Stolen bases is a category in fantasy that is similar to saves. Usually you draft a “specialist,” like a closer or a speed demon, and they rack up saves or steals. 30 steals is not an easy feat, and its difficult to win a fantasy pool without having a player who can do it for you. What is special about the 10 players I’m going to look at now, is that they offer more to your team than just stolen bases. They produce in 3 or more fantasy categories, which ups their value and projections in the draft. There are other players in the league who have done it and who have the potential to do it. This list is based on the 2012 season.
10. Desmond Jennings: In a full season, Desmond Jennings is a lock to steal 30-40 bases. He has the ability to go over 40, considering in under half a season in 2011 he stole 20. Jennings is now the most dynamic outfielder in Tampa, with Carl Crawford departing after 2010, and BJ Upton departing this off-season. He will be relied upon to not only get on base and score, but also drive in runs. Jennings should be able to hit over 20 home runs, drive in 75 runs, score close to 100 runs, and steal nearly 40 bags. He doesn’t hit for a high batting average, but he does offer value in four of the five major fantasy categories.
9. Alcides Escobar: In his 3rd full Major League season, Escobar finally broke out last year with the Royals. He not only set a career high with 35 stolen bases, but he also showed his ability to hit for a high batting average. He was second among all short stops in batting average, hitting .293. He doesn’t display much power, but his ability to get on base will provide him the opportunity to score 80 or more runs this season, in a lineup that has many run producers. Escobar’s overall stats may not be as good as Jennings, but his value is much higher as a SS. He plays at the thinnest position in fantasy and is able to offer you production in 3 or more categories.
8. Jose Altuve: The lone bright spot in the Astros lineup. He was 5th in hits (167) and batting average (.290) among MLB second basemen, and was first in steals with 33. He accomplished all of that at the age of 22 and has a ton of room to grow. Altuve was also able to score 80 runs on an Astros team that was ranked in the bottom 3 for runs scored in 2012. Playing in Houston has made it very easy for people to forget about Altuve, but he adds a lot of value to your team at 2nd Base or middle infield. He does everything that you want from a middle infield player, and ranks towards the top in all of them.
7. Michael Bourn: He hit for a lower average than Altuve and Escobar, but he did hit more home runs, drive in more runs, score more runs, and, most importantly, stole more bases (42). He set career highs in home runs (9) and RBI’s (57), and came one short of tying his career high in runs scored (96). Bourn has the ability to steal 60 bases (did so in 2009 and 2011). Even in a down season he will steal 40 or more, but it’s his ability to hit for a good average and score close to 100 runs that sets him apart from other speedsters not on this list. He just signed a new contract with the Indians and he’s expected to run wild for new manager, Terry Francona.
6. Jimmy Rollins: He no longer hits for a good batting average, but he produces at the other four major categories in fantasy. Like Escobar, Rollins plays SS, which adds to his value. He was 3rd among all SS in home runs (23), and 5th in RBI (68). Rollins scored over 100 runs and stole 30 bases in 2012. Many people say that Rollins is old and going to decline, but if that’s true, then why was he one of only three MLB players to score 100 runs, steal 30 bases and hit over 20 home runs? Spoiler alert, the other two players are the top two on this list. Rollins is still a great player, and can offer your fantasy team speed, power, and run production. His consistency is why he is high on this list, and why I even considered him at number five.
5. Jason Kipnis: He is one of the more exciting young players in baseball. He’s only had one full year in the MLB, yet he was already able to show why the Indians are so high on him. His average and home runs were a little on the lower side in 2012, but in 2013 they will both be improved. In 2012, Kipnis did manage to steal 31 bases, score 86 runs and drive in 76. All of which are well above the league average for any player, let alone a 2nd baseman. In 2013, I predict a .270 batting average, 23 home runs, 92 runs scored, 83 RBI, and 34 SB. He is going to be one of the best players in all of fantasy to have 30 or more stolen bases. The Indians lineup is much improved with the additions of Swisher, Bourn, Reynolds, and Stubbs, all of whom will have a positive impact on Kipnis.
