For many fantasy league owners, the stolen base category represents somewhat of an afterthought. Maybe you draft 1 speedy outfielder who can steal bases and also score a few runs as a function of hitting leadoff, but you quickly forget about stolen bases after you have picked up Michael Bourn. While drafting purely for speed probably will not serve you all that well in the long term, the approach has some merit. Consider the MLB leaders in stolen bases from 2011.
- Michael Bourn (61) – .294/.349/.386/.734
- Coco Crisp (49) – .264/.314/.379/.693
- Brett Gardner (49) – .259/.345/.369/.713
- Ichiro Suzuki (40) – .272/.310/.335/.713
- Cameron Maybin (40) – .264/.323/.393/.716
- Matt Kemp (40) – .324/.399/.586/.986
- Emilio Bonifacio (40) – .296/.360/.393/.753
- Drew Stubbs (40) – .243/.321/364/.686
- Jose Reyes (39) – .337/.384/.493/.877
- Jacoby Ellsbury (39) – .321/.376/.552/.928
That last includes many of the highest ranked fantasy players who do not play a corner infield spot. Owners could do worse than to grab a few of these guys. What if you lose out on most of them and still want to contend for some valuable points in the stolen bases category? Keep an eye on the following players who may not make the leader board but may still help you anyway.
- Rajai Davis – Davis won’t impress anybody with his hitting numbers, but he did pull off 34 steals in just 95 games. For owners in large leagues, he might be worth a look for a backup outfielder position.
- Will Venable – Venable managed 26 steals with just 370 at-bats, and he was only caught 3 times. Although his 2011 slash line of .246/.310/.395/.704 was just slightly below his career average, Venable can provide some help as a backup outfielder.
- Jason Bourgeois – JB toiled in the relative obscurity provided by the media blackout that is the Houston Astros, but he should not be omitted from consideration. He compiled 31 steals as a part-time player, and even though he has moved on to the Royals, he still doesn’t need a lot of playing time to accumulate steals.
- Erick Aybar – Aybar’s ability to steal bases (30 in 2011) may be put on display even more in 2012. If the Angels keep him in the #1 or #2 slots, he could be a true table setter for the heart of a much improved lineup. With players like Bobby Abreu changing roles to make way for the team’s new offensive focal point, Albert Pujols, opposing pitchers may find it more difficult this season to stop the running game.
- Alcides Escobar – Like Aybar, Escobar could benefit from being a table setter this season as well. If he gets a lot of his at-bats in the 9th spot, then he may have a full-time green light to unsettle the man on the bump. With Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Eric Hosmer starting to all come of age, Escobar stands to gain some stolen base and subsequently more scoring opportunities.
If you plan to take the “fire and forget” approach to setting your lineup and ignoring it for weeks on end, then the 5 players just mentioned probably aren’t for you. However, if you incessantly check for updates on injuries, pitching matchups, projected starting lineups, and other tidbits that may provide an advantage, then one or more of these guys may be just right for you.
For owners in leagues with 12 or more teams, you may have to draft one of these players, and it may pay to know the difference between .250 hitters. If you truly believe that “speed does not slump”, then keep these names in mind.