Since being traded to the Royals ten days ago, Emilio Bonifacio has seven steals – more than any player in baseball in that span. Obviously, he’s benefited from more playing time in his new home. He’s started all but one game since the trade and while he hasn’t exactly contributed much in the other fantasy categories, he’s been piling up the steals. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise since the Royals are near the top of the league in both stolen bases (112) and success rate (83%). Bonifacio has always had the wheels too. Just last year he stole 30 bases in just 64 games played. His dual eligibility at second base and outfield is a huge boost to his fantasy value. This week he’ll draw the Twins and Blue Jays. The Twins are stingy against the stolen base, but Boni should have some success on the base paths against his former team later in the week. Here are some other speedsters worth a look:

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It’s that time of year. With just a couple of weeks until rosters expand in September, it’s time for players in re-draft leagues to start considering prospect call-ups. Billy Hamilton is by far the best bet for a steals impact in the final month of the season. Entering the weekend, he had 70 stolen bases in just 110 games. Check out what Razzball’s prospect whisperer Scott Evans had to say about him recently: “Need to make a late push in steals before year’s end? Billy Hamilton will soon help in that regard, and he won’t need regular plate appearances to do so.” And Evans knows his shizz. Billy Hamilton is fast. He could enter games as a pinch runner on first base and be on third base before you swallow that sip of stadium suds. In addition to holding the MiLB steals record and posting sick times from base to base, Hamilton chugs through Mountain Dews like Dusty Baker chews through toothpicks. He’s one of the players I’m most excited about watching if he gets the call this September. The fly in the ointment continues to be the Reds’ reluctance to place him on the 40-man roster. As of Friday they were still undecided, and that’s important information to keep an eye on. To be honest, the Reds would be foolish not to use him as a weapon, but I’m not running any major league teams last time I checked. As we’ve done all year long, let’s look at who is out there and ready to contribute now in the steals category:

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B.J. Upton is having one hell of a bad year and he recently hit bottom with an adductor injury that sidelined him through the All Star Break. There were some whispers during the first half of the season that the Braves were going to send him down to figure things out, but it never happened. The injury may have been a blessing in disguise, though. Maybe it gave him the time and the means to work on issues that he otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to if he had stayed healthy. His ownership dropped to around 40% at one point, but it’s recently surged back up due to a handful of multi -hit efforts since his return and 3 steals. For our purposes here, the steals are what I want to focus on. There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news is that the three stolen bases since his return came against the Phillies and Nationals, two of the worst teams in baseball at controlling the running game. So, before we get too excited and decide that BJ is going to rattle off 20 steals over the last 6 weeks of the season, just keep that in mind. Ready for the good news? He gets the Phillies and Nationals again this week! I wouldn’t be surprised to see him swipe a couple more with those match-ups. Here are some other speedsters I think might help your stolen base numbers this week:

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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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Chad Gaudin shut down the Diamondbacks last night, pitching seven innings, surrendering no runs while giving up just three hits, walking none and striking out eight for his fourth win. Throwing just 92 pitches, he could have easily come out for the eighth but Manager Bruce Bochy opted to go with four relievers instead, because, well that’s the most Bruce Bochy thing ever. Anyway, hello there, Gaudin. Have we met? You say you shook my hand while I was unconscious? Strange, but I’ll allow it. Poor Chad seems like an easy target ever since the news broke that he was arrested for lewdness in Vegas after groping an unconscious woman on a stretcher. That doesn’t sound that…bad….right? Errr. I don’t know the whole story, but perhaps he was trying to resuscitate her? Besides, we all get a case of “the honks” every now and again, amiright, fellas? Despite his inability to keep his hands to his sides, Chad Gaudin has been able to pitch incredibly effectively since stepping into the rotation. Since June 2, Chad has allowed two runs or fewer in six of his seven starts, with a 2.16 ERA and 35/9 K/BB ratio in that span. Gaudin is still under 20% owned in RCL leagues and he gets a good test versus the Reds next week at home. With a 0.55 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 33.0 innings at AT&T Park, Chad Gaudin is definitely worth a pick up in all leagues where you need help with starting pitching, at least until he gets suspended for groping Pablo Sandoval in the locker room.That’s sexual harassment, Panda!

Here’s what else happened last night in fantasy baseball:

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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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Maybe you’re with me, maybe you’re against me on this one, but the MLB All-Star game is an idea that should be buried alongside B.J. Upton, New Coke, Bic Disposable Underwear, and the XFL. He hate me because I hate the All-Star game. Home field in the World Series, whether it comes down to the Tigers and Cardinals or the Red Sox and the Braves, should not be determined by a matchup between Steve Delabar and Marco Scutaro. Also, it’s fans like this voting guys in, so the teams are not really the “best of the best” to begin with. Yet they are allowed to affect actual teams in real games? Only Bob Costas loves to hear, “Ladies and gentlemen, warming up in the American League bullpen, Brett Cecil!” I look forward to the day when my son tugs on my shirtsleeve and says, “Daddy, tell me the story again how Jason Castro popped up to second in the All-Star game.” And I will turn to him and say, “I have a son? Did your mother work at Applebee’s in 2008?” It’s time we just bury Bud Selig and his “it counts” t-shirt alongside Chris Berman and his Hair in a Can. The All-Star game doesn’t count, it sucks. Bud and Boomer, the people don’t care. Television ratings for the game have been down every year and last year’s game had the worst ever with a 6.8 rating. Know what pulls in those kind of numbers? Sharknado. There must be a way to work that into the Razzball glossary. Erasmo Ramirez sharknado’d my ERA this week!” Not sure, but that phrase may have already jumped the… *now back to our regularly scheduled rant* The first televised All-Star game in 1967 pulled in a 25.6 rating. Keep in mind that in 1967 there was one nationally televised baseball game a week, smoking was good for you and a kid’s favorite toy was Hasbro’s Stick with a Nail in it. Times, they are changin’. Sing it Zimmy.

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Jarred Cosart was fantastical last night in his season debut pitching 8.0 shutout innings, and surrendering just 2 hits and walking three. The rookie carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning before Ben Zobrist spoiled his fun with a 1-out single. The 23-year-old had the longest no-hit bid in a debut since 1972, and he was the first Astro to go eight scoreless in his major league debut. The Astros big get from Philly in their Hunter Pence trade, Cosart has a mid-90′s fastball and a sick curve he used to baffle the TB hitters last night as he shut down the scorching hot Rays who had won eight in a row. The fact that Cosart was facing off with Tampa’s ace David Price, makes his feat even more impressive. Brandon Barnes also impressed, making a circus catch in the outfield to preserve Jarred’s no-no in the sixth, but who cares, that won’t help your fantasy team. Jarred actually had a chance at the complete game shutout in this one and came out for the ninth, but was pulled for Jose Veras after walking the first batter. Naturally, after the game the Astro’s sent him down to AAA, but I imagine after this outing he should be back before the end of the month. If he were to get recalled after the All-Star break, he would likely face the Oakland A’s next week. Grey told you to BUY him yesterday, so obviously he foretold this start (he’s a wiiitch!), but Cosart is certainly worth stashing in deep mixed and all AL-Only leagues. With talented arms like Cosart, Appel, Lyles and Peacock, the Astro’s have assembled an impressive “future stars” pitching staff, and if games like this are any indication, we won’t be making fun of the Houston Lastros for much longer.

Here’s what else happened in fantasy baseball last night:

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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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