I’ve read a few pieces recently about how stolen bases are down across MLB. As long as steals are a category they will have value, and if steals are indeed down compared to previous years, then they just become that much more valuable. The guy who is currently second in all of baseball in steals, Juan Pierre, is still owned in less than half of the leagues out there. This is kind of confusing to me. If we hit the wire to grab a guy who is in line for saves, or we’ll stream a pitcher hoping for a win, shouldn’t we grab Juan Pierre?
When the going gets tough the tough get going, and finding steals is not always easy to do. You need the player to 1) have playing time/at bats, 2) get on base 3) have the opportunity to steal 4) have the talent to do it, and 5) have a good matchup against a pitcher and/or catcher that isn’t likely to throw him out. Finding all these things is difficult, which makes guys with raw speed alone not necessarily a lock for steals. Just look at last week’s focus, Eric Young Jr. He’s got speed, but if he doesn’t play or he makes bad baserunnning decisions, he can’t steal. I put together some data that may be helpful in determining which players could be successful on the basepaths this week. All of these players are owned in less than 50% of ESPN and Y! fantasy baseball leagues and have at least 3 steals on the season so far. Statistics from Sunday’s games are not reflected in the table.
|Juan Pierre OF||10||1||51||@SD, @LAD||6||3||3|
|Rajai Davis OF||6||1||26||@TB, @BOS||7||3||4|
|Jordan Schafer OF||5||1||23||@CIN, @SF||7||1||6|
|Jarrod Dyson OF||5||1||5||@BAL, NYY||6||2||4|
|Chris Young (DL) OF||5||0||21||N/A (DL)||–||–||–|
|AJ Pollock OF||5||1||26||@LAD, PHI||7||4||3|
|Jordany Valdespin OF||4||1||27||CWS, PIT||6||4||2|
|Nate Schierholtz OF||4||1||40||TEX, STL, @WAS||6||2||4|
|Will Venable OF||4||1||23||MIA, @TB||6||1||5|
|Drew Stubbs OF||4||0||38||OAK, @DET||7||1||6|
|Kelly Johnson 2B, OF||4||2||28||TOR, SD||7||4||3|
|Craig Gentry OF||4||1||21||@CHC, @MIL, @HOU||6||1||5|
|Michael Saunders OF||4||0||28||@PIT, OAK||5||1||4|
|Brandon Barnes OF||3||1||24||LAA, TEX||6||2||4|
|Justin Ruggiano OF||3||0||29||@SD, @LAD||6||3||3|
|Aaron Hicks OF||3||1||31||@BOS, BAL||7||2||5|
|Munenori Kawasaki SS||3||1||26||@TB, @BOS||7||3||4|
|Andy Dirks OF||3||0||23||@WAS, CLE||5||0||5|
|Dee Gordon SS||3||0||6||ARI, MIA||6||2||4|
Key: SB– Stolen Bases, CS-Caught Stealing, SBO-Stolen Base Opportunites (number of PA when the runner was on first or second with the next base open), G -#Games Scheduled through Sunday, including #vs lefties (LHP) and #vs righties (RHP)
Teams highlighted in green are in the Top 5 of MLB in most stolen bases allowed. Teams highlighted in red are in the Top 5 in least stolen bases allowed.
Playing time and opportunities are important when trying to squeak out extra steals, which is why I provided the number of games on the upcoming schedule for the week as well as the number of games versus left handers and right handers for those players who may be in a platoon situation. For example, I’d love to recommend Rajai Davis going against two green light teams this week, but with 4 of the 7 games scheduled against RHP, you could end up watching him sit more often than you’d like. Aside from platoons, it’s also useful to know the number of starts by LHP since it is generally harder to steal against lefties than righties.
Given the scarcity of steals, there is no reason not to pick up Juan Pierre if he’s on your wire and you have a slot for him. He’s second only to Jacoby Ellsbury in SB and he’ll continue to run. He’s got 4 more than the next waiver wire option (Rajai Davis), a great CS%, and the most stolen base opportunities due to his steady playing time and decent on base skills. (Or maybe it’s that the bases are always empty in Miami). The veteran achieved a milestone last week, stealing the 600th base of his career.
Drew Stubbs also has seven games on the schedule this week. While he is only hitting .226 in 53 AB against RHP this year, 3 of his 4 steals have come with a righty on the mound and he’ll likely face 6 of them this coming week.
This list is occupied mainly by outfielders, but there are two middle infielders who are worth watching. Kelly Johnson and Munenori Kawasaki are widely available and have shown some speed. Of the two, Johnson will most likely provide more fantasy value going forward.
The Dodgers recalled Dee Gordon from AAA Albuquerque. It’s yet to be seen exactly how they’ll use him, but he went 2 for 4 on Saturday night with 2 steals and a triple. Speed freaks will be drooling over him on the waiver wire. He’ll still need to show that he can get on base consistently at the major league level, but he’s a no-brainer for steals help. His natural speed makes him worth snagging and he’ll have favorable matchups this week with the D-Backs and Marlins both in the top third of the league in SB allowed.
AJ Pollock had a slam and legs on Saturday night against the Padres, but I’m worried. Short term, he’s got 7 games coming up this week and five steals already on the season, which is good, but the phrases “will soon cut into his playing time” and “demotion for regular at bats” have started to spring up in his news blurbs, and that doesn’t bode well for his fantasy value going forward, especially with Adam Eaton eventually coming back into the mix at some point.
Jarrod Dyson may look tempting given that he has five steals on the season already, but he just doesn’t play enough to warrant a pickup right now, and he’s got tough matchups this week anyway (BAL, NYY).
Eric Young Jr. had another productive day on Saturday, but I have to put him here because he played a lot less than I thought he would last week. He didn’t make this table as he only had 2 SB entering Sunday with 4 CS. Grey said it was his mission to get him in the lineup in last week’s BUY, which means it won’t be long until he plays every day and steals 2-3 bags a game. Yes, I have that kind of faith in Grey’s powers of suggestion.