Two weeks ago we looked at the speedsters from 2013 and there were more than a few names on the list that were available on the waiver wire at some point. For deeper leagues and daily fantasy players that need to maximize each and every matchup, even the smallest advantages can mean the difference between a win and a loss. That’s why we focused a lot on matchups this past year, and we’ll do it again in 2014. Even the best base stealers get caught once in a while, so it’s good to know as much as we can about who might be doing the catching before deploying our fantasy lineups. There’s a lot that goes into a stolen base, of course, and the battery of pitcher and catcher is a large piece of the puzzle. Pitchers who are good at holding baserunners can be avoided while pitchers who have a tendency to cough up a lot of steals can be exploited. Here’s how some starters fared in 2013 and over the last three years against the stolen base.

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SAGNOF refers to “saves/steals ain’t got no face”. In other words, they can come from unlikely sources throughout the season and us fantasy baseball folk shouldn’t sell the farm for them on draft day. Let me tell you, 2013 was no exception. When I received my series assignment from Grey earlier this year, I was excited to explore steals as a topic for my column, if only because I knew it would help a lot of people out there do better in the category. I also couldn’t recall many other fantasy sites hitting steals as a primary topic week-in and week out, so hats off to Razzball for being ahead of the game yet again.

It was fascinating to follow along as players rose and fell in value based on steals alone, and even more fascinating to watch match-ups against certain teams yield steals in bunches. This offseason, I’ll be posting every other week and sticking with the stolen base as my focus. We’ll start by taking a look back, but then we’ll shift our gaze forward to 2014 and see if we can get a leg up on the competition prior to our drafts next spring. Let’s get started with a look at the big picture when it comes to steals over the last five years…

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First off, I just want to say a quick thank you to all of the readers who welcomed me this year. Your comments and questions were always appreciated and they are what make Razzball the best site around for fantasy baseball. As Grey mentioned in the BUY post last Friday, the best strategy at this point is to unload anybody who isn’t helping you win right now, so with that in mind we’ll look at three options who are possibly available to help your team gain some ground in steals over these last few games. Just as a general strategy for those in weekly leagues, since steals are a counting stat it would be a good idea to look at guys who have 7 games as opposed to 6 left on the schedule to try to squeeze every last statistical drop out of them. As far as daily leagues go, playing the matchups like we have all year is a good idea. Teams like the Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Rays, Phillies, Padres, Cubs, White Sox, Astros, Nationals, and Giants have given up the most stolen bases this year and they are all teams to target when deciding who to start against for steals.

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Jonathan Villar dished out a big old helping of steals this past week, and I wouldn’t expect anything different after not including him in my last few posts – D’oh! Fact is, prior to this week’s little splurge, Villar had gone from August 13th to September 5th with only 1 stolen base and 3 caught stealing. I couldn’t justify recommending him as a reliable source of stolen bases while he was in the midst of that kind of steals drought, especially at a critical point in the season like this. I’m changing my tune though after watching him steal 4 bases and chip in a homer to boot. He’s got the speed and last week is probably a good sign that the steals slump from August is officially over. He now has 17 steals in just 44 games and despite being caught 7 times already, he’s a player who should be worth a roll of the dice over the last two weeks of the season even with a tough match-up against the Reds to start the week. A lot of other owners have already jumped on board, as his ownership at the four letter word jumped 40%. If he’s already gone in your league, here are a few other options for steals that may be available on your wire:

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Oh fantasy baseball. You’re such a bitch. Jacoby Ellsbury and his league leading 52 stolen bases are going to take a seat for a while. While this is bad news for Red Sox fans, it’s even worse news for fantasy players who are in the midst of a title chase or head to head playoff match-ups. Grey covered this in the lede this morning but it’s worth mentioning here as well given that our focus is steals and Jacoby represents a huge loss in that category for his owners. Luckily, there are still some players who might be available in your league that can help in the steals department. Quick, before anybody else fractures their feet, let’s take a look at who’s out there for some SAGNOF this week:

