Kolten Wong has received the Grey seal of approval from the BUY column, but I’d like to take a minute to talk about his wheels, considering he’s owned in less than 20 percent of ESPN leagues. He’s hitting higher in the batting order for the Cardinals now, and has stolen three bases in the past week. He’s also hot, riding a six-game hit streak entering today. Wong stole 26 and 23 bases in the last two years respectively, so 20 steals is a safe bet, especially if he can gain some more at-bats from hitting towards the top of the lineup. Last year at Triple-A Memphis, Wong stole 20 bags and was only caught once. He’ll draw the Brewers and Nationals this week. Both have been stingy in allowing stolen bases so far this season, so Wong might not have an easy go of it. Over the Wong haul, though, I like him for 20 steals the rest of the way. Here’s some of this week’s steals plays…

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As of 4/10, these middle infielders are all owned in less than 10% of ESPN leagues, and contingent on the context, I would conditionally own them all. And that’s how you alliterate league format dependency.

While they’re ranked by %ownership, I’ll furnish my zeal for each:

#1 – Kolten Wong (6.5%) – He’s only 23, so give him a little time. He’s already got a top-20 contact rate this year and has impressively walked more than he struck out. He’s batting .276 with a .382 OBP and 2 stolen bases. I’m not sure why he’s owned < 10%. Mark Ellis (DL/knee) and Daniel Descalso won’t consume that much time away from him. Very soon, he’ll be owned in over 10% of leagues, so make that happen sooner than later. 70+ runs near the top of that lineup with a 7HR-45RBI-20SB-.270BA is playable at MI.

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Ryan Braun hit his first two home runs off Kyle Kendrick — you know, that Kendrick sure sticks out for a sore thumb — and then Braun emancipated a third ball off Lincoln. Three homers a mere two days after saying he was not able to swing normally is quite the 180. It’s like when Mickey Rourke is one of the best actors — in movies like Diner and Angel Heart — only to have a string of flops, terrible plastic surgery and then he reemerges in The Wrestler. Or Travolta’s career is in the toilet after Saturday Night Fever, dealing with whispers about his bedroom predilections and then he does Pulp Fiction. Doing The McConaughey while McConaughey was still ruining his career. A few years later, Mickey Rourke has another string of flops and his face still scares small children; Travolta does Battlefield Earth and now whispers about his religion have joined the other whispers. (Be forewarned, McConaughey.) So, will Braun now reemerge as the top hitter in the game and hold his Pulp Fiction/Wrestler renaissance or will his thumb continue to haunt him while he commits to Wild Hogs II: Where The Wild Hogs Are? All I know is he was complaining about his thumb a full nine months after he first hurt it, so it doesn’t seem likely to disappear that fast. His value may be even higher now, but I’d still be concerned. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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Make sure you check out Scott Evans’ Prospect ETA’s for a sense of potential high impact call-ups. I’m going to focus on prospects and MLB sleepers beyond the obvious list of prospects. If I list a prospect, that said prospect should have the opportunity to make an impact this year, and in my opinion, have the minor league numbers/skill to translate well enough.

My ‘translate’ for fantasy purposes is simple: do they make enough contact (how often they put the ball in play); what is their approach to putting the ball in play (balls in play mix i.e. linedrives, flyballs, groundballs, HR/FB, infield flyballs, etc.); and what power/speed potential do they have from a fantasy counting stats perspective. Speed won’t have much of a weight in this post though.

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There just wasn’t enough time in the preseason for me to show you my RCL team, so I’m putting it in the podcast post. Now, prepare yourself for the most confusing lede paragraph ever. For the podcast, Rudy and I went over some preseason picks for Most Valuable Fantasy Hitter, Pitcher, Rookie of the Year, Fantasy Bust and the player who looks primed to breakout that won’t actually breakout. Finally, Larry Schechter joined Nick to talk about some of his do’s and don’ts to win fantasy leagues. Now, for the RCL league, Rudy and I decided to do something different do this year and have half of our league made up of writers from our site and the other half from friends of other sites. Let’s call it a Family & Friends league; that doesn’t sound derivative of anyone else’s expert fantasy league. (I was gonna call it Friends & Family, but that DID sound derivative.) The Razzball writers joining me were: Rudy, Jay(Wrong), Sky, Tehol, Prospect Scott, Nick the Podcast Host and Scooby. Okay, I made up the Scooby name, but it didn’t sound that out of place, did it? The ‘perts from other sites participating were: Dalton Del Don from Yahoo, Brad Johnson from Fangraphs, Ryan Carey of Mastersball, Paul Singman of Baseball Prospectus and Tim McLeod of RotoRob. The draft went off without a hitch until I opened the draft window and saw Rudy had the first pick. *shakes fist* Ruuuuuudy!!! Anyway, here’s the Razzball Podcast (now with my RCL team recap):

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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…

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There’s SAGNOF – now there’s BGLIF or BABIPGLIF.

B(ABIP)GLIF = BABIP’s Got Little Face. As you delve into players for your drafts and you see a surprising glorious batting average from last year, ensure you validate it. Use Razzball Fantasy Baseball BABIP vs. Average Comparison. I’ll point out some sleepers below using this method.

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Like the 2nd basemen to target post, this is necessary. You want to take flyers on late middle infielders. I like a few top shortstops this year: Segura, Desmond and Andrus, but if you don’t get them, don’t sweat it and definitely don’t ‘panic reach’ for another shortstop just because you feel like you need one. This is a (legal-in-all-countries-except-Lichtenstein) supplement to the top 20 shortstops for 2014 fantasy baseball. The players listed have a draft rank after 200 on other sites. Click on the player’s name where applicable to read more and see their 2014 projections. Anyway, here’s some shortstops to target for 2014 fantasy baseball:

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For a seemingly decent leadoff hitter, Angel Pagan gets very little press.  Fantasypros.com has him ranked 246th overall, ESPN has him as the 156th best hitter.  Both rankings have him placed near players like David Freese, Chris Carter, Adam LaRoche, and Alcides Escobar.

Outside of his injuries, Pagan has been exactly what a leadoff hitter should be: getting on base often and have the potential to steal.  In 2012, his last full season, he ranked 66th in OBP among qualified hitters.  That is above players like Jason Heyward, Ian Desmond, Jason Kipnis, and Adam Jones.  If his 2013 numbers were extrapolated to a full season, he would have ranked 73rd.

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As spring training takes off, we, the wonderful people of Razzball, thought it would be a good idea to look into some intra-team rivalries.  What positions are a lock?  What positions are being fought over?  What positions will they hire me to fill-in for (second base Blue Jays, I’m looking at you)? Find out as the second part of this series will focus on AL Central… (You can check out the NL East Spring Training Preview here.)

Please, blog, may I have some more?