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Draft Strategy

2015 Category Sleepers: Runs

by Seth Trachtman
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The following is Week 10 of the 10-part series of sleepers for each 5x5 roto category (BA, HR, RBI, R, SB, W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV).  Now that we are onto the categories that are more playing time and opportunity based, I’ll mention more names for you to stow away as you prepare for your drafts.  Next week will provide an update on players I’ve mentioned that moved over the last 10 weeks, plus a look at some early ADP bargains.

 

Before reading any further, it’s important to note the definition of a sleeper.  In this case, it’s a player who will exceed draft day ADP AND projections in a particular category. 

 

The generally accepted idea for runs scored is that the higher in the batting order, the more runs a hitter will score.  Like RBI, looking at a team’s batting order and predicting changes can create an advantage for fantasy owners looking to beef on the runs scored category.  Just how much?  Look at the table below:

 

Runs per Game

 

 

2012

2013

2014

Average

Batting 1st

0.609

0.589

0.593

0.597

Batting 2nd

0.582

0.558

0.554

0.565

Batting 3rd

0.584

0.552

0.544

0.560

Batting 4th

0.540

0.511

0.481

0.511

Batting 5th

0.492

0.466

0.456

0.471

Batting 6th

0.438

0.428

0.408

0.425

Batting 7th

0.401

0.379

0.371

0.384

Batting 8th

0.362

0.371

0.357

0.363

Batting 9th

0.316

0.313

0.302

0.310

 

 

As expected, hitting leadoff leads to the most runs scored.  With offense continuing to decline, that fact has been accentuated recently as we look at the table above.  The decline of runs scored in the fifth and sixth spots seems staggering.  Keeping the advantages of batting order opportunity in mind, the following are some possible sleepers for runs in 2015.

 

 

Dustin Ackley, OF, Mariners

 

Ackley has been no stranger to hype and spending time at the top of the batting order during his career.  He scored 84 runs in 2012, but hasn’t come close to that total over the last two seasons.  However, Ackley made progress late last season, hitting either leadoff or in the No. 2 hole in all of his starts after July 25.  The Mariners haven’t addressed their lack of speed in the offseason, so it seems likely that Ackley will get that opportunity again heading into 2015.  In addition to runs scored, hitting near the top of the batting order should have a very positive impact on the rest of his counting stats.

 

 

Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox

 

Boston still has a wealth of outfielders, and the crowd remains even after trading Yoenis Cespedes this offseason.  Still, it seems clear that they will find a way for Betts to play, and it’s very possible that he will spend his time in the leadoff role after hitting .310 as Boston’s leadoff man in September.  His toughest task could be holding off fellow hotshot youngster Rusney Castillo, but Castillo’s inability to stay healthy during fall and winter ball definitely plays to Betts’ advantage.  With a lineup that’s now loaded after adding Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval this offseason, Betts is a great candidate for 100 runs if he can stick as a leadoff hitter.

 

 

Alejandro de Aza, OF, Orioles

 

De Aza’s runs fell last season as more of a part-time player, and it certainly didn’t help that he spent most of his time hitting seventh or eighth.  However, de Aza hit leadoff or second in every game he played after joining the Orioles last September, and the team has had a decidedly quiet offseason with GM Dan Duquette possibly taking over as president of the Blue Jays.  Manny Machado has often hit in the No. 2 hole for the Orioles during his brief career, but the team’s lack of speed makes de Aza a prime candidate to hit leadoff if they don’t add another speedy outfielder this offseason.

 

 

Dexter Fowler, OF, Cubs

 

Last season was Fowler’s first outside of Colorado, and also the first time he’s failed to reach 70 runs scored as a regular.  While those two facts have some relationship, it’s also notable that he spent about equal time hitting third and fourth in the batting order as he did leadoff and second.  Those aren’t bad spots for his run production, as the table mentioned previously shows, but it played a major role in his failure to reach 70 runs again.  Fowler was traded to the Cubs this week, adding speed and on-base skills to a roster desperately in need of both qualities.  Looking at the roster, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Fowler will hit leadoff regularly with a career .366 on-base percentage.  If he can stay healthy, Fowler should be able to challenge his career-high 84 runs from 2011.

 

 

Juan Lagares, OF, Mets

 

Known mostly for his defense before last season, Lagares emerged as a promising hitter in his sophomore season.  His progress was so great that the Mets used him as their leadoff hitter almost exclusively in September, demoting Curtis Granderson in the batting order.  Lagares wasn’t spectacular in the new role, but he swiped nine bases in 38 games during the year while hitting leadoff and posted a .329 on-base percentage.  With the Mets’ failure to add beyond Michael Cuddyer this offseason, Lagares could get another long look as a leadoff man entering spring training.

 

 

Russell Martin, C, Blue Jays

 

Toronto paid huge dollars after Martin’s outstanding 2014 season, but he’s far from the most high profile addition they made this offseason.  The Jays’ acquisition of Josh Donaldson adds significant power to an already strong lineup, solidifying the 3-5 spots in the batting order.  After hitting mostly fifth in Pittsburgh’s lineup last season, Martin will likely hit in the No.2 spot behind Jose Reyes if he can show any semblance of the offensive consistency that he did last year.  Martin has an outstanding .354 on-base percentage for his career, but that number was only .321 in 2011-13 between the Yankees and Pirates.

 

 

Chris Owings, SS, Diamondbacks

 

In a battle for the shortstop job entering last season, Owings easily beat out Didi Gregorius in spring training and got off to an outstanding start.  He hit .277 in the first half before a shoulder injury caused Owings to miss most of the second half.  Owings hit only .208 in September upon his return, but it’s interesting that he spent most of that month hitting second for the Diamondbacks.  The team enters the season with A.J. Pollock the clear top leadoff candidate, but the No. 2 spot in the order has a myriad of candidates that include Owings, Aaron Hill, and some combination of Ender Inciarte and David Peralta.  Despite changes to the front office and coaching staff, Owings should have the opportunity to play himself into the No. 2 hole again, especially if the Diamondbacks conclude that new acquisition Yasmany Tomas is a better fit for the outfield than third base, thus displacing Inciarte and Peralta as potential regulars.

 

 

Joe Panik, 2B, Giants

 

Panik’s outlook as a top of the order hitter was better before the Giants added Nori Aoki last week, but he could still have the opportunity.  He spent more time as the team’s No.2 hitter than any other spot last season, and continued to serve in that spot during the playoffs.  After hitting .305 during the regular season, Panik doesn’t need to convince the Giants that he’s a legitimate hitter but he could face a challenge for the No. 2 spot in the batting order if Angel Pagan enters the season healthy, along with Aoki.