Fantasy baseball players everywhere have that one category they dread accounting for in drafts. Me personally, I strongly dislike saves and everything about them. However, unless you are punting a category (albeit a fun and effective method when employed correctly), you have to suck it up and do your due diligence in your draft strategy.
For most people, stolen bases can be a pain in the you-know-what on draft day. If you miss out on the big-time power-speed guys at the top of the draft, it just ruins your vibe by the middle rounds. If there’s one thing I try to avoid during a draft, it would be overreacting and reaching on a speedster that you feel you’re behind on because of how other people look in stolen bases.
There’s a couple of reasons why I hate reaching on stolen bases in the middle rounds of a draft:
- Usually, these guys are one-trick ponies. That trick is speed. They struggle to get on base (which is vital in being able to steal a base, BTW) and kill you in other categories. Look at Delino DeShields in 2015 – everyone’s favorite mid-round steals target. He then proceeds to never get on base and gets sent down to the minors.
- Stolen bases are volatile from year to year. It’s incredibly difficult to predict, especially compared to the other categories in your league. This is why, in 2015 drafts, Billy Burns should have NEVER been selected over Mark Trumbo. Yet, so many people decided to go that route to get cute.
So what exactly is this article about you might be asking? And rightfully so, I have rambled away three paragraphs into this thing.
I’m here to tier the speed targets outside of my top 100 ranked players. We know what guys like Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon can do in injury- and steroid-free seasons (I know, cheap shot). It’s all about the return on value after you’ve completed the core of your roster.
Which players am I targeting for steals in the mid to late rounds? Let’s DIVE. ON. IN!
2017 Fantasy Baseball Stolen Base Targets
Remember, these guys aren’t ranked based on overall ability. They are ranked based on how much I believe in their ability to rack up steals. As the kids say: Don’t at me. Unless you are doing so @therealwody on Twitter. I should be ashamed at myself.
Also, the tables below show projected stats for each player in the 2017 season. These derive from Depth Charts on the FanGraphs page and are subject to change.
Tier 1: Let’s address the 6’0″, 160 lb elephant in the room…
This stolen base machine needs no introduction.
- No, Billy Hamilton (99) is not outside of my top 100 players. However, I wanted to make a quick point on why I’m out on him every year. He is the ultimate one-trick pony and I can’t use one of my first nine or ten picks on him. At the right price and with the right team construct, I can select him. It’s rare for him to fall outside the top 100 though.
- Another reason why I don’t bother with Hamilton – the team with Hamilton will likely win stolen bases by a large margin. However, winning a category by 50 SB is the same as winning it by a single SB, so what’s the point really if he’s killing your AVG, R, RBI, and HR?
Tier 2: How else do they expect to score?
A common theory is that players on bad teams get the green light to steal more. This makes sense – if you are a player hitting atop the Colorado lineup, why try to risk getting caught stealing? You have Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Ian Desmond, and others behind you to score you from first.
Here are a few players that don’t have that luxury.
- Rajai Davis (195) should leadoff for an Oakland team that isn’t competing anytime soon. Everyday at bats for a guy with a track record to run like Davis has? Sign me up.
- I figured many folks would be buying an Odubel Herrera (111) improvement from last year. At his current draft price though, you wouldn’t guess that. His OBP is right where you want it (0.354 over the past two seasons), he has shown the aptitude for power, and obviously has centerfield locked down. I’m all in.
- It was a tale of two halves for Ender Inciarte (228) and the Atlanta Braves in general. His wOBA was 100 points higher in the second half than in the first half. Just like Herrera, He’s got centerfield and leadoff at-bats every day and will be a solid source of stolen bases in 2017.
Tier 3: All around me are familiar faces…
These are the “boring” players that people just forget about in the middle rounds. Yes, I’m talking about those rounds where you are taking the sexy ‘sleeper’ that is not really a sleeper. Consider these guys to fill in your middle infield and 4th or 5th outfield slots instead.
- Eduardo Nunez (123) was largely written off last year after a strong start to the season. Yes, his numbers declined, but his stolen base numbers were steady all year, even after the trade to San Francisco. Think of him as a poor man’s Jonathan Villar.
- It seems like every year Elvis Andrus (137) gets underrated in drafts. On top of the stolen bases, he gives you stability. The average will be around 0.280 and he will be out there every day. I didn’t realize until just now that he has played at least 145 games the last eight seasons. Aaaaaand I just jinxed him – great.
