You’re traveling through another dimension — a dimension not only of coaching decisions and slow catchers but of plate appearances. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of your lineup slots. That’s a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the stolen base zone!
Not too long ago on this very site, I wrote an article about which catchers had the slowest pop times and worst caught stealing percentages.
Even less long ago I wrote about which team managers allowed their players to attempt the most stolen bases.
Now comes my honors thesis at the Grey Albright School for Fools: which players each week are on a team run by a manager who likes to steal bases AND are facing a catcher who isn’t great at throwing out runners!
- Milwaukee Brewers: Craig Counsell has been on the higher side of stolen base attempts in his career with the Brewers so you can bet that he’ll be getting his team running in their opening series against the Twins’ Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers. Garver was 28th of 34 in my catcher caught-stealing rankings and Ryan Jeffers was dead last. Who could benefit: Kolten Wong. He’s probably Kolten-gone in your 12-team leagues, but in deeper leagues you could benefit early from Counsell’s freewheeling and dealing ways. In 2019 Wong stole 24 bases with his now rival Cardinals. Avisail Garcia could be in line for some starts with Jackie Bradley Jr.’s Opening Day status in doubt. Garcia is apparently looking quite svelte this spring and has been getting on base (.340) pretty well so far. The Brewers then go on to face the Cubs and Cardinals who have two of the better catcher arms in Willson Contreras and Yadier Molina, so be ready to show off your fantasy sprint speed by cutting and running if necessary.
- Seattle Mariners: The king of stolen base attempts Scott Servais has two good match-ups and one average one in the opening 1.5 weeks. The opening series against the Giants should see Buster Posey whose 2.00 pop time was close to league average, followed by Yasmani Grandal’s 2.08, ending with Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers who I mentioned above in the Brewers blurb. Who Could Benefit: J.P. Crawford. Crawford has looked…interesting this spring. He’s got a 12:8 BB:K ratio — hey now! But only has 5 hits in 18 games — oh wow… The 3 SBs are what I’m looking at though. I think he’ll make more contact than the awful numbers he has so far (or he’s out of the league) and in the less pivotal bottom-third of the lineup, he could provide a little mayhem on the basepaths, especially if that BB rate holds up.
- Washington Nationals: Manager Dave Martinez was one of the managers I told you to count on for letting his boys run buck wild out there and he has two solid match-ups in the Mets and Braves. Who could benefit: Trea Turner, Victor Robles, and Juan Soto are all obviously long gone in your league, so if you’re looking for a sleeper for stolen bases you could take a chance on Josh Harrison. Yea, Josh Harrison — I know — I thought he was out of the league too, but with Carter Kieboom shuttled off to AAA, third base is Harrison’s to own in our nation’s capital. Harrison’s always been a good bet for a solid batting average and this spring he’s been doing more of the same — 15 hits in 36 ABs. He only has 1 SB and 1 CS — but it’s the fact that he is running that I like to see. He’ll face off against James McCann who was 25th of 34 in pop time in 2019, Travis d’Arnaud who was 12th in pop time — but his 22.37% caught stealing percentage was below league average in 2019, and Will Smith had the same pop time as d’Arnaud, but only threw out 22.92% of the runners who ran on him.
- Colorado Rockies: It’s not going to be pretty in Colorado this year, but there’s still some sneaky speed fantasy value to be mined here. Bud Black has had a higher stolen base attempt percentage than the league average in each of the last 3 seasons and there’s no reason trend will stop in 2021. Who Could Benefit: Sam Hilliard. This boy sure is a running fool. He had two 30+ SB seasons and two 20+ SB seasons in the minors. Hilliard will always strike out far too much (36.8% last year,) and has no signs of slowing down this spring (42.8%.) But he does have 4 stolen bases already to go along with it. Maybe if you drafted a high-average guy like D.J. LeMahieu you can stomach the Hilliard batting average hit later in your draft for the bonus SBs.
- Kansas City Royals: Manager Mike Matheny had the fourth-highest SB% last season and the Royals are facing two catchers with the slowest pop-times Jose Trevino: (2.07) and Yasmani Grandal (2.08.) They also get Roberto Perez who had the 8th fastest, but don’t look at that! Don’t! Who Could Benefit: Michael A. Taylor. I wrote about him in my last article about deep stolen base sleepers, but just to touch on it again for his career he’s hovered around a 29 ft/s sprint speed which has him around the 90th percentile in that figure. But running fast has never been his problem — making contact with the ball which would necessitate running fast has been. His XBA has never been over .230 for his career. If I was reading this article out loud I would insert a very long pause here for dramatic effect — but since you’re reading this in your head — this sentence will have to serve that purpose. MENTAL PAUSE OVER! Taylor has his own personal Last Chance U going on in Kansas City. His .667 BB/K rate this spring is pretty good considering his career rate is a paltry 0.22. Were gains made? Is he worth adding? Is it just spring training? All these questions and more will be answered in two weeks when SAGNOF returns with the STEALS portion of the SAGNOF formula.