Late-Round Targets: Runs

Consider these hitters as late-round targets for Runs.

As fantasy drafts dwindle into the later rounds each and every spring, there are generally a few underlying themes in the drafts’ final rounds. One is the selection of high-upside prospects who might not make an impact until later in the season. Another is injured players to stash for later.

But the other, and sometimes more impactful theme, is selecting players who can add notable value in one specific category.

Generally speaking, those players might not be as productive in every category, but they do bring above-average production in a specific category and have the potential to turn the tide on occasion in weekly matchups. That type of player has plenty of value on the right roster.

Below are a few players that fit this description. More specifically, they’re players who are quality options for fantasy managers particularly concerned with the “runs scored” category.

All ADP data per NFBC.

Masataka Yoshida – 251.21 ADP

Fantasy managers in search of locks to get on base need look no further than Yoshida. While getting on base obviously doesn’t always end with a run scored, more often than not players with higher on-base percentages hit further up the lineup, getting more plate appearances – and perhaps most crucially for fantasy purposes where runs scored are concerned, get more plate appearances around their team’s best run producers.

That should be the case with Yoshida this season, who seems like a lock to log a high on-base percentage for the Boston Red Sox in his rookie campaign.

Per Dan Syzmborski’s ZiPS projections at FanGraphs, Yoshida is projected to hit .305 with a .372 on-base percentage in 565 plate appearances. In seven seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, the outfielder batted .326 with an on-base percentage of .419 in 3251 plate appearances.

And while Boston’s lineup won’t be quite as deep as it was last year due to Xander Bogaerts‘ departure and Trevor Story on the 60-day injured list, the club still has Rafael Devers around. Devers has hit second for most of his career, and logged 455 of his 615 plate appearances last season in the second spot in the order.

Rafael Devers Career Plate Appearances By Batting Order Spot

However, according to a recent story by Ian Browne published on MLB.com on Monday, Yoshida might not hit leadoff. Red Sox manager Alex Cora made the following comment on the topic:

“This whole thing about Yoshida leadoff, I don’t know [how it started]. If I mentioned it, I didn’t mean to. He might lead off, but he might hit in the middle of the lineup. That’s what he’s done his whole career. So I think it’s about personnel and who we have.”

Later in the article, Browne wrote the following, with an additional quote from Cora:

“Why not a Yoshida-Devers combo at the top of the order? Cora is adamant about separating the two lefties so opposing bullpens can’t prey on them with the three-batter rule. … ‘My main goal is to keep Raffy and Yoshida split up and try and keep Raffy in the second spot,’ Cora said. ‘That would be great.’”

All that being said, it is worth noting that Yoshida did bat leadoff in Monday’s spring training matchup with the Twins, though Devers batted cleanup in that contest. It’s probably unwise to glean anything from a Grapefruit league matchup in late February, but if Yoshida sees even somewhere between one-third and one-half of his plate appearances as Boston’s leadoff hitter ahead of Devers and the likes of Justin Turner, Triston Casas, and Alex Verdugo, he should see plenty of run-scoring chances – especially if he gets on base at a high rate, which seems like a near lock at this point.

The reality is that with a high on-base percentage and a regular place in the top half of the Red Sox’ lineup, Yoshida should get plenty of chances to cross home plate during the 2023 season. If he starts to hit leadoff more, those chances will only increase.

Jon Berti (278.01 ADP) and Jorge Mateo (229.10 ADP)

Berti (.324 on-base percentage in 2022) and Mateo (.267 on-base percentage in 2022) don’t quite possess the on-base skills that Yoshida does, but both have a chance to make up for that with their stolen base totals.

Already the league’s top two stolen base threats in 2022, Berti and Mateo were likely in line for continued success on the base paths where steals were concerned had the rules – and the size of the bases – stayed the same. Now, with new rules being introduced which include larger bases, either of the duo could post even more gaudy stolen base numbers this coming season.

Berti, in particular, seems like a positive regression candidate for run-scoring after crossing home just 47 times in 404 plate appearances last season despite the 41 stolen bases. That probably has more to do with Miami’s overall lineup struggles last season than anything, but full seasons from Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Luis Arraez, as well as bounce-back campaigns from Jorge Soler and Avisaíl García, should certainly help his run-scoring prospects.

Mateo, meanwhile, should continue to log regular plate appearances in Baltimore’s lineup. More opportunities are obviously a positive where counting stats is concerned, but the infielder should benefit from a full season in the Orioles lineup that includes Adley Rutschman.

Prior to Rutschman’s (.362 on-base percentage, 133 wRC+ in 470 plate appearances) Major League debut on May 21st, 24 teams had scored more runs than the O’s. After Rutschman’s debut from May 21st onwards, Baltimore tied for the 13th-most runs scored in the league.

CJ Abrams – 251.21 ADP

Still only 22, Abrams checks in as a decidedly post-hype prospect this season, and one who could finally get an extended look in the big leagues. After beginning last season on San Diego’s Opening Day roster, the former sixth-overall pick in 2019 finished the year in Washington as a result of the Juan Soto blockbuster deal.

Speaking of the Soto deal, which also saw Josh Bell traded away, it sapped the Nationals’ lineup of much of its power and depth. There’s also little in the way of long-term solutions in Dave Martinez’s batting order, which could open things up nicely for Abrams to step into a larger role near the top of the lineup.

If that’s the case, he’s the perfect high-upside player to take at the end of drafts for fantasy managers.

In reality, Washington’s lineup seems ticketed for a season in the bottom third of the league in runs scored, but the fact is that any team’s primary leadoff hitter is worth rostering fantasy thanks to sheer opportunity and plate appearance totals.

If that can be Abrams at any point, he’ll have plenty of fantasy upside where runs scored are concerned, even in a potentially not-great lineup.

The infielder did nothing but hit and get on base in the minors, batting .331 with a .385 on-base percentage in 534 career minor league plate appearances, including a .310 batting average and a .360 on-base percentage in 186 plate appearances at Triple-A last season.

Eric Longenhagen, Kevin Goldstein, and Tess Taruskin of FanGraphs gave Abrams’ current and future hit grades a 50 and a 70 respectively in their write-up of the list of the publication’s top 100 overall prospects for the 2022 season back in February of last year – a list Abrams ranked 15th on.

While noting past injuries, Longenhagen, Goldstein, and Taruskin wrote the following about Abrams:

“The catalytic qualities that made Abrams an exciting young leadoff hitter were evident while he was healthy, though. Still a hit-over-power prospect by a comfortable margin, Abrams has started to fill out without losing any of his impact speed, though there’s certainly bigger error bars around that tool coming off the injury. Abrams’ swing is geared to lift pitches down-and-in. He can flatten his path and get to pitches in other parts of the zone, but tends to spray those pitches the other way. … He has advanced feel for contact with a chance to grow into meaningful power, and Abrams has performed at a well-above-average clip for his age even though that thump hasn’t arrived yet.”

Photo by Baylex creativecommons.org | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Ben Rosener

Ben Rosener is baseball and fantasy baseball writer whose work has previously appeared on the digital pages of Motor City Bengals, Bleacher Report, USA Today, FanSided.com and World Soccer Talk among others. He also writes about fantasy baseball for RotoBaller and the Detroit Tigers for his own Patreon page, Getting You Through the Tigers Rebuild (@Tigers_Rebuild on Twitter). He only refers to himself in the third person for bios.

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