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 fifth 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.
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
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 2019.
Zack Cozart, 3B, Angels
Cozart seems like a forgotten commodity in early draft season. The infielder earned a three-year, $38 million contract last offseason from the Angels, only to hit .219-5-18 in 58 games in the first year of the contract. It’s easy to forget he also spent the majority of that time in the leadoff spot. With a new manager in Brad Ausmus, it remains to be seen if Cozart gets that opportunity again, though it’s not as if the Angels have a perfect replacement. The other experienced leadoff candidate is Kole Calhoun, who started 64 games in the leadoff spot last season. Obviously, the big key for Cozart will be his ability to bounce back in his age 33 season, and there’s certainly reason to be skeptical he can come anywhere close to his 2017 numbers (.297-24-63 with a .933 OPS) after averaging .245-11-43 with a .672 OPS in the five seasons leading up to 2017. Cozart’s spring could play a big role in expectations, but his current ADP of 506 in NFBC makes the investment minimal.
Steven Duggar, OF, Giants
Duggar was already mentioned in stolen base sleepers, but he also belongs in the runs category because he’s nearly locked into the leadoff spot for the Giants. He didn’t get much time in the leadoff spot during his MLB debut last season, starting only eight games atop the batting order, so Duggar is bound to see a nice per game runs boost if the leadoff spot comes to fruition. He’s managed a .356 on-base percent in 91 games at Triple-A and a .377 on-base percentage for his career, so putting Duggar in the leadoff spot does seem like a viable strategy for San Francisco.
Adam Frazier, 2B/OF, Pirates
At the moment, Frazier is expected to be Pittsburgh’s starting second baseman while Kevin Newman, Kevin Kramer, and Erik Gonzalez fight it out for the shortstop job. Frazier has proven deserving of regular work after hitting .280/.345/.422 over the last three seasons, and he also has more speed than his one steal from last season would indicate. Frazer had nine steals in 121 games with the Pirates in 2017 and reached double-digit steals three times in the minors. Frazier started 47 of his 67 games last season in the leadoff spot and was able to produce 31 runs with those 47 opportunities. His 346 ADP in NFBC puts him on the bench in 12-team mixed leagues, but he could be much more valuable than that, especially if the stolen bases bounce back.
Curtis Granderson, OF, Marlins
Granderson signed a contract with the Marlins just before spring training. Not only does he look like a potential regular outfielder for the Marlins, but he’s also the team’s top candidate to hit in the leadoff spot. It’s an interesting situation on the Marlins, in particular, because Granderson might be the most capable power bat in the entire lineup. Even coming off a season in which he hit only 13 home runs in 403 plate appearances, Granderson has “elite power” relative to his teammates in a group of bats led by Starlin Castro, Brian Anderson, Neil Walker, and Jorge Alfaro. While it’s true the Marlins probably aren’t going to score many runs this season, the leadoff spot typically accounts for over 14 percent of runs scored. Even if the Marlins were to only score 589 runs, like they did last year, the expectation would be 85 runs out of the leadoff spot over a full season.
Robbie Grossman, OF, Athletics
Oakland signed Grossman recently, and he’s set to battle Nick Martini for a regular spot in the lineup as well as leadoff duty. It’s easy to see why the Moneyball A’s were interested in Grossman, as he has a combined .371 on-base percentage over the last three seasons with Minnesota. He doesn’t have a great deal of experience in the leadoff spot but would be a natural fit for a team that values on-base percentage so highly. Over the last three years, Grossman has averaged only .266-8-43 with two steals and 54 runs in 437 plate appearances while playing mostly in a platoon role, so there’s not much 5x5 value to be earned. Still, he has AL-only and OBP league value, especially as a potential leadoff man.
Josh Harrison, 2B, Tigers
Just in time, the Tigers signed Harrison this week to be their starting second baseman. The former Pirate is coming off of a mediocre year, but he’s set for regular at-bats again. As disturbing as any sign last year was Harrison’s decline in stolen bases, with only three steals in 97 games after averaging 15 steals per year in the previous four seasons as a regular. Despite his struggles, Harrison got 41 starts in the leadoff spot last season and at least based on Detroit’s current roster, should be in the mix for leadoff duty again. He’s started more games as a leadoff man than any other spot in the lineup for his career, and has scored 157 runs in 272 games in that spot. He’s just one year removed from being a viable mixed league commodity, though there is some risk at age 31 for a player who garnered much of his value from steals.
Jon Jay, OF, White Sox
Jay has made a living as a leadoff man, and that could continue this year with the White Sox. Yoan Moncada spent most of last season as the White Sox leadoff hitter but finished the year with a mediocre .315 on-base percentage and a league-high 217 strikeouts. Jay certainly doesn’t have Moncada’s tools, but he makes more consistent contact and has a career .352 on-base percentage. He was employed in the leadoff role again last year for both Kansas City and Arizona, and has a good chance to maintain regular at-bats even after top prospect Eloy Jimenez is promoted. Jay has finished with more than 70 runs in three seasons, including last year, and remains a cheap and useful piece for single leagues.
Ketel Marte, 2B/SS, Diamondbacks
A.J. Pollock has been a staple as Arizona’s leadoff man in recent seasons, but the team’s soft offseason rebuild requires a new hitter to get the leadoff honor. While Marte learns center field this spring, he also could get extensive work in the leadoff spot. He only started three games as Arizona’s leadoff man last season but brings some momentum after hitting .296/.377/.464 after the break. David Peralta looks like the biggest competition for leadoff at this point after starting 60 games in the spot last year, but the Diamondbacks could move his power toward the middle of the order after trading Paul Goldschmidt in the offseason. Marte has reasonable five-category potential, multi-position eligibility, and a relatively cheap ADP of 224 in NFBC.