The issue with writing the 2019 speed targets is that as we all know, chicks dig the long ball. And Saved By The Bell fans remember when Jessie was on speed. Yet despite what Kenny Lofton says, stealing 75 bases is nothing to be ashamed of; its okay to be fast.
Of course no one steals 75 bases anymore. Heck, it's rare for someone to notch even 50. However, most fantasy baseball leagues still have stolen bases as a category, so we need to give it its due.
I've broken up the speed targets into various tiers of draft capital necessary to acquire some of 2019's likely speed demons. This will help give you an idea how to layer the speed element into your overall strategy. I'll highlight some of the obvious names, but I've included some sneaky sources of speed as well.
Because speed doesn't kill. But you can certainly eliminate some of your league competition with it! With that in mind, let's look at some speed targets.
2019 Fantasy Baseball Speed Targets
Top Ten Picks
Is there anything Mike Trout can't do? There's a reason he likely be the first pick overall and his speed might not even be the top three reasons. But you can't ignore the 24 stolen bases he had last year. If you can somehow get your hands on Trout, you are already well ahead of everyone else in most categories and higher than average in the speed categories.
Same goes for Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts. However, those three are going to cost a ton of auction/draft capital. All Christian Yelich did in 2018 was win the MVP as he hit career marks in nearly every category. Many are expecting regression closer to his means.
So, if you are looking to get an early jump (pun intended) in the speed categories, Trea Turner can offer some serious value. Without Bryce Harper in the lineup, it is possible that the Nationals try to manufacture more runs, which might give Turner even more green lights. I think Turner can steal 43 bases again. And that might be a low-ball figure.
Next 30 picks
Don't forget about Francisco Lindor who recently suffered a strain calf but falls into this range. He will likely miss Opening Day and much of April. Much will depend on how your league handles injured players (do you have a DL slot for example?). And Lindor brings tons of value in the other categories, but given his calf injury, I'm not investing in Lindor for speed reasons.
Meanwhile, there is just something I love about watching Jose Altuve play. If I can snag Altuve at his current ADP of 14, I'm grabbing him. Of course I'm happy to have a later pick and grab me some Trevor Story or Altuve's teammate, Carlos Correa. Correa has stolen all of five bases the last two years, but part of that is is far less ABs due to injury. If he stays healthy and gets back to 500+ ABs, I am expecting double digit steals.
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Of course grabbing either of those two players means you are bypassing last year's stolen base leader, Whit Merrifield. Merrifield is a nice little player who won't hurt you in any of the other categories, but he doesn't really help you that much in the other categories either. Although his likely multi-position eligibility is a huge asset depending on your league's eligibility rules and should he swipe 45 bases again, I'd be content with him as my third round pick.
Of course the player that really excites me and the entire roto community however is Vladmir Guerrero Jr. The sky is the limit on this kid and that includes what he does on the basepaths. His dad just missed the 40/40 club by one HR and Jr. is a chip off the old block.
There's not a lot of speed at first base. Not really a surprise, but given how much talent there is at first base, its a little surprising that not a single top 20 base-stealer played first base. (and yes, I'm counting Merrifield as a 2B, which we should). And I was actually a little surprised to see that Cody Bellinger had 18 stolen bases last year. He could be a very sneaky source of speed, and even if he steals a few less, my favorite underrated stat about Bellinger is played all 162 games last year.
On the flip side is Adalberto Mondesi, who played only 75 games last year. However, in that limited sample, he swiped 32 bases. If Mondesi plays a full season? We could see him top 60 stolen bases. His ADP (63rd) is actually a little high for my tastes, but if he lasts to the seventh round and I need speed, I'm grabbing him without any hesitation.
Of course I won't limit myself to the infield. I know its a little crowded in the Tampa Bay outfield and perhaps that why Tommy Pham seems to be going under the radar. He had a pedestrian 15 thefts last year, but 25 in 2017. He also boasted MLB's third highest hard-hit rate (48.5%) in 2017 as well. Pham is a 5-category hitter who should see 20/20 again and possibly a lot more, assuming his eye disease remains at bay. (Yes, multiple puns intended). However, I'm more likely to wait a few rounds and take the guy Pham is replacing from the next range.
2019 Speed Targets: Picks 100-200
And that pick of course is Mallex Smith. He stole 40 bases last year and is proof you can wait on speed. Be aware that Smith had a .366 BABIP last year. A batting average regression is coming and as the saying goes, you can't steal first. However, Smith had a BABIP over .300 each of the previous two years as well. Part of that can be attributed to the number of throws he beats out with his wheels. Smith should be able to hit the 40 SB plateau again if he plays regularly and could be described as a "rich man's Billy Hamilton"
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Which brings us to Billy Hamilton. Hamilton's draft stock looks like an ECG with all the peaks and valleys. Hamilton stole a 5-year low 34 bases last year. Of course most of his owners last year were disappointed after stealing between 56 and 59 bases each of the previous four years. Part of the issue can be attributed to Hamilton's lowly .236 average last year. However, its worth noting that in 2015 he hit an even worse .226 and still swiped 57 bases. However, few teams like to steal more than the Kansas City Royals. It would not surprise me to see Hamilton, now sporting the Royal blue, steal sixty this year. If he could only get that average up!
2019 Speed Targets: Picks 200+
I was going to end my 2019 speed targets there, but my conscience wouldn't let me. Of course once you get into this range, the list of possibilities gets very thin. But I'll give you someone I like who would not surprise me if he does steal 40 bases: Ramon Laureano.
The odds of him doing so are not high. He only stole 7 bases last year and even if we project that out to a full season's worth of ABs, Laureano still fails to reach even 30 SBs. However, one reason to like him to steal 40 is that he has done so before. Okay, it was two years ago and in the minors. However, Laureano does have the speed to do it again in the majors, and if I had to pick someone this deep to steal 40, Laureano is the choice.
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