4. B.J Upton: One of the best base stealers in baseball since he entered the MLB. His speed has helped him to compile 217 stolen bases and 500 runs in his six full MLB seasons. Over the last three years he has began to show consistent power at the plate, as well as the ability to drive in runs. Last year he put it all together with 28 home runs, 79 runs, and 78 runs batted in. He only hit .246 but added 31 SB. He was able to do that on a Rays team that struggled all season to score. Now that he is in Atlanta and in one of the NL’s best lineups, he should be able to improve upon his numbers. I expect 30 home runs, 95 runs, 82 RBI, and 36 SB. His avg will remain low, but it shouldn’t be too concerning considering his ability to produce so well in the other categories. Upton, like in most years, should be one of the most sought after speedsters in fantasy.
3. Jose Reyes: This season, Reyes is on his 3rd team in as many years. The difference is that his home stadiums in New York and Miami were pitcher friendly. This season in Toronto, he will be joining a team that hits a lot of home runs in a hitter friendly ball park, and I expect him to join the party. The entire AL East division features hitter friendly parks as well. Reyes is a consistent base stealing threat every year, posting at least 30 or more over the last 3 seasons. He’s had over 55 SB in four of his MLB seasons, including the 2007 season where he stole 78. He is also a career .291 hitter over 10 seasons in the MLB, 7 of which he hit over .280. He is a model of consistency at the SS position, and I believe he is about to embark on one of his best seasons yet. I expect him to hit .310, 18 home runs, 65 RBI, 115 runs and 45 SB. He is the best SS in the AL, and may prove to be the best in the MLB when the season’s over. He will contribute in all 5 major fantasy categories, so draft him if you can.
2. Ryan Braun: He is a top 10 pick in fantasy every year, he’s won an MVP, and he hits for a ton of power (74 home runs and 223 RBI in the last 2 seasons), but what is so impressive about Braun is that he can do all of that and still manage to steal bases. In the last two seasons, to go with his power numbers, he hit well over .300 and scored over 100 runs, while stealing over 30 bases. Many people said that Braun was only so good because he hit in front of Prince Fielder for years, yet in 2012, his first season without Fielder, Braun scored only one less run than he did in 2011. He also hit more home runs, while driving in more runs. I don’t care what anyone else says, Braun is a top five player in fantasy with his ability to hit over .300, 30 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs, and 30 SB with consistency. I debated with myself about putting Braun 1st on this list, but the season that number 1 had was one of, if not the best I’ve ever seen. If you end up with Braun as your 4th or 5th overall pick, count your blessings and be thankful that you can get a player of his caliber at that spot.
1. Mike Trout: If you didn’t know that Mike Trout was at the top of this list, then I’m sorry, but fantasy baseball is not for you. The young superstar is coming off one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history. He won the ROTY award by a landslide, and it’s debatable whether or not he should have been MVP as well. If it wasn’t for Miguel Cabrera’s triple crown season, Trout would have taken home the 2012 AL MVP award. As a 21-year-old in his first big league season, Trout hit .326, with 30 home runs, 83 RBI, 129 runs, and 49 SB. He did this as a lead off hitter, who also missed the first month of the season. Trout is too talented to have a sophomore slump, and his teams lineup is better in 2013 than it was in 2012. Expect Trout to hit over .320 and 30 home runs, drive in over 90 runs, score close to 150 runs, and steal over 50 bases. He’s not only the best player on this list, but he should be the first overall pick in your draft as well. He does everything Miguel Cabrera can do in fantasy, but what separates the two is Trout’s ability to steal 50 or more bases.
Don’t overlook the stolen bases category in your fantasy league. With the right players, you can own it without having to sacrifice in other categories. Some notable star players who can steal 30 or more bases, but didn’t in 2012 are Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez , Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Ian Kinsler and Andrew McCutchen. All of these players offer balance in all five major categories, and will help your team be successful.
Twitter – @In_Lou_Of