, but they were fifth in slugging at .423.
Five Royals hit .300 or better with two down and men on second and/or third: Salvador Perez (.371), Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon (.326 each), Kendrys Morales (.306) and Paulo Orlando (.300).
Morales' 44 two-out RBIs with men in scoring position led the Majors. He was followed by Nolan Arenado and Xander Bogaerts with 39 each, David Peralta (37) and Starling Marte and Buster Posey (35 each).
In his final season, Torii Hunter -- clutch to the end -- matched Kris Bryant and Yoenis Cespedes for seventh with 32 two-out RBIs with runners in scoring position.
In late-and-close situations, the most productive MLB hitters were Yan Gomes (.458), Ben Revere (.381), Martin Prado (.375), Dee Gordon and Jackie Bradley Jr. (.372 each), Mark Trumbo (.370), Johnny Giavotella (.365), Eric Hosmer (.363) and A.J. Pollock, Rougned Odor and Bogaerts (.359 each).
Let's examine hitters who delivered handsomely in 2015, showing promise of more game-changing moments to come.
Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
The AL Most Valuable Player Award winner led his team in so many ways, including coming through in the clutch. Donaldson led the Majors with 20 game-winning RBIs and tied Matt Kemp with 35 go-ahead RBIs. Donaldson hit .353 and slugged .618 with men in scoring position.
Colorado's young superstar tied for third in the Majors in game-winning RBIs (17) and go-ahead RBIs (30). He was second with his .373 batting average with men in scoring position and first in slugging (.733). Only Morales had more two-out RBIs with men in scoring position. Carlos Gonzalez, Arenado's teammate, slugged .647 with men in scoring position.
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
While teammate Marte was second in the Majors with 19 game-winning RBIs, Cutch was typically clutch, ranking fifth in the Majors with his .361 average with men in scoring position and third in slugging at .656. Handle with extreme care.
The NL Rookie of the Year Award winner tied Arenado, Hosmer and Albert Pujols with 17 game-winning RBIs, and he was tied for sixth with 29 go-ahead RBIs.
The 2012 NL MVP Award winner had 15 game-winning RBIs and 27 go-ahead RBIs. He hit .351 with men in scoring position and .377 with 35 RBIs in 69 at-bats with two outs and runners in scoring position. Few players are as cool under fire as manager Bruce Bochy's main man.
Matt Duffy, Giants
Emerging from the shadows, the slender third baseman hit .366 with men in scoring position, third in the Majors. He hit .364 with two outs in those game-turning moments -- just ahead of teammate Brandon Belt (.356).
Mike Trout, Angels
The most electrifying, popular artist to come out of New Jersey since Bruce Springsteen, the game's best player hit .352 and slugged .693, second to Arenado, with men in scoring position. The trick is getting more bodies on base in front of the 2014 AL MVP Award winner and three-time runner-up.
Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs
The Goldy standard at first base hit .340 and slugged .639 with men in scoring position, delivering 30 go-ahead RBIs while getting walked intentionally an MLB-high 29 times. Teammate Peralta batted .400 in 70 at-bats with two outs and men in scoring position.
Bryce Harper, Nationals
Born to hit, the reigning NL MVP Award winner batted .301 and slugged .549 with men in scoring position. He had 30 go-ahead RBIs.
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
The master of active clutch hitters with his .337 career average with men in scoring position, Miggy was fourth in the Majors last year at .365. Vintage Cabernet.
Freddie Freeman, Braves
Atlanta's first baseman needs some help. Freeman led the Majors with his .373 average with men in scoring position and was fifth in slugging at .645 in those too-few chances.
Bogaerts, Red Sox
The gifted shortstop hit .386 with two outs and men in scoring position and .331 overall in those situations, right behind teammate Mookie Betts' .333. Teammate Rusney Castillo hit .515 in 33 swings with two outs and men in scoring position.
Adam Lind and Norichika Aoki, Mariners
Help has arrived. Lind hit .426 in 54 two-out at-bats with men in scoring position. Aoki, another new arrival, hit .472 in 36 two-out at-bats in those situations.
Howie Kendrick, Dodgers
The sweet-swinging second baseman hit .360 with men in scoring position, coming off a .326 performance in his final season with the Angels.
There wasn't much to cheer in San Diego, but Kemp delivered 35 go-ahead RBI moments and 15 game-winners.
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
Far from done, A-Rod had 29 go-ahead RBIs and 15 game-winners to go with his 33 homers, showing there's still life in the batter's box at 40.
Carlos Correa, Astros
The next A-Rod or Derek Jeter, your preference, hit .395 in 38 two-out at-bats with men in scoring position.
Lyle Spencer is a columnist for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @LyleMSpencer.