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Slow clap for all the folks who drafted Jean Segura last year and his 44 steals. Now a slower, even more appreciative clap for Grey, who tagged him as a fantasy sleeper heading into 2013. The following list is not meant to find you the 2014 version of Jean Segura, but rather identify the middle infielders who are the essence of SAGNOF (Steals Ain’t Got NO Face). These players will be cheap at the draft or may go undrafted entirely. You probably won’t want any of them as your starting shortstop or second baseman, but you’ll want to stash them away in the dark corners of your mind for when you are desperate for steals and there is a vacancy in your middle infidel slot. How cheaply you can acquire these players has a lot to do with the depth of your league and since not all fantasy leagues are created equal (thank God), you’ll have to take that into consideration when weighing the value of their steals. And hey, you never know, maybe the next Jean Segura is in here somewhere…

Jonathan Villar – 2013: 18 SB in 241 PA

If there is one guy on this list I would take a chance on in 2014, it would be Villar. He stole at least 30 bases in each of the last three seasons in the minors before getting the call last summer in Houston. In fact, if you combine his 2013 Triple-A numbers with his MLB total, we’re looking at 49 stolen bases last year. He’s also hit at least eight home runs in each of his last three pro-seasons. Villar has some blemishes, however, that will keep his overall value suppressed. He’s never struck out less than 23% of the time at any level, and that’s just not very good. Another thing to watch out for is his tendency to be caught. He was 18-for-26 in the big leagues, which is a success rate of 69%. We’d like to see him closer to 75% for the big steals numbers. While Dexter Fowler will most likely lead-off and push Villar to the bottom of the order, there is still a lot to like about the young shortstop considering how little you should have to pay for his speed.

Alcides Escobar – 2013: 22 SB in 642 PA

Escobar disappointed fantasy owners in 2013 and that should bring his value down a few pegs in 2014. After stealing 35 bags and hitting .293 in 2012, he managed only 22 steals and a lousy .234 batting average in 2013. One of the biggest differences between the two seasons was his BABIP, which went from .344 in 2012 to .264 in 2013. If that stabilizes in 2014, he could be back to a healthier average and that could mean more steals as well, perhaps closer to 30 SB again than 20. A problem for Escobar is that he is still afraid to walk. A 3.0% walk rate last year was the second lowest in the major leagues, so the man is going to have to hit his way on in order to steal bases.

Dee Gordon - 2013: 10 SB in 106 PA

It feels like we’ve been bouncing Dee’s name around for a long time, but he’s still just 25 years old. He hasn’t been able to hit north of .240 in the majors over the past two years, but he did steal a combined 59 bases in Triple-A and the bigs last season. It’s not clear what his path to playing time will be, but given the recent injuries of Hanley Ramirez and the fact that Alexander Guerrero is still unproven, Dee could get his chances over the course of the year. He is a player that could be acquired on the cheap and even with ~250 PA he could net you 20 steals from your MI slot.

Emilio Bonifacio – 2013: 28 SB in 461 PA

Bonifacio caught fire after being traded to the Royals last summer. He stole 17 bases and hit .285 in the second half, and he was caught only 8 times in 36 attempts for the year (77%). The Royals signed Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante, so Bonifacio will likely be relegated to the bench for the Royals. Fantasy players will still like the dual-eligibility he  provides as an infielder/outfielder, and if he can accumulate another 400 PA, he should be able to steal 20 bases again this year. You just won’t be able to count on him starting in your lineup every day.

DJ LeMahieu18 SB in 434 PA

The second base job in Colorado is going to come down to LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge once again in 2014. Early rumors have LeMahieu as the favorite to win the job, despite Rutledge being the better bat. The Rockies seem to like LeMahieu for his glove, and if his glove can buy him playing time, he has shown that he can steal a base or two. Obviously, a lot depends on how much he plays, but a full season of at-bats could yield somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 steals, and that’s really valuable from a fantasy second baseman.

Jemile Weeks – 2013 (AAA): 17 SB in 614 PA

Weeks is the biggest wild card of the group, but he’s also got a lot to prove after seeing only 8 games in the major leagues last season. He’ll likely end up being a utility infielder a la Alexi Casilla, so you’re really looking at deeper leagues or AL-only leagues here. Weeks’ best year in terms of steals was his 2011 season with the A’s in which he swiped 22 bags in 437 plate appearances.

Some other middle infielders to consider for steals: Brian Dozier, Brad Miller, Pedro Florimon, Kolten Wong.

