Steals are interesting in fantasy baseball. People love them, almost to their own detriment. It’s a blast to watch a guy like Billy Hamilton steal 5 bases in a game and cause so much chaos on the base-paths. However, it’s my contention that you don’t draft steals. Let me clarify that a bit more, you don’t draft ONLY for steals. I’ll never own Billy Hamilton because all he can do is steal bases and it’s really easy to find those either very late in the draft, or on the waiver wire. I’m not saying don’t draft a 20/20 or 30/30 guy. I’m saying don’t draft a guy with a TOP 100 pick who has 50+ steal potential and nothing else.
There’s another aspect of the stolen bases that I think is worth talking about, getting stolen bases from power positions where stolen bases are rare. First base, Third base, and Catcher. Paul Goldschmidt is fantastic at the plate, but his value is even higher when you consider he steals bases too. He’s had season totals of 18, 15, 21, and 32! 32 stolen bases from your first basemen!? That kind of speed production from first base allows you to focus on an outfielder with great power & no speed, or a infielder with plus hitting tools but no speed. Essentially, it provides you flexibility within your lineup to take players that are less attractive to the public at-large. I’m going to highlight some sneaky-fast players at each position for you to target. I’m going to try to keep the majority these guys out of the Top 100, but in some cases (Wil Meyers) I can’t – they have to be mentioned.
A league mate of mine once noticed I always ended up drafting Coco Crisp with the last pick in the draft. From 2006-2013 I had Crisp on my team, more or less, every year. When he asked for a reason, I told him he was essentially a lighter-hitting Carl Crawford 20 rounds later. Low investment, and I know what I’m getting.
Crawford was a fantasy darling, being drafted in the first 40-50 picks every year and yes, Crawford stole more bases, scored more runs & hit more homers than Crisp, but not by much. Crisp got me a .265 average, 70 runs, a handful of homeruns, and 25-30 stole bases every year. For the price of my last pick. I’m going to try and highlight a couple guys of that ilk for you.
JT Realmuto – Miami Marlins
Jason Kendall of yesteryear! Not quite, but he’s getting there. JT hit the cover off the ball last year, but it’s his work on the base-paths that have me excited. 12 stolen bases last year, 8 the year before. It’s no fluke as he stole 54 over his minor league career. He’s probably the only catcher who will finish the season with double-digit steals, and he’s pretty decent swinging the bat as well.
Wil Myers – San Diego Padres
When Myers was coming up in the Tampa Bay system everyone lauded his powerful swing and the homers it produced. That hasn’t changed much – he hit 28 big flies last season, but what has changed for Myers is he’s no longer in the outfield. He’s now playing gold-glove level defense at first because of the crowded outfield in San Diego.
Last year, something happened. Myers was given the green light to steal bases and boy did he! He had 28 stolen bases to go with his 28 home runs. In interviews this spring, he’s already talked about trying to have a 40/40 season. We all know the 40 home runs are doable for a guy with his stroke, but can he get 40 steals? I don’t know, but I’m excited to watch him try. Sign me up.
Jose Peraza – Cincinnati Reds
Peraza has been a hot topic all offseason. Even more so after the Brandon Phillips trade opens up plenty of room for him to play. He put together a strong performance in spot starts down the stretch of 2016. He had huge numbers in the minors after stealing 64 bases in 2013 and 60 in 2014. Over six minor league seasons he stole 220 bases with a combined average of .312. He doesn’t strike out much and takes walks (7BBs/33Ks in MLB 2016) so he should be on-base enough to get 40+ bags.
Will the ability to play 2B/SS/OF this may be the basestealer on the the Reds that you want to own. You know, instead of that other guy who doesn’t get on base.
Hernan Perez- Milwaukee Brewers
Perez, along with Villar, were the two Brewers that broke out last season. Combined they had nearly 100 stolen bases, with 34 of them coming from Perez. He’s had a good spring and is now getting into the WBC for team Venezuela.
Like Peraza above, eligibility is a plus for Perez who can be used at 3B/OF, and also 2B if you’re on Yahoo (sorry ESPN fans). He’s going near ADP 300 in ESPN, ADP 319 in Yahoo, but that number seems to be trending up. Buy low now, and enjoy the speed.
Eduardo Nunez – San Francisco Giants
Nunez was a first time all star last year after putting up 40 stolen bases and 16 home runs in his time between Minnesota and San Francisco. He’s another guy that’s well beyond round 13/14 but could produce value inside the top 100. He’s got both 3B and SS eligibility in both Yahoo and ESPN.
Rhetorical question- Would you be happy if you drafted your shortstop in round 13 and he hit 16 home runs, stole 40 bases, while batting .288?
Travis Jankowski- San Diego Padres
Jankowski is an interesting case as his minor numbers don’t reconcile with his MLB performance. He has a career .293 average and .360 OBP in 4 seasons of minor league ball, batting .335 in his most recent minor league season with a 49-50 BB:K ratio. The guy should be able to get on base at a good clip and steal bases.
For whatever reason, the majors have been tough on him. He holds a .238 average and a .315 OBP over 425 MLB at-bats. He was still able to swipe 30 bags last season. If he can get his numbers closer to his minor league averages he could be in the 35-40 SB range this season, and I’m guessing this guy doesn’t even get drafted. Bully for us! He’ll be my first waiver wire add.
Jarrod Dyson – Seattle Mariners
Dyson has averaged 30 stolen bases for the past 5 seasons, all while getting less than 300 at-bats a season. Well, as long as he’s healthy, he should be in the running for 450+ ABs. It looks like the Seattle Mariners, if their spring line ups hold true, plan to bat Dyson lead off. He may platoon against lefties (word is he’s starting the season as the FULL TIME leadoff hitter), but I don’t think that hurts his value all that much, as he can still be used to pinch-hit or pinch-run as the conditions warrant. He’s a low risk, high reward player in this years draft.
Keon Broxton – Milwaukee Brewers
Broxton could be in the midst of a breakout year. He’s a toolsy young outfielder with pop. He reminds me of former Brewer Carlos Gomez a bit, because he has sneaky power. He’s never going to win a batting title (.255 average 8 minor league seasons) but he could very easily become a 15/20 or 20/25 guy with a full season of at bats. He’s also attainable for next to nothing in most leagues.
Speed is important, but let’s not mistakenly value speed the same way we value power. We can find speed all over the place on draft day, so don’t over commit by spending a pick in the first 10-12 rounds on a speed-only type player. Hopefully the players above give you an idea of what to look out for.
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