Every year, I play fantasy baseball. Every year I come up with a new strategy. Generally, it consists of eschewing closers in lieu of snagging some extra steals. Every year I come up short. Often this is because I stray from my strategy and take a closer over, say Juan Freakin’ Pierre. Or Jacoby Ellsbury gets soft ribs. But I digress. My point is- speed kills. If you can win the speed categories (3B, SB, R), I maintain that gives you an edge in most leagues. With that in mind, let us look at some players you can get on the cheap that are going to bring you serious return by way of speed…
There are really only two things you need to know about EYJ: 1) He’s eligible at 2B AND OF 2) in limited AB Bill James has him stealing 46 bases. That right there should probably be enough to warrant a late round pick. But you being the cunning fantasy owner you are, you want more, don’t you? I’ll oblige. CAIRO has him stealing 34 bases in similarly few AB’s and ZiPS has him stealing 38. Believe whoever you like, all these projections are for around 460 AB. The lack of at bats is due to the presence of the likes of Ian Stewart and Jose Lopez. I’ll argue til I’m purple (pun intended… you’ll get it) that EYJ’s talent (i.e. SPEED) will give him a leg up (god I’m on fire with the puns) on one of those two. Now I’m no math major but if the wise Bill James thinks the kid can steal 40+, scouts all think he can steal 40+, and he suddenly gets 550 AB rather than 450, don’t you think he could steal 50 bases? Maybe? He’ll be a target of mine in many a draft as a back 2B/MI – but don’t forget he could be Juan Pierre-esque with 40+ steals late in a draft. If you have a distaste for Pierre as I do, Young Jr. is your late round gem. And honestly, if you hadn’t heard about him already, you’re probably gonna miss out on him anyway.
Lorenzo had one of my favorite catches of the year, smashing into the wall in Cincinnati. As a former center fielder, it is pretty ridiculous if you go back and watch the amount of ground Cain covers to pull in the line drive. Seriously, it is worth watching. I’ll wait…
While this has nothing to do with Cain’s fantasy potential, it kind of does. Cain’s speed is going to be a fantasy asset on a bad Royals team. While I will not preach that any KC player not named Butler or Soria is instantly ownable, Cain will steal you some bases. I am not basing this solely off of his spectacular catch, but it honestly gives me reason to believe his speed. Bill James has him at 33 steals in 512 AB. ZiPS has him at 21 in 484. CAIRO thinks he’ll swipe 14 in 433. These all could be low estimates. If Cain plays decently, he could quickly find himself atop the KC order. Heck, even if he bats 9th, he will be getting closer to the 500-600 AB’s than 400-500 range. Given the opportunity, the fantasy community (hah.) seems to think the kid has 30+ SB potential. I agree. And in a young KC lineup, he should be given every opportunity to shine. by shine I mean steal 40 bases. I wouldn’t advise drafting Cain, but monitor his Spring and start of the year. If he can manage to hit between .260 and .270, he could easily steal 30+ bases for you.
I wrote up Bourjos here earlier this month. I suggest you read it, as I am a very talented man. While you’re at it, read about Jose Tabata, if you want some slightly-more-expensive steals. Bourjos figures to get a real shot and given that, is a real threat to steal 30+ bases. So he’s got that goin’ for him… which is nice…
If you know baseball, you know Covelli can fly. The question now is can he get the healthy At-Bats necessary to be a fantasy impact player again. Crisp stole 32 bases in 328 plate appearances in 2010, good for one steal every 10.25 times he stepped up, when he managed to stay healthy enough to play. His base-stealing prowess is undeniable. What could be problematic this upcoming year is playing time, as the A’s OF looks crowded if that’s where the team plans on using Chris Carter and his Thor-Hammer power. But you know what Crisp can do with merely 400 PA – steal 35 bases. Once again I look at projections, none of which have Coco getting 500 AB or even 400 AB, but all seem to think he’ll steal 30 bases- including Bill James, CAIRO, and ZiPS. So what happens if he gets regular at bats at the top of a revitalized A’s lineup? He could steal 45-50 bases and score a ton of runs is the answer. Once again, track his spring training and how the AB’s play out to start the season, but I think Crisp is a heckuva pickup candidate in 2011.
The Angels love to run. Aybar figures to hit first in their lineup, or at least near the top. This seems like a scheme for stealing success (hooray alliteration and rhyme!). Aybar stole 22 bases in 2010 at the bottom of the lineup and has a 32 steal season in AAA just 5 years ago. Bill James undershoots here and has him at 19 steals, as does CAIRO which has him at 18. CBS has him pegged for 20 and I think these are all not taking into account his spot in the lineup and the lineup’s sudden need for speed. Let me be the first to beg Mike Scioscia “LET ERICK RUN!” I don’t care if he spells his name in a silly way, given the green light and top-of-the-order at bats, I bet you a box of jelly donuts Aybar can steal 30 bases. We shall see. But he will most likely be available at the end of drafts and is worth a flier on a MI spot, a notoriously weak position in the later rounds.
Great name, let me start off by saying.
Moving on, did you know that Cliff Pennington stole 29 bases last year even though he only hit .250? I did. But that’s only because of my considerable knowledge on all things irrelevant in all of life except fantasy baseball. 29 bases! Let me do some quick math… carry the 7… that’s one off of a 30 steal campaign! Bill James thinks he can match that in 2011 but I think he can do better. Let me explain. With a better lineup & favorable spot in the order ( doublecheck), a better BABIP (check) and a better base stealing eye that only a year of experience can give you (uh… check), shouldn’t a player be able to increase his steal total? Pennington is likely to be the #9 hitter for the A’s, free to run. His BABIP last year was a decent .296. It is not unreasonable to think he could improve that, even slightly, and get on base more often, increasing to the .260-.270 BA range and an OBP of around .340. These are not unreasonable terms and are only slight improvements on what most projections have him putting forth in 2011. I am optimistic, if for no other reason because I want to believe. Like Aybar, you could do worse than Pennington at the end of a draft to fill your MI spot. I expect 20 steals at a minimum and 35 is not unattainable. Be aware.
So there you have it, some really cheap sources of steals (with an unintentional wild wild west coast skew). More to the point, these guys provide one quality in spades – speed. Speed kills. Speed gets steals. Speed gets runs. These categories make or break fantasy seasons. You want more? Check out my posts about some other cheap-ish speedy guys: Peter Bourjos, Jose Tabata, Will Venable, and Dexter Fowler. I am of the firm belief that speed can be the ‘X’ factor in winning a fantasy season. So draft Juan Pierre if you must. Waste a pick on Nyjer Morgan. Spend hours debating whether or not Rajai Davis will produce in Toronto (he will, but he was too obvious for this post). I’ve outlined for you some guys you can have in the last rounds, as pickups, or for less than a few bucks, if you’re into that auction crap. What you do with the fountain of knowledge that I’ve supplied is up to you. Just remember, in fantasy, you want cheap thrills. And speed kills.