Norichika Aoki is one of those guys that has come up a lot in the comments on these posts, and for good reason. After posting a really impressive 10 homer/30 steal season in 2012, his steals numbers have been pretty worrisome in 2013. Through the first half of this season, Aoki had only stolen 10 bases and had been caught 10 times. I’m no mathematician, but that’s a pretty lousy 50% CS% and not what you want to see from a guy you drafted for wheels. I had begun to think that Aoki’s first MLB season may have been a blip on the radar when I looked back on his numbers from Japan. Starting with his 2011 season, his steals numbers from his last five years there were 8, 19, 18, 31, and 17. Hence my thinking that last year’s 30 may have been just another blip. Well, Aoki changed some of that thinking this past week with a 9-game hit streak and 4 steals. More importantly, he wasn’t caught in any of those attempts. He’s not somebody that is readily available to pick up of course, but he may have found his way to your bench before his recent hot streak. Get him starting for the coming week because he gets two fantastic match-ups against the Cubs and Nationals, two teams that are terrible against the stolen base this year, and Aoki is looking like he’s ready to run.

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When I went hunting for players to write about this week, I had trouble finding somebody for the lede. Most of the tried and true speedsters are owned everywhere, and I wasn’t liking the match-ups I saw for the borderline guys. Then, as the fantasy writer gods often do, they dropped a pair of rookies in my lap. A couple of fresh faces have arrived on the scene in Junior Lake and Jonathan Villar. Lake, a speedy infielder turned outfielder, was called up by the Cubs. While I was mildly interested in his solid debut performance Friday night, I became even more interested when I started to look into his minor league numbers. Like “cyclops with a monocle” interested as they say here in Razzball land. Even more exciting was the Villar call-up that was announced yesterday. The young Houston shortstop also showed above average speed in the minor leagues. We’ll take a closer look at both and set the mood for a little ‘rookie nookie’. Meanwhile, at the adult table, Eric Young continues to rack up the steals and should do some major damage against the Nationals later this week.

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Looking back on the unofficial first half of the fantasy baseball season can be a lot of fun, unless of course you are in dead last, in which case it’s about as much fun as watching your auntie’s cat play with its new Cat’s Meow toy while you eat stale Circus Peanuts. In any event, the gods of SAGNOF have not been as kind to us thus far in 2013, and it shows in the numbers. The total number of steals in the league, 1524, is the lowest it’s been since 2006. In addition, there are only 21 players with 15 or more steals at this point in the season. That’s also the lowest it’s been since 2006. It feels even lower given that just last year there were 28 players with 15+ steals at the break and 30 the year before that. This all means that players who steal 30 bags or more are a little harder to come by, and it’s no sure thing that each fantasy team will have one or two guys that can carry them in steals like in years past. It also means that having a guy like Ben Revere break his foot and lose his season is a much bigger blow to our fantasy squads (mine included) than it used to be. So what do we do if we lost a guy like Revere or missed out on a Jacoby Ellsbury or Everth Cabrera type? If you read my column regularly, you know I’m a big fan of playing the match-ups when it comes to steals, and seizing the opportunity to eke them out whenever possible against teams that are weak against the run. After all, just because steals are down in general, it doesn’t change the fact that they still make up 20% of our offensive points in most leagues.

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Let’s say you’re looking for the player with the best stolen base per plate appearances ratio. You might think of recent SAGNOF heart-throb Rajai Davis, who basically has a steal for every 8 plate appearances. Davis has recently soared to 80% ownership thanks to his outburst of 7 steals in 4 days and an absolute monster day at the dish yesterday. You’d be close, but the answer is actually Jarrod Dyson at 1:7, and who is owned in 79% less leagues. But Mike, isn’t Jarrod Dyson just a platoon player, part of a four-man outfield in Kansas City? Of course he is, but so was Davis before Melky Cabrera went down, and unfortunately that’s where I’d suspect Davis will be headed once again when the Blue Jays’ $8 million dollar man returns from the DL in the next week or so.

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It may have been hard to catch Grey’s BUY post last Friday, because it was littered with SAGNOF outfielders. We’ll take a look at some of those guys today, with a special focus on Rajai Davis of the Blue Jays, who recently found himself some steady playing time in left field while Melky Cabrera is on the DL. As you’re reading this, I’m on the road to the Jersey Shore with my family for the Fourth of July, so I apologize in advance if I’m not as quick as usual with the comments. Speaking of Grey and Jersey, the main man talked about how New Jersey, my home state, looks like the profile of Kid from Kid ‘n’ Play. I have to say I was impressed. I like that image better than the American Indian profile they taught us in school. It’s probably more politically correct, too. Hats off to you, Grey! If only you had been my third grade teacher…

