Don’t pay for steals. Why? Because they can be found on the wire during the season. As an example, the leaders in stolen bases, from 2009-2011:
Michael Bourn – 174
Carl Crawford – 125
Juan Pierre – 125
Mystery Man – 125
Brett Gardner – 122
Brett Gardner hasn’t played since April 17, isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break, and is owned in nearly 81% of ESPN leagues and 68% of Yahoo leagues; Mystery Man is owned in just over 7% of ESPN leagues, 9% of Yahoo leagues. For another comparison, let’s look at the two, using the same 2009-2011 time frame:
Gardner: 1441 PA, .268 AVG, 15 HR, 232 R, 106 RBI, 122 SB, ADP: 97
Mystery: 1331 PA, .279 AVG, 9 HR, 175 R, 129 RBI, 125 SB, ADP: undrafted
Cutting to the chase, Mystery Man is week 11′s Creeper, Rajai Davis. Since Eric Thames’ demotion to AAA on 5/29, Davis has received regular playing time in LF, and he hasn’t disappointed: in a mere 25 plate appearances, he’s swiped 6 bags without being caught. Add in his 40 PA from May, and in his last 65 PA Davis has amassed 11 SB, 4 HR, 12 R, and 9 RBI to go with a .262 AVG. His production has been good for a Razzball Player Rater ranking of 19th and 36th in the last 7 and 20 days, respectively, for 12 team ESPN leagues.
While you can’t count on Davis’ HR output to continue at that pace — his HR/FB rate is 15.4%, more than double his previous career high of 6% — he should still be a solid source of counting stats while batting at the bottom of a potent Jays lineup. To give an idea of what batting 9th for the Blue Jays can do for your counting stats, if you extrapolate Davis’ numbers into a full 600 PA season, he’d end up with 120 R, 84 RBI, and 84 SB. Unsustainable, in all likelihood, yes, but a bump from his current .253 AVG could allow him to continue to produce in multiple categories. Our BABIP v AVG chart pegs Davis for an expected AVG of .296, and there is reason to be optimistic when it comes to such an increase: Davis’ BABIP is at a career low .275, and his batted ball profile suggests it should be in for an upward adjustment. Line drive, groundball, and fly ball rates are all in line with Davis’ MLB averages, and his infield flyball rate, the bane of BABIPs everywhere, is 7.7%, better than in any other season and vastly better than his 14.3% career clip. He should see his BABIP move towards his career .318 total, and if he falls into a small amount of fortune, he could push beyond it.
He’ll get 6 games at home this week, and since becoming a member of the Blue Jays, Davis has hit .268 and chipped in 22 SB, 37 R and 25 RBI in 209 AB at the Rogers Centre. Of his three toughest opponents this week, he stands the best chance to do damage against Cliff Lee, as Davis has hit lefties to the tune of a .286/.346/.416 triple slash in 580 career AB. Stephen Strasburg will prove to be Rajai’s biggest challenge, as St. Rasburg possesses a 1.89 FIP in 87.1 career IP against RHH. None of Kyle Kendrick (7.8% swinging strike rate in 2012; 5.1% career), Chien-Ming Wang (5.3%; 6.5%), or Vance Worley (6.4%; 5.8%) owns swing-and-miss stuff, and since our Creeper likes to swing the bat often, making contact and utilizing his speed should prove to be to Davis’ benefit.
Those looking for some SAGNOF action out of their 5th OF/U slot should do well with picking up and plugging in Rajai Davis this week. For owners decimated with injuries or a bunch of cold bats, week 8′s Creeper, Will Venable, will be playing all 6 of his games on the road this week. Depending on how the Mariners configure their rotation, Venable will be facing 4 or 5 RHP during this stretch. He’s owned in 2% of ESPN and 4% of Yahoo leagues.