One of the biggest obstacles that has Fantasy owners in a frenzy this preseason is finding speed. Billy Hamilton used to be one of the most vilified players in Fantasy Baseball, but now his ability to regularly steal 50 bases, has become a rare commodity and his ADP is soaring. According to NFBC ADP, he is the 12th outfielder being taken in drafts, and he was the third pick of the fourth round in the recent 15-team LABR Mixed League Draft. With the overall decline in the number of stolen bases in recent years, I have no problem with you attacking the category earlier than you have in the past. It makes sense. However, if you get to the later rounds of your draft and you realize that you’ve neglected stolen bases, all is not lost. The following players should be available for you in a typical 12- to 15-team Fantasy Baseball draft, and all are capable of stealing at least 15 bases this season.
Jarrod Dyson, OF, Seattle Mariners, NFBC ADP 269.90
Dyson has stolen at least 30 bases in four of the last five seasons, while largely playing in a part-time role. After posting a career high .340 OBP in 2016, he is expected to bat leadoff for the Mariners this season, and that should give him the opportunity to help Fantasy owners in the runs category. Although he’s had issues hitting left-handed pitching, Dyson has still maintained a respectable .260 career batting average. Obviously, his biggest asset is his speed, and with an 85 percent career stolen base success rate, he certainly knows how to make the most of his quickness. He’s available very late in drafts. In the recent 2017 LABR Mixed league draft, Dyson was taken with the last pick of the 16th round. It’s hard to predict exactly how many at-bats Dyson will get this season, but he’s very likely to get enough playing time at the top of the batting order to once again exceed the 30-steal plateau.
Tim Anderson, Shortstop, Chicago White Sox, NFBC ADP 165.94
Anderson posted a .283/.306/.432 triple slash line and stole 10 bases in the 99 games he played for the White Sox last season. The 49 bags he swiped for the White Sox’s Double-A affiliate in 2015 is proof that Anderson has enough raw talent to become a premiere base stealer. However, Anderson will need to do a better job of getting on base if those elite stats are going to carry over to his big league career. In typical rookie fashion, he swung at too many pitches outside of the strike zone last season. If he works on his plate discipline and learns to take a walk (3 percent 2016 walk rate), Anderson’s OBP should improve, and so should his stolen base totals. Batting second in the White Sox lineup with Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier hitting behind him should allow Anderson to help you in the runs category, as well. He did demonstrate some moderate power in the minor leagues, but before that translates to the major leagues, he’s going to have to lower last season’s 54.3 percent groundball rate. Anderson should be there for you in the 13th to 14th round of a typical 12-team Fantasy draft. I expect an approximate .275/.325/.400 triple slash line with 25 to 30 steals for the upcoming 2017 season.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies, NFBC ADP 300.77
Hernandez, who was a perennial 30-steal commodity in the minors, is expected to be the Phillies’ lead-off hitter this season. He should help you in the runs category, and if Hernandez can replicate last season’s 10.6 walk rate and .371 OBP, he should also have plenty of opportunities to steal bases. In order to take advantage of those opportunities, he’s going to have to improve his underwhelming 62.7 career success rate on his stolen base attempts. He won’t hit for power, but Hernandez has hit for average throughout his professional career. I’m also encouraged by the fact that his plate discipline improved as last season wore on (15.7 second half walk rate). Drafting a middle infielder who has the potential to provide you with upwards of 30 steals in the 20th round or later represents some good value.
Rajai Davis, OF, Oakland A’s, NFBC 209.27
Davis is thumbing his nose at Father Time. At 35 years of age, he still had the fourth-most stolen bases in baseball (43). Davis continues to find a way to consistently steal bases, despite having a pedestrian .314 OBP. He is expected to start the season as the A’s lead-off hitter, and given his 2016 87.75 percent stolen base success rate, he still should have some Fantasy value based on where he can be selected in drafts. Davis may not lead the AL in stolen bases this season, but he could steal upwards of 30 bases.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays, NFBC 190.97
Kiermaier is well known for his above-average defense, but he is slowly starting to make a name for himself based on his offensive skills, as well. Injuries limited him to just 105 games last season, but Kiermaier posted a career best fly-ball rate (37.6) and hard-hit rate (31.4), which led to a career high in home runs (12). In addition, he also stole the most bases (21) in his major league career. Given a full season’s worth of at-bats in 2017, Kiermaier has some modest upside. He could steal another 20-plus bases and also provide you with moderate power with home run totals in the mid- to upper-teen range.
Ender Inciarte, OF, Atlanta Braves, NFBC 195.31
On average, Inciarte is selected in the 17th round of a typical 12-team draft, but with his ability to help Fantasy players in the batting average, runs and stolen base categories, he can potentially play above his ADP. He got off to a slow start due to a hamstring injury last season, but Inciarte batted .341 and had a .396 OBP after the All-Star break. Overall, he batted .291, scored 85 runs and stole 16 bases. Inciarte’s a player who often gets overlooked in drafts, but if he remains at the top of the Braves order and maintains his above average contact rate (90.3 in 2016), he could be a potential sleeper this season.
Travis Jankowski, OF, San Diego Padres, NFBC 291.17
Jankowski stole 30 bases last season in what amounted to a part-time role. Unfortunately, although rosterresource.com projects him to bat leadoff for the Padres, with a .173 career batting average against lefty pitchers, there’s a chance that he could end up being used as part of a platoon. Although he hit just .245 last season, Jankowski’s 11 percent walk rate helped bump up his OBP to .332 from .245 the prior season. We know he can steal bases. He stole 71 of them while playing for the Padres High-A affiliate during the 2013 season, but based on his potential playing time, Jankowski may be best suited to be owned in leagues that allow you to make daily changes to your Fantasy lineup.
Ben Revere, OF, Los Angeles Angels, NFBC 343.06
Revere missed the first month of the 2016 season due to an oblique injury and never got on track. The career .285 hitter played in just 103 games, batting just .217 and swiping just 14 bags. Revere had previously had five straight seasons with 22 or more stolen bases and at just 28 years of age, Revere still has fresh legs. His issue might be finding regular playing time with the Angels. If he’s given 400 plus at-bats, he still has the potential of stealing upwards of 20 bases.
If you have any comments or questions regarding this article hit me up on Twitter @joegallina. Good luck this season!