The higher the position a player is in a lineup, the better their fantasy stats will be at the end of the year. The player will get more PAs and therefore more opportunities for counting stats. Also, the team’s best players are grouped together at the top of the lineup and will create more RBI and Run chances. The key 5 spots for hitter to see a jump in their Runs and/or RBIs are the 1 to 5 spots. Today, I will look at 2 such battles on decent run scoring teams, the Royals and Reds.
Royals #2 Spot
Last season, Melky Cabrera thrived batting second for the Royals. He scored 102 times and had 87 RBIs on the league’s 10th highest scoring offense. This off season he was traded to the Giants, so the position has reopened for the Royals to fill.
With left-handers Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer entrenched into the #1 and #3 spots and Ned Yost’s love for mixing up like handed batters, a right handed bat will likely be used in the 2nd spot. Ned Yost has already put out a projected lineup with Johnny Giavotella in the #2 spot. This would be a huge boost to his value if he was able to keep the position for the whole season. Projection systems have him near a 0.280 AVG, 15 SBs and less than 10 HRs in about 500 PAs. If he is able to put up those kind of numbers in a 150 game season, he will have around 80 Runs and RBIs. One problem I see is that Giavatella is probably not the best RHH for the #2 spot.
The player I see possibly moving into the spot is the new center fielder, Lorenzo Cain. First, Cain’s OBP looks to be about 10 points higher than Giavotella’s OBP. Also, he has a bit more pop in his bat and speed in his legs.
A dark horse candidate is Salvador Perez. Perez will have no speed, but probably has the best bat of the three hitters. He is the youngest of the 3 candidates (will turn 22 in May), so there is a nice chance for more growth.
Whoever ends up hitting in the #2 spot for the Royals, Giavotella, Cain or Perez, will get a huge boost to their fantasy value. Watch to see who Yost is putting in the spot and pick up a huge sleeper.
Reds Lead Off Spot
The Reds, like the Royals, had a good offense in 2011 (7th in the league in scoring). In 95 of those games, Drew Stubbs was the lead off hitter. The problem is that he ended up losing the spot 2/3 of the way through the season, mainly because of his league leading 205 strikeouts (an over 30% K%). Brandon Phillips moved up in to the lead off spot and a mix of Renteria, Lewis and Sappelt hit in the #2 spot. With the trio of Phillips, Votto and Bruce at the top of the lineup, the lead off hitter will have a ton of Run opportunities.
The main candidate to retake the #2 spot will be Stubbs. He has good speed (averaged 35 SBs in the past 2 years) and power (averaged 18.5 HRs). His OBP is decent because of a near 10% BB%. His main problem with be the 30% K% and how much it drives down his AVG. His fantasy value could really be helped if he was able to just get his K% into the mid-20s.
The player I see eventually taking over the lead off spot will be SS Zack Cozart. Once Zach was called up in early July, he mainly hit in the #2 spot. He was eventually lost to the season with elbow and ankle injuries. He has the speed and power combo that Stubbs process, but projects to hit for an AVG that is 40 point higher (has a K% that is half of Stubbs).
I look for the final position at the top of the Reds lineup to produce great fantasy stats. If it is Stubbs, Cozart or someone else manning that position, it doesn’t matter. The player will have plenty of extra counting stats, especially Runs.