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After stealing only 3 bases in all of 2012, Peter Bourjos met that mark in the past ten games. It seems as though his hamstring is just fine,and despite hitting in the bottom of the lineup for the Angels, he is producing runs. More importantly for the purpose of this column, he appears to have the green light and hasn’t been caught stealing yet, either. If you’d like, we can pretend that last year never happened and just look at his 22 steals in 147 games back in 2011 to get an idea of what he might be able to pull off the rest of this season. Last week, I pointed to the fact that I’d rather roster a leadoff hitter when looking for steals, at which point Cholly Manuel promptly shoved Ben Revere into the seventh spot in the Phillies’ lineup and he stole 3, count’em 3 bags. Thanks for proving my point, Cholly! So lineup position be damned, feel free to ride Bourjos to SAGNOF glory. He’ll draw the Tigers and Astros this week. While you’re here, check out some of this week’s other available speedsters.

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Well, I’d like to start off this post by saying I’m sorry to the folks in Razzball nation who picked up Cameron Maybin last week in their weekly leagues. He’ll be out for quite a while with a PCL tear to his knee. In the words of the Guru on Twitter, “This time wasn’t different, Mike…oops”. Maybin promised me the 8 o’clock rez at Dorsia, but then he slipped me an extra lithium and I ended up at Barcadia. Worst of all, in my weekly league, it was too late to swap him when the injury news came out. Next thing I knew it was lunch at Texarkana. Sheesh. Onward and upward, they say, and this week we have some new faces in the mix, including Gregor Blanco, who seems to have found a hot bat since stepping in for the injured Angel Pagan. Check him out and some of the other base stealing threats this week, but you’ll have to excuse me, I have a lunch meeting in 20 minutes with Cliff Huxtable at the Four Seasons.

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It’s always nice when you come off of the DL to find yourself in a series at Coors, but Cameron Maybin really came out of the chute with a bang. With 4 steals in 3 games through Saturday, he jumped right back on the radar as a rosterable outfielder in mixed leagues with his performance. Of course, here at Razzball he was already on your radar from Grey’s BUY on Friday and my post from two weeks ago in which I said “15-20 SB ROS isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and I’m stashing him with cautious optimism”…and that’s me quot- well, you know the rest. Over the past three seasons (2011-2013), Maybin is 13th on the MLB leaderboard in stolen bases with 69. He has been caught only 16 times and his 7.6 Spd rating, a metric developed by Bill James to measure a player’s base running, is 7th overall in that span. Even in a pretty disappointing 2012 campaign, he managed 26 steals. The next few weeks will be a test for both Maybin’s hitting as well as his base running. Three of the Padres’ next four opponents (D’Backs, Dodgers, and Braves) are in the top ten in MLB for fewest steals allowed. I’ve always liked Maybin, and wrote about him as a potential bounce-back for 2013 in my very first article for Razzball. For right now, though, my recommendation would be to pick him up if you are in need of an outfielder, without expecting much help outside of the SB category. His speed is comparable to fellow SAGNOFs Ben Revere or Juan Pierre but he’s got the most upside of the bunch.

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When Josh Rutledge was optioned to Triple A, I got burned. Whether he can figure it out and make his way back up to the majors remains to be seen, but what made things worse was that the guy replacing him had one of those names I had never heard of nor knew how to pronounce. DJ LeMahieu sounds like he should be a forward for the Canucks, but he is now the Rockies’ starting second basemen. Despite an underwhelming .267 average and only 3 runs scored, he’s got a pair of steals in the last seven days and has found his way onto my radar. LeMahieu never hit below .300 in the minors and had stolen 8 bags in 33 games prior to his call-up this year. I don’t think he’s an add in 12 team mixed leagues or shallower, but in deep leagues and obviously NL-only leagues he has value. He’s got a tough match-up against Cincy to start the week, but then he gets to face the Padres for a four-game set. It will be interesting to see if he can net a steal or two against San Diego, one of the top ten teams in stolen bases allowed.

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How quickly things change. Last week, it was looking like Adam Eaton was close to returning from an elbow injury and A.J. Pollock would be the odd man out in the Arizona outfield. Well, one setback later, Pollock looks good to go as a part of the four-man Arizona outfield and he’s worth watching in deeper formats. He’ll get starts against lefties and maybe more, so he’s a guy that you’ll have to play the matchups with unless he really catches fire. Meanwhile, Adam Eaton is probably not going to do much in the way of baseball for about three weeks and probably won’t be fantasy relevant until the end of June at the earliest. He was so close to returning too. Kind of like crashing your car with one payment left. We’ll take a look at matchups for all the members of the stolen base leaderboard for Week 9. As always, all players listed are owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues and Sunday’s stats are not included.

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