 

Mike also writes for TheDynastyGuru. If you’re a tweeter on Twitter he’s @643ball

  1. Count de Monetball says:
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    Great write up as always Mike. I too really like Villar for this year and am hopeful he can do some magical things on the base-paths. Hey, it seemed last year that Kolten Wong was reported on Razz Ball to be a pretty major threat on the base paths, In looking at some of his stats in the minors and some scouting reports, it seems like he may be a 15 steals kinda guy. Do you think that is reasonable, or do you see more, assuming he holds the starting position for the year?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @Count de Monetball: thanks Count yup 15 is fair. He could even push 18-20 with a full season

  2. JoeyBelle says:
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    Deciding to keep Bone-face at 5$ is my toughest decision. The multi-eligibility is huge for me, and my current keepers are light on speed but if half of his SBs some in pinch running situations, then those are useless to me.
    Would keep either Bon-face at 5, or Mclouth at 3? Neither?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @JoeyBelle: I wouldn’t keep either of them honestly.

  3. Sky

    Sky says:
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    If the Astros are smart, they move Fowler to the 2 spot. Great OBP skills, patience, makes a perfect #2 in a lineup. Though Villar strikes out more than we’d like, he’s still a better lead off choice, IMHO, seeing as the ‘stros are willing to run based on last year. Oh and you stole a little of my deep league sleeper thunder by talking about him but I ain’t mad at you bro!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @Sky: thanks Sky…good points. Maybe things will shift around once the season gets rolling. Stros got caught a lot but they were very aggresive, so if they just get a little more efficient Villar could be huge for steals.

      I’m still trying to get J-FOH’s gum out of my hair…:)

      • Sky

        Sky says:
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        Hahahaha. Well at least I didn’t put you in mom jeans! I do think Fowler will be an SB surprise this year (sorry, you prolly already covered that). Running not just about the player but about the team. It’s gonna be funny if it took moving Dexter from one of the best offenses to one of the worst to make him fantasy valid but I do believe that’s in the cards for him this year.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          @Sky: yup, Fowler should benefit from some of that aggressiveness. I was just looking at some of this yesterday for another post, and Colorado had about 30 fewer attempts in 2013 than the Astros even though they were more successful percentage wise. Plus, Porter already said he wants to focus more on baserunning this season. I could see Fowler swiping 25+

          • Sky

            Sky says:
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            I’ll take quantity over quality in those scenarios. No chance we see Astros not running this year. That’s about what I was thinking for Fowler myself. I’ll just depend on those counting stats. Who’s the three spot hitter there? Jason Castro? Oy…

            • Mike

              Mike says:
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              @Sky: haha…yeah exactly. you hit the nail on the head…percentage won’t matter as long as they stay aggressive and we get our steals stats. Maybe I’m inhaling too much exhaust from the Razzball minivan, but I think between Fowler, Villar, Carter and Castro there are some nice fantasy values on the Astros this year

              • Sky

                Sky says:
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                I’m totally with you. Little worried about Carter unless he shows marked improvement. The power is there but he didn’t really establish that he’s a needed asset last year with that k-rate. He played like a bench bat forced into FT duty, can’t play defense…he’s very replaceable.

                • Mike

                  Mike says:
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                  @Sky: agreed…Mr. Singleton just poked his head out from a cloud of pot smoke and Japhet Amador looked up from his Subway sandwich when they heard you say the word “replaceable” ;)

                  • Sky

                    Sky says:
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                    Exactly. Lot of exciting names in Houston this year that I’ll be keeping my eye on out of the gate and down the road overall.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          @Sky: “mom jeans” is the line of the offseason IMO ;)

          • Sky

            Sky says:
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            I think Grey was a little miffed by it. To which I told him to stop wearing mom jeans and all he had to say was ‘true…’

            • Mike

              Mike says:
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              @Sky: in my house we’d say you sassed him. My boy dishes out a lot of sass around here…hard to be the parent and not laugh sometimes

              • Sky

                Sky says:
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                Ha, of course Grey wasn’t really miffed. That was as made up as our van trip. But he DOES where mom jeans. HEY GREY CAN YOU SEE THAT ON THE BACK END OF THE SITE! YOU…WEAR…MOM JEANS!

                Mom Jeans

                • Jay

                  Jay says:
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                  I sense a disturbance in the Grey-force…

                  http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m0p7hj0Jud1qla07uo1_500.jpg

                  • Sky

                    Sky says:
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                    Never! Sometimes my mustache unity is a tad misplaced but it is always there –

                    Forehead Mustache

                    • Count de Monetball says:
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                      @Sky: @Jay: Hahahaha, you guys are sooooo fired…..

