There were 15 players that were nine runs or fewer than being in the top 10 in runs scored in 2016, and I'm guessing that there will be nearly as many if not more this season. In 2015, there were 17 players that were within 10 runs of finishing within the top 10 in runs scored.
Somehow there were only two players that were in the top 10 in runs scored the past two seasons and they were Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson. That's right; somehow Altuve and Arenado weren't in the top 10 in 2015 and Goldschmidt and Machado weren't in the top 10 in 2016. Plus some guys named Bryant and Betts crashed the party. It is with no surprise that the first person on this list is the best player in baseball, The Millville Meteor, Mike Trout.
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2017 Predictions: Top 10 Runs Scored Leaders
1. Mike Trout scored the most runs in baseball last season as he crossed the plate 123 times. In 2015 he "only" scored 104 times, but it was still the fifth most in baseball. There's always a chance that the main guy knocking Trout in (Albert Pujols, duh) could get injured, or Trout himself could succumb to injury, and that would obviously negatively impact Trout's runs scored. Those are the only two ways that Mike doesn't sit comfortably in the top 10 in runs scored this season. Let's hope neither of those things happen.
2. Josh Donaldson no longer has Edwin Encarnacion hitting behind him, but Kendrys Morales isn't that much of a downgrade and now that Donaldson is firmly planted in the Blue Jays two hole the only thing that could knock Dr. Tophand out of the top 10 in runs scored is an injury or a the biggest slump of his career. It's doubtful that either of those things happen, and as an owner of Donaldson in a keeper league I'm over here crossing my fingers.
3. Kris Bryant scored 121 runs last season, which was fourth most in the league. As long as Bryant hits second in the vaunted Cubs order he could slump mightily and still score 100 times. Seeing as how he's a likely candidate to see even more at bats in 2017 and he just turned 25 it seems unlikely that his performance will dip. The only thing that stands in his way from an easy top 10 finish is an injury and that might not even stop him. I mean come on. Have you seen those cornflower blue eyes? I'm pretty sure this guy is a super hero that fights crime when he's not playing baseball better than just about everyone else.
4. Mookie Betts took the league by storm in 2016 while scoring 122 times and I expect much of the same in 2017. While batting at or near the top of the Red Sox order he should score on the regular and will almost certainly be among the league leaders. Looking at the stats Mookie might be the safest bet not named Trout to be on this list. Not only does Betts not strike out very much, but he walks a decent amount and I actually expect his walk rate to improve over last season's numbers. I hate to say it, but the only thing standing between Mookie and another top 10 showing in runs scored is an injury. Even if this kid goes through the dreaded sophomore slump I fully expect him to get on base enough to score 100+ runs.
5. Jose Altuve is next on my list and a great candidate to be in the top 10 in runs scored. Not only does Jose hit for power and average, but he also rarely strikes out. Last season Altuve's BB rate was 8.4 percent and his K rate was 9.8 percent. He walked almost as much as struck out. That's amazing. When you add in that he's on a solid team with a strong lineup around him that I expect to improve you can bet that he'll probably be on this list again next season too.
6. Charlie Blackmon was ninth in runs scored in 2016, as he touched home 111 times. He accomplished that feat in spite of the fact that he played in only 143 games. For some context the only other players in the top 30 in runs scored last season that played in fewer than 150 games where Ben Zobrist (148) and DJ LeMahieu (146). It's not surprising that those two players happened to hit at or near the top of the order for the Cubs, and also play for the Colorado Rockies. The thin mile high air that Blackmon plays in half of the season is no doubt a huge aid to his statistics and runs scored is obviously chief among them. With two years left on his contract there is some chance that Charlie gets dealt to another team this season, but even if that happens he'll likely be going to another strong lineup where he should also fare well hitting at or near the top of the order.
7. Nolan Arenado joins Charlie as the aforementioned home of the thinnest air in baseball (Colorado, duh) has the first two teammates to make the list. Not only did Nolan cross the plate an impressive 116 times last season, but he also established himself as one of the premier players in the league. Arenado had been good before then, but last season he became a bonafide superstar. I expect that to continue as Arenado is only 25 years old (less than a year older than Bryant for comparison's sake), hits in the heart of the Rockies' order and plays half of his games in the hitters paradise of Coors Field. Heck last season Nolan almost doubled his walk rate and posted a ridiculously good .362 OBP despite having a BABIP that was lower than the league average. Impressive stuff to say the least, and a good bet to be in the top 10 in back to back seasons.
8. Xander Bogaerts gives us two sets of teammates as the strongest offenses in the league begin to show their teeth on this list. Last season Bogaerts scored 115 times, good for the eighth most runs scored. For the majority of the season he hit third in the Boston lineup and I expect that to continue this year. This protects Xander as he is anchored by all of the talent around him. Not to mention that he plays half of his games in Fenway Park, which just so happened to be fourth in the league in runs scored in 2016. I expect another top five finish for Fenway in runs scored in 2017 and another top 10 finish for Xander as well. As long as he avoids a serious injury it should be a walk in the park.
9. George Springer continues the trend of joining a teammate as him and Altuve both hit near the top of the Houston Astros lineup. Springer struck out more than everyone not named Davis or Trumbo in the top 30 of runs scored, but still managed to rack up 116 runs scored. Not only that, but George had the fourth lowest batting average of the top 3o run scorers and the lowest average among the top 23 run scorers. This just goes to show how team dependent these statistics are. It certainly helps that Springer had a great walk rate (11.8 percent), but on most teams he wouldn't come close to those numbers. On the Astros he's a good bet to repeat them.
10. Francisco Lindor rounds out my list as I expect him to improve on his impressive rookie campaign that saw his cross the plate 99 times in 2016. While that was "only" good for the 22nd most runs scored last season I fully expect that number to go up for several reasons. The first one is that Lindor posted a BABIP of just .324 last season despite being extremely fast and athletic. As that number goes up his average and on base percentage will rise and he will score more often. Next up the lineup around him is better, as proven players were brought in to hit behind him (Edwin Encarnacion) or are expected to return from injury (Michael Brantley). Seeing as how runs are somewhat a product of the team around the player the improved team of hitters around Lindor should help knock him in more often.
The home park where Francisco plays also factored into my line of thinking as Progressive Field was the third highest run scoring park in 2016 and is likely to be among the leaders again in 2017. Last but not least I love Francisco's K rate of just 12.9 percent and his walk rate of 8.4 percent. These numbers give me confidence that Lindor will score more than 100 times and work his way into the top 10 run scorers in the league. A lot of the kids don't want to come home, but Francisco isn't one of them.