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Like RBI, runs are based very much on the quality of your offense and your position in the batting order. Looking at the leaders below you'll see seven of the top 10 played on the Red Sox, Indians, Rockies or Brewers, and they all hit at the top of the order. But that's not all it takes.
You'll also see a lot of very good on-base guys, because it's difficult to score without getting on base. Ten of the top 12 in OBP last year scored at least 90 runs. All of them had a walk rate of at least 10 percent and only two struck out in more than 25 percent of their plate appearances.
In fact, if you look at the 19 players who scored 100 runs in 2018, you'll only find two with a walk rate below eight percent (Ozzie Albies and Javier Baez). We'll talk about one of them below. Baez and Giancarlo Stanton were the only hitters to score 100 runs with a strikeout rate above 25 percent.
So yes, look for hitters high in the order on good offenses. But maybe more importantly, just find hitters who walk and don't strike out. The best part of that method? They won't likely ruin you in other categories either.
- Mookie Betts - 129
- Francisco Lindor - 129
- Charlie Blackmon - 119
- Christian Yelich - 118
- J.D. Martinez - 111
- Matt Carpenter - 111
- Jose Ramirez - 110
- Alex Bregman - 105
- Ozzie Albies - 105
- Nolan Arenado - 104
What you need to win
Below you'll find the average number of runs by place for the category in 2018. These numbers are for a standard, mixed, 12-team league. In an eight- or 10 team league, these numbers would be higher. In a 15-team league you could aim lower.
Kevin Kiermaier's path to being a successful sleeper in this category or any other starts with a pretty simple premise; stay healthy. Kiermaier hasn't played more than 105 games in a season since 2015, but he looks to be fully healthy heading into 2019. If that holds, he'll be the team's leadoff hitter and should have a decent cast behind him, including Tommy Pham.
Kiermaier had his worst offensive year in 2018. That coupled with his injury history means he may be available in the last round or two of the draft. At that point it's worth taking the risk on a player who has 20-20 upside with 80-plus runs when he's healthy.
Mallex Smith left Kiermaier and the Rays and now figures to hit leadoff for the Seattle Mariners. Smith spent 47 games in the leadoff spot for Tampa Bay in 2018, and the results were very encouraging.
Mallex Smith's 150-game pace from the leadoff spot in 2018:— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) January 24, 2019
.294 96 runs 57 SB
Doesn't need any power at all to be extremely valuable if he approaches those marks.
It's not fair to expect that level of production from Smith over a full season, but anything close would make him an extremely valuable asset worthy of a top-50 pick, even with his lack of power. His current consensus ranking is outside of the top 120.
There was reason for concern for Ozzie Albies even before Brian Snitker's possible lineup showed up on Twitter. Albies had a dreadful second half (.624 OPS), struck out three times as often as he walked, and didn't produce elite numbers in any category other than runs. If he's truly not going to hit in the top five in the order, the runs will likely disappear as well.
Here's Albies runs-per-game average by batting order position in 2018:
1st -- 0.65
2nd -- 0.77
6th-9th -- 0.44
If Albies is anywhere close to that last number he could be a colossal bust.
Both of the league-specific targets are a bit of a question mark because it's January and we're doing a lot of speculating on lineups. But assuming Billy McKinney is in fact the leadoff hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays, he could be solid source of runs and power in AL-Only leagues.
McKinney has good on-base skills and hit 22 home runs in 114 games across two different levels in 2018. His strikeout rate (25 percent) was a little too high in the majors, but for most of his minor league career he's been below 20 percent.
Adam Frazier will lead off for the Pirates against righties and fits in well in that role with a career .345 OBP. Frazier should be a small help in average (career .280) and could provide a little power or speed, depending on whether you believe his 2017 or 2018 more. Perhaps his biggest asset in NL-only is his availability at both second base and in the outfield. In a deep Roto league, that versatility will be very valuable.