                    • Sky

                      Sky says:
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                      Grey is scolding me and wagging his finger. Hard to take serious, though, cuz…well…MOM JEANS

                    • Grey

                      Grey says:
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                      Leave me alone, I like how they elongate my butt!

                    • Sky

                      Sky says:
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                      It looks like you’re packing ostrich eggs back there!

                • Mike

                  Mike says:
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                  @Sky: hahaha…figured as much. MIMJILF !!

                  • Count de Monetball says:
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                    @Mike: hahaha, you guys need to stop being hilarious, I have work to do!!!!

        • Bombo Rivera says:
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          @Sky: Hmmm. You seem to have a hangup about the mom’s jeans.

          As for Fowler, he’s fast, but he seems to be a terrible base-stealer. Maybe his religion has some weird edict against stealing. In his 667 game career, he’s stolen a whopping 83 bases, while being caught 41 times. That’s not a great total or percentage for a SAGNOF guy. Plus, he stole 7 of those bases in one game. Add in the fact that he had extreme stadium splits, and I’m not buying Dexter this year.

          • Sky

            Sky says:
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            Haha, only for Grey…

            Like we kinda covered above, RE: Fowler, it’s not about being good at, it’s about volume. I doubt Houston changes its stripes this year and becomes station to station. Villar was 18/26, about 69% success. Your overall stats on Fowler put him at about 67% for his career. Sometimes volume is more important than success rate. I do agree the splits are drastic, especially last year. I still think he’s an overall .260 hitter with good OBP skills when it’s all said and done, though. Of course, he’ll have to prove that since he hasn’t yet for his career. He gets a chance to prove it this year. Let’s not forget the Rockies have just never been good with utilizing/playing speed guys. Eric Young Jr went off for 46 steals last year, 8 in 57 games with the Rockies, 38 in 91 with the Mets

            • Bombo Rivera says:
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              @Sky: After the part where I said “he’s a terrible base stealer” I should have added that I don’t think he’s going to get the volume of attempts. You subtract that one 5-steal game, and his success rate looks pretty lousy. I don’t think the Astros want to lose on purpose, so they won’t give him the green light. They got him for defense and to flip him at the deadline for a prospect.

              • Sky

                Sky says:
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                Or it could go the route that Mike and I talked about. They’re both options, but if he’s as bad as you describe other than defense, what team wants him at the deadline?

                • Bombo Rivera says:
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                  @Sky: The team that wants a good defensive CF who can take a walk. Valuable in real baseball, not so much in fantasy baseball.

                  • Bombo Rivera says:
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                    @Bombo Rivera: Or it could go your way. Dexter Fowler could break out in SBs and it would not surprise me.

                  • Sky

                    Sky says:
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                    No, I get what you’re saying but in terms of value returned in trade is what I meant to refer more to. I think the Astros OF is shaky enough that he’s not gonna go anywhere, personally. I’m in no way saying he’s a breakout candidate, of course, but the Astros are just an aggressive coaching staff and with his OBP skillset, I see the opportunity. He still has to seize it, though. if he’s 25/40, I’ll take it.

          • Mike

            Mike says:
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            @Bombo Rivera: yeah, that CS% isn’t pretty so i can see the hesitation, but if he gets the green light all the time the steals can still pile up

    • Count de Monetball says:
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      @Sky: Be happy Sky, although despite Mike being lightning and stealing your thunder. Remember, Lightning always comes before thunder KA-CHOW!, there will be no Linkception (that’s me quoting you) today as I have not seen many articles about Villar as a “sleeper” this year. If you start Linkception, I will have to wake you up by making you listen to this song….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ggu2FTrZcLA

      • Sky

        Sky says:
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        And considering I’m from the PNW and rooting for the Legion of Boom this weekend, I appreciate you noting that. Be prepared for the Thunder, Mike! My Totem is Troy Tulowitzki. In my dreams, he always plays 150+ games. Easy way to tell if I’m in the real world or not by May/June.

  4. Wake Up says:
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    Nice work Mike.

    I’m looking for Alcides to bounceback too…

    It looks like I’m gonna be a Royals fan this year…

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      @Wake Up: thanks! me too…KC ran a lot last year and they were good at it…185 attempts and 85% SB rate

      • Mike

        Mike says:
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        @Mike: I mean 83%…I’m all thumbs

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