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I have a love/hate relationship with Labor Day. On one hand, I have to say goodbye to all of my white pants and seersucker sportcoats. I’m also not a big football guy, so it pains me to see my baseball mates quietly drift off into the world of fantasy football. There’s also a lot to love, though. It’s a day off from work if you’re lucky. It’s also the start of some really exciting pennant chase baseball. And last but not least, we have the expansion of MLB rosters. September gives us a chance to see some fresh faces and possibly some future stars. While none of them are likely to make a huge fantasy impact, there are a few players who have come up that could help in the steals category. Billy Hamilton is the most obvious name. He’s the guy you want if you’re going to gamble on a September call-up. There are some other names, however, that are worth a look in very deep leagues or NL/AL-only leagues. Guys like Jose Ramirez in Cleveland, Dee Gordon in LA, and Jim Adduci in Texas all have speed to offer. Like Hamilton, they’re not going to see regular playing time, so while they are fun to mix and match, they aren’t players that I would rush to add to my roster. Hamilton is the exception to the rule. His speed warrants a look even if he’s relegated to pinch-running most nights. Here are some of the best bets for stolen bases this week in fantasy baseball:

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Since being traded to the Royals ten days ago, Emilio Bonifacio has seven steals – more than any player in baseball in that span. Obviously, he’s benefited from more playing time in his new home. He’s started all but one game since the trade and while he hasn’t exactly contributed much in the other fantasy categories, he’s been piling up the steals. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise since the Royals are near the top of the league in both stolen bases (112) and success rate (83%). Bonifacio has always had the wheels too. Just last year he stole 30 bases in just 64 games played. His dual eligibility at second base and outfield is a huge boost to his fantasy value. This week he’ll draw the Twins and Blue Jays. The Twins are stingy against the stolen base, but Boni should have some success on the base paths against his former team later in the week. Here are some other speedsters worth a look:

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It’s that time of year. With just a couple of weeks until rosters expand in September, it’s time for players in re-draft leagues to start considering prospect call-ups. Billy Hamilton is by far the best bet for a steals impact in the final month of the season. Entering the weekend, he had 70 stolen bases in just 110 games. Check out what Razzball’s prospect whisperer Scott Evans had to say about him recently: “Need to make a late push in steals before year’s end? Billy Hamilton will soon help in that regard, and he won’t need regular plate appearances to do so.” And Evans knows his shizz. Billy Hamilton is fast. He could enter games as a pinch runner on first base and be on third base before you swallow that sip of stadium suds. In addition to holding the MiLB steals record and posting sick times from base to base, Hamilton chugs through Mountain Dews like Dusty Baker chews through toothpicks. He’s one of the players I’m most excited about watching if he gets the call this September. The fly in the ointment continues to be the Reds’ reluctance to place him on the 40-man roster. As of Friday they were still undecided, and that’s important information to keep an eye on. To be honest, the Reds would be foolish not to use him as a weapon, but I’m not running any major league teams last time I checked. As we’ve done all year long, let’s look at who is out there and ready to contribute now in the steals category:

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B.J. Upton is having one hell of a bad year and he recently hit bottom with an adductor injury that sidelined him through the All Star Break. There were some whispers during the first half of the season that the Braves were going to send him down to figure things out, but it never happened. The injury may have been a blessing in disguise, though. Maybe it gave him the time and the means to work on issues that he otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to if he had stayed healthy. His ownership dropped to around 40% at one point, but it’s recently surged back up due to a handful of multi -hit efforts since his return and 3 steals. For our purposes here, the steals are what I want to focus on. There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news is that the three stolen bases since his return came against the Phillies and Nationals, two of the worst teams in baseball at controlling the running game. So, before we get too excited and decide that BJ is going to rattle off 20 steals over the last 6 weeks of the season, just keep that in mind. Ready for the good news? He gets the Phillies and Nationals again this week! I wouldn’t be surprised to see him swipe a couple more with those match-ups. Here are some other speedsters I think might help your stolen base numbers this week:

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Your regular Creeper columnist, Sky, is taking the week off as things start to heat up over on the football side of things here at Razzball. I know, I miss him too. Turn that frown upside down, though, because I’ve got a nice Creeper for you this week in Will Venable. When I went to write this post, I looked for four things: nice matchup(s), a player who is widely available, somebody who’s actually hitting right now, and a player who can contribute in multiple categories for your fantasy team. Venable fits the bill this week. He’s always been the poor man’s power/speed combo player, but he’s frustrating to own long term due to a crowded San Diego outfield cutting into his playing time and an inability to really hit for average. Even so, I think he’s a good bet this week for some power and speed. As an added bonus, he’s one of a handful of players that wasn’t accused of taking PED’s by Jack Clark…so there’s that.

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