Trying to find a worthwhile steals guy in an OPS league is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But who looks for needles in haystacks anymore (sorry Amish readers)? A better comparison would be trying to find a sane prediction out of Matthew Berry’s bold predictions. In all seriousness, Mr. Berry is as talented a writer as I am experienced at being a fantasy baseball league commissioner. Speaking of which, y’all should sign up to be in a Razzball Commenter League and even be a league commissioner, which you could add on your resume (you can even add me as a reference). One more plug: some of the Razzball writers just began a mock draft. You should follow along at #RazzballMock (I’m @votetomjacks if that wasn’t already obvious). It’ll be the bee’s knees. Let’s get the buzz going! Anyway, if you’re wondering how it feels trying to get steals in an OPS league, I suggest you read A Tale of Two SAGNOFs. Essentially, there are very few steals guys that won’t hurt you too much in the OPS category, which makes these players that much more valuable. Did I mention that this article was inspired by a few awesome commenters in last week’s article? Now I did. My fellow Razzballers, here is a batch of 30+ steal players that won’t hurt you (too much) in OPS leagues:
Mike Trout – Well, duh. His value in OPS leagues is even stronger, if that’s possible, because he should have a .900 OPS with a potentially league-leading number of steals. He serves well to introduce a theme of looking for power/speed guys in OPS leagues, since the power they have should keep their OPS above a decent baseline.
Ryan Braun – Now I’m not saying that you need all of your speed guys to hit 40 homers because that would be impossible, unless you’re playing in a one team league. However, having the potential for double digit home runs would be nice.
Desmond Jennings – He’s not an unknown, but he’s a great example of a speedster to target. For once, I completely agree with the Bill James projection of 15 homers, 36 stolen bases, and a .261/.337/.417 line. He may even have slight upside from there across the board.
Jose Reyes – No, he’s not an unknown either, but I wanted to bring him up to illustrate a larger point. At weaker OPS positions, steals guys who can maintain a decent OPS are more valuable. So, even if Reyes “only” posts something similar to his .287/.347/.433 line from last season, his steals are fantastic because the other shortstops that get steals tend to really hurt your OPS.
Jose Altuve – I’ll let you in on a little secret. Or maybe it’s a big secret. James Brown came to me in a dream last night and took me to the Apollo Theater where I became his band leader. When he played “I Feel Good” he started improvising about how Jose Altuve was going to lead his fantasy baseball team to the promised land. So James and I are in agreement about Altuve being a great stolen base guy in OPS leagues, especially considering the weak position. Yes, we’re on a first name basis now.
Norichika Aoki – There’s not much to say about Aoki other than I like him, his numbers from last season seem reasonable, and I expect him to produce nearly the same line as his .288/.355/.433 from 2012.
Brett Gardner – After missing most of last year, I expect him to have a solid 2013. His .730ish OPS and 40+ steals will make you glad you waited on Michael Bourn multiple rounds earlier. In fact, I’d project a .270/.350/.380 line for both of them.
Adam Eaton – I think Eaton could be in for a huge year. See the numbers I projected for Gardner and Bourn? Add 20 points to the OBP and 30 points to the slugging to get Eaton’s projections. He could end up being a steal (see what I did there?).
Carl Crawford – He was one of the first guys that came to mind. Then I winced. Then I stopped watching The Biggest Loser and ate some cake. Do I trust Crawford? Not really. Let’s just say I’d rather trust Lincecum to have a rebound next year than Crawford.
Jacoby Ellsbury – See what I said about Crawford? Now multiply it by two. Now divide by three. I think what I’m trying to say is that I think Ellsbury is two-thirds the risk that Crawford is, factoring in their price. What does that mean? Like Grey, I’d rather have Jennings.
Starling Marte – His batting average and OBP could both hurt you, but his slugging could also make up for it. I’m not entirely comfortable projecting him for more than his .257/.300/.437 line from last season since his strikeouts were high and walks were low.
Alejandro De Aza – I think he’ll be what he was last year, with a few more steals across a full season. His .281/.349/.410 line from 2012 looks reasonable for 2013.
B.J. Upton – I expect some OBP improvement for Upton this year and project a .240/.330/.450 line.
Angel Pagan – I love that his name is an oxymoron. Unlike his manager, who sometimes lacks oxy. I think Pagan will approach a .280/.330/.440 line this year.
Shane Victorino – I’d bet on a rebound for Victorino. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I believe he’ll reach at least a .270/.340/.430 line in 2013.
Which ones did I miss? Feel free to let me know in the comments…