Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 4/2/13
It’s simple baseball logic. Batters who lead off will step up to the plate more and therefore have more opportunities to score runs. Last year leadoff hitters averaged 79 runs per 600 plate appearances, and only three players scored more than 79 runs and ranked outside of the top 200. That’s because those three players – Dan Uggla, Adam Dunn, and JJ Hardy – combined to hit .229.Denard Span is leading off for the Nationals, one of the best teams in baseball, yet is owned in only 17% of Yahoo! leagues and 10% of ESPN leagues.However, while hitting atop one of the best lineups in the game is a huge plus, it’s not the only reason you should pick up Span. He also has above average speed — his 6.3 speed score over the last three years ranks 26th out of 230 qualified players — but despite having wheels, he only stole 17 bases last season due to his hesitance to run (he only ran on 10% of opportunities in 2012). If Span can find the confidence he had in his rookie year (18 SB in 411 PA with 15% attempt rate), I wouldn’t be surprised to see him top 30 steals this year.Another big positive about Span is his excellent plate discipline. He rarely strikes out (10.9 K% last year), and walks pretty frequently (8.3 BB%). He also hits the ball with authority as shown by his above average line drive rate (21.3%). Although he hit .283 last year, his .303 xBA suggests that he could have hit higher. Expect something close to last year’s mark, with the potential to top .300.The one negative about Span is his lack of power. He has never reached double digit home runs, and the 3.7% HR/FB rate he put up last year was his highest mark over the past three years. Don’t expect much help in terms of HR or RBI, but he can definitely be a big contributor in R, SB, and BA. Span is basically a poor man’s Michael Bourn, so if you have a need for speed at all, go pick him up!Here are some other players owned in fewer than 50% of Yahoo! leagues worth taking a flier on:Brandon Moss (Owned in 22% of Yahoo! Leagues)Expect a lot of strikeouts and a batting average right around the league average (.255), but there’s a ton of power potential. Moss shouldn’t have a hard time getting to 20 home runs again, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him top 30 this year.Michael Saunders (14%)Just like with Moss, expect a lot of strikeouts and nothing special in the batting average department. However, Saunders was one of only 12 players last year with at least 18 home runs and 20 steals, and it’s rare to find that kind of power/speed combo on the waiver wire.Felix Doubront (16%)While Doubront’s ERA and WHIP weren’t pretty last year, he did strike out more than a batter per inning. There’s definitely potential here, and we don’t know exactly what kind of impact John Farrell will have, but if you need strikeouts and can stomach the high ratios, Doubront makes for a great grab.Brandon Beachy (28%)While Beachy won’t pitch until June at the earliest, he is a great stash-and-save player. If you have a DL spot free, store Beachy there  as he will likely be a top 30 starter in the second half.
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