It’s back to business as usual with the SAGNOF column after an offseason on Team Preview Island. It was awesome. T. Moore [Ed. Note-- Cheater!] and I sipped little umbrella drinks on the beach while we chatted MLB teams. Before we get to this week’s SAGNOF players, I’m afraid I will have to link bomb you, so heads up.
First, if you’re new here, check out this blast from the past. That’s not a YouTube link, I swear. Here’s the 2013 stolen base data for the best and worst catchers to run against. Here’s the SB Rates vs. SP tool. That’s a great tool for us speed freaks that Rudy came up with. I’ll be referring to it in these posts as the season progresses. Finally, there’s a new steals archive page that will house all of these posts. You can also use it to thumb through some of the offseason articles. There, that wasn’t so bad. Moving forward, it’s time for Week 1. This week’s list includes a young man named Abraham Almonte of the Seattle Mariners, who might be Lloyd McClendon’s new favorite toy…
Abraham Almonte – (@LAA, @OAK)
Just going off last year’s stolen base data, the Angels should continue to be an easy opponent with Chris Iannetta behind the dish. His caught stealing percentage of 19% was well below the league average of 28%. In addition to the favorable matchup, Almonte seems to be McClendon’s favorite leadoff hitter for the time being, which means more at-bats and stolen base opportunities for the young centerfielder. He stole at least 25 bags at each stop in the minor leagues and topped out at 36 in Single-A. If you need reassurance, he already made his first appearance of 2014 in Grey’s buy column.
Rajai Davis – (KC, BAL)
Seems crazy to even list him here, but he’s only owned in 10% of ESPN leagues. He’s been dubbed the King of SAGNOF, and it will be hard to lose that title batting leadoff for the Tigers. During the offseason Brad Ausmus discussed wanting the whole team to run more, and Davis won’t need much motivation to do that. To put it into perspective, last year he stole 45 bags in just 360 plate appearances. That’s about seven less steals than Jacoby Ellsbury in about 270 fewer plate appearances. Does he have issues vs. right-handed pitching? Yes. But that’s why
God Rudy created Platoony-Tunes. This week he’s got a tougher draw against Perez and Wieters.
A.J. Pollock – (SF, @COL)
Pollock is a personal favorite of mine this year as a sleeper. He’s more than just SAGNOF as well. Pollock could give you 8-10 homers and 15-20 steals hitting leadoff for the Diamondbacks and there is no real threat to his playing time in center. He stole as many as 36 in the minors and last year he had 12 steals in 15 attempts. He’s currently owned in less than 1% of ESPN leagues so he’s there for the taking if you are looking for a 5th outfielder to roll the dice on.
Alcides Escobar – (@DET, CWS)
I’m a little surprised to see Escobar go undrafted in so many leagues this year. Either shortstop is really deep, or there is some negativity pointed his direction. While he did have a down year, he’s still a nice SAGNOF option. He’s not going to hit any worse than he did last year. In fact, with some BABIP help, he should be able to hit somewhere in the .250-.260 range again (he doesn’t strike out much either). 2013 was his third straight season of at least 155 games played and he still managed 22 steals despite the lousy OBP and average. He’s only one year removed from a 35-steal season and worth the gamble on a bounce-back. I like the matchup against Detroit this week as well. Alex Avila rocked a 17% CS% in 2013.
Dee Gordon – (@SD, SF)
If Davis is the King of SAGNOF in the outfield, then Gordon is surely the Prince of SAGNOF among middle infielders. We’ve come to accept him for what he is as a hitter (not very good), but with playing time he’s going to steal bases. He stole 59 bases between Triple-A and the majors in 2013. He stole 10 in the majors last season despite hitting just .234 in 38 games. If he sniffs 400 PA, 30-35 stolen bases is a real possibility and that’s valuable coming from your middle infield slot. His ownership in ESPN has already crept up to 33% as the season starts, so if you need some speed and he is staring back at you from the waiver wire, we would suggest you buy.
DJ LeMahieu – (@MIA, @ARI)
DJ spun Rutledge to the minors thanks to his defense and that means he’s going to be the everyday second baseman in Colorado. He’ll draw the Marlins to start the week, but finishes up with a toughie against the Diamondbacks. Saltalamacchia is now behind the dish in Miami and last year with the Red Sox he only caught base stealers at a 21% clip. LeMahieu won’t kill your batting average (.280 last year), and with 500 PA he could swipe 20-25 bags. He’s admittedly growing on me outside of shallow leagues, especially now that he’s won the job.
Mike’s on Twitter: @643ball