- I will admit, I do consider Leonys Martin (258) a pedestrian offensive player. However, he has been a steady stolen base producer the past four seasons and comes incredibly cheap in drafts. He shouldn’t lose playing time either considering the Mariners love him in centerfield.
- I’m not as bullish on a Carlos Gomez (149) bounce back as others in the industry, but if it could happen anywhere, it would certainly be Texas. As we saw down the stretch when he signed with the Rangers, he can still show flashes of his old self. He stole 18 bags last season in what was his worst season since 2011.
Tier 4: We can be together – sample size is just a number!
Whether the player was a late call-up or a victim of the injury bug, their 2016 sample size didn’t show the whole picture.
|Tim Anderson||White Sox||150||21||30.0||0.299|
- I will pass on Keon Broxton (188) this season. His 36.1% strikeout rate is troubling. His OBP was propped up by an unsustainable walk rate.
- He’s intriguing, but Jose Peraza (185) will be off the draftboard long before I consider him. His contact skills are outstanding, but that 0.362 BABIP is coming down hard.
- Kevin Kiermaier (173) is slipping down too many draftboards this preseason. He battled injuries and was on a 162-game pace of 20 HR / 30 SB. His improved walk rate has me excited about a potential breakout. If he combines that power-steal threat with a 0.265+ AVG and 0.340+ OBP, that’s extremely valuable.
- I’m not buying the hype on Jose Ramirez (88). Kiermaier outproduced his counting stats in 50 less games last year. Most of the Ramirez love comes from his 0.319 AVG – a strong leap of faith for someone who in 2015 batted a full 100 points lower!
- Byron Buxton (190) has been a head-scratching name for me this draft season. He is still young at 23, yet he just hasn’t shown us much other than one month at the end of the 2016 season. I think I’m out another year if I can get Kiermaier a round later.
- Tim Anderson (186) has a very similar profile to Peraza, yet is drafted much later. He is only two seasons off a 50 SB outburst in AAA. The White Sox won’t be afraid to give him the green light in a rebuilding year.
- Don’t sleep on Manuel Margot (298) in San Diego. The highly touted prospect might have to sit out for the sake of service time. Once he’s up, he will be a 20-25 SB threat with elite contact skills. If he isn’t drafted, flag him immediately following.
Tier 5: And you thought you were getting away from the fantasy-player-by-committee…
Fantasy footballers know all about how frustrating a ‘running back by committee’ can be. Baseball’s version of that is the platoon. These players are fantastic speedsters, but just simply don’t get the everyday playing time that you need in your fantasy roster. However, should one of these players rise up and take the reigns for 75% of the games or more, a huge stolen base breakout could be on the way.
- Travis Jankowski (NR) and Jarrod Dyson (267) are both on the strong side of the platoon. Both have a path to 75% playing time should they outplay their platoon-mates. Definitely some potential between the two of them.
- According to RosterResource, Raul Mondesi (NR) has the 2B job all to himself. If that’s the case, he’s a great late round add for stolen bases. However, I can’t help but think that Whit Merrifield cuts into his playing time. Mondesi has not shown much offensive prowess outside of 14 games in AAA ball last season, so nobody needs to get crazy on labeling him a must-have sleeper.
- On the other hand, I’m willing to take a chance on Andrew Toles (NR) as a last round flier. He has shown elite speed at the minor league level. If he gets 400 PA, I believe 30 SB is a safe bet for this speedster.
Tier 6: Anyone remember to bring Michael Jordan’s Secret Stuff?
Don’t let me down, friends – you know the part in Space Jam where MJ throws water in bottles and writes ‘Secret Stuff’ on them? Then, the cartoon players don’t realized they are subjects of the Placebo Effect as they go on to stomp the Monstars in a game for the ages? Well, these guys could use some of that ‘Secret Stuff’ to overtake their competitors en route to regular playing time.
Was the Space Jam reference a stretch? Yes. Was the reference worth it though? Maybe. Yes, of course it was.
|Charlie Tilson||White Sox||128||17||31.7||0.315|
- I like Ketel Marte (NR) the most out of the three to achieve and maintain a role in his offense. He just needs to outplay the likes of Chris Owings, Brandon Drury, and Nick Ahmed. Another guy who should be squarely on your radar as Spring Training progresses.