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Draft Strategy

2020 Category Sleepers: Runs

by Seth Trachtman
Updated On: March 20, 2020, 3:18 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).  For the sixth year in a row, I’ll be breaking down category sleepers at each of the 5x5 roto categories.

We’ve already covered WHIP, home runs , strikeouts, batting average, ERA, stolen bases, saves, RBI and wins. This week we’ll review runs sleepers. 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.  With offseason movement still rampant, the opportunity for many of these players is still very much to be determined. 

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. 

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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 Start

  2017 2018 2019 Average Runs/162
Batting 1st .674 .655 .684 .671 108.70
Batting 2nd .618 .598 .675 .630 102.11
Batting 3rd .587 .557 .600 .581 94.20
Batting 4th .550 .529 .582 .554 89.69
Batting 5th .527 .492 .541 .520 84.23
Batting 6th .471 .452 .483 .469 75.91
Batting 7th .442 .428 .452 .441 71.38
Batting 8th .419 .387 .433 .413 66.92
Batting 9th .359 .351 .381 .364 58.89

 

As expected, hitting leadoff leads to the most runs scored.  The decline of runs scored in the fifth spot on down the order seems staggering.  Keeping the advantages of batting order opportunity in mind, the following are some possible sleepers for runs in 2020.

 

Hanser Alberto, 2B/3B, Orioles

The Orioles lineup is far from the ’27 Yankees, but the team did rank 22nd in MLB with 729 runs scored last season and have some capable middle of the order hitters, led by Trey Mancini and Renato Nunez. With Jonathan Villar gone, there will be a new leadoff man, and Alberto could get the first crack at the job. He ranked third among the O’s full-time hitters with a .329 on-base percentage last season and has been getting some opportunities in the leadoff spot this spring, along with Austin Hays. Alberto is already draftable due to his high batting average (.305 last season) and multi-position eligibility, and an opportunity to hit first in the order would be a nice bonus.

 

Shogo Akiyama, OF, Reds

Japanese signings are difficult draft investments due to their uncertainty, but Akiyama does have some early advantages. Not only is he reasonably priced (ADP 268 in NFBC leagues over the last week), but he’s set to hit leadoff for the Reds when he’s in the lineup. The margin for error is somewhat limited due to Cincinnati’s depth, but Akiyama shows nice upside with a career .301 batting average and .376 on-base percentage in Japan, along with double-digit home run and stolen base potential.

 

Luis Arraez, 2B, Twins

Arraez is an obvious batting average play, but he could also help with runs if he continues to hit in the leadoff spot. After replacing Jonathan Schoop as Minnesota’s second baseman late last season, Arraez saw regular starts as the team’s leadoff man in September. This spring he’s seen regular chances in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the batting order, which makes sense for a hitter who produced a .399 on-base percentage last season. Without much power or speed, Arraez’s spot in the batting order is especially critical for his overall fantasy value, and hitting near the top of the order could make Arraez an elite player in two categories.

 

Jarrod Dyson, OF, Pirates

Opportunity is everything, and the 35-year-old Dyson is set to continue seeing opportunities as a leadoff man despite posting a combined .302 on-base percentage over the last two seasons in Arizona. He’s replacing Starling Marte as Pittsburgh’s starting center fielder, and could add some runs in addition to cheap speed early in the year. The Pirates do have a couple capable leadoff fallback options in Kevin Newman and Adam Frazier if Dyson continues to struggle with the bat, but the upside for a 567 ADP is attractive.

 

Shed Long, 2B, Mariners

The rebuilding Mariners have incentive to play their young talent, and that’s exactly what they’re set to do with Long. Not only will he start at second base as the Mariners switch Dee Gordon to a utility role, but Long also looks like the team’s leadoff man at the start of the year. He has a nice combo of pop and speed (12 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 2018) and performed relatively well during his MLB debut last season. It’s clear this lineup won’t be the powerful surprise they were last season, but there’s still plenty of profit potential with a 616 ADP that makes Long basically free in mixed leagues.

 

Cameron Maybin, OF, Tigers

Maybin earned himself an MLB contract after a resurgence with the Yankees last season, and based on spring training, there is potential for the veteran to not only see playing time but also get leadoff chances. This isn’t the same player who swiped 40 bases in 2011 with the Padres, but Maybin was able to produce a .364 on-base percentage for New York last season and is one of the few speedy runners on a Tigers team that’s mostly lacking in that department. There’s major reason for skepticism from a player who produced a sub-.700 OPS in four out of five seasons from 2014-2018, but he could be a nice early fill-in for AL-only leagues.

 

Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets

He’s back. Nimmo was one of the breakout players of 2018 as an on-base machine producing a .404 on-base percentage and 77 runs in 140 games for the Mets in 2018. Unfortunately, he missed most of last season with neck problems, but the early returns this spring have been very positive. Nimmo is seeing regular opportunities in the leadoff and No. 2 spots in the batting order, and there’s reason to think that arrangement will continue with his elite on-base ability. Even last season, Nimmo also showed enough pop and speed to help, and his 414 ADP makes him a very cheap late buy.

 

Eric Sogard, 2B, Brewers

After losing the power of Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal in the offseason, Milwaukee has resorted to infield depth to hopefully offset the lost offense. Sogard joins Luis Urias and Brock Holt as not-so-powerful options to play the left side of the infield. A journeyman for most of his career, Sogard could get the first crack at the third base job after hitting .290/.353/.457 between Toronto and Tampa Bay last season, and the Brewers are well aware of his ability after playing for the team in 2017 and 2018. It remains to be seen if last year’s breakout was fact or fluke, but Sogard has seen regular opportunities in the leadoff spot so far this spring. There’s limited upside for what will almost certainly be a platoon situation, but Sogard is far more attractive in NL-only leagues if he’s hitting atop the batting order regularly.