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“Tranquilo” – Searching for Stolen Bases

No matter what league formats you play in its a dogfight to find stolen bases. Most owners that don’t get one of the elites, most notably Mr. Hamilton, end up essentially punting the category. They’ll pick up fourth outfielder-type speedsters late in the draft or on the waiver wire that can keep their stolen bases total respectable but end up in the back of the pack. Does this sound like you? If so, there is help on the farm if you’re interested.download

If you’ve read either of my last two articles you know that I am an advocate of evaluating every prospects’ full baseball profile. Offensive production is the focal point for fantasy owners but players’ earn at-bats based on their ability to help win baseball games, especially with the speedy scrappers.

This week our target is the future stolen base kings on the horizon. We are assessing the full future projection for each player because first and foremost in becoming a stolen base king is getting the necessary plate appearances. But, today’s game is dominated by the long ball which makes earning this opportunity a tall task for speedsters.

A prerequisite to this list is a minimum of plus, 60-grade speed. He’s not going to steal the bases we envision on his baseball instinct alone. In the remaining pool of prospects there are two general frameworks we can scout for:

  1. The first is a defensively-favored skill set. There are questions that loom about this player’s ability at the plate but they have the potential to become an average hitter and their plus defense has the biggest impact on each game. The best MLB example is Billy Hamilton. He is dismal in the batters’ box but plays on a daily basis because he impacts the game in other ways. These guys need exceptional defensive ability to pair with their speed and, ideally as prospects, show a glimmer of hope at the plate. 
  2. The second is a sexier framework of the two for fantasy owners. This player needs to show competence in the field but the bat/speed combinations carries the player’s profile. As speed first prospects, these are often players with a line-drive-oriented approach and a strong understanding of the strike zone. Teams are looking for an OBP monster that can set the table with his speed at the top of the lineup, and the vision here is an elite speedster that carries a .360 OBP as an everyday productive outfielder.

The reward with this player profile for fantasy owners is self-evident. Revisit that vision Mallex Smith as a regular centerfielder with a .360 OBP. That’s a lot of fantasy value. Use the MiLB pipeline as a way to attack stolen base scarcity around the league – a few of these guys could blossom into fantasy superstars.

Ending up in Peter Bourjos’ role is a failure for fantasy owners but even the platoon, fourth outfielder guys are relevant and productive stolen base options in your deeper leagues. See: Jankowski, Travis. That floor is creeping up on him but gets opportunities to swipe his share of bags for the Padres. 

Short Term Outlook:

Roman Quinn

mc-phillies-roman-quinn-named-to-arizona-fall-league-top-prospects-team-20141210Quinn made his debut at the end of last season with the Phillies but is starting this season in Triple-A. He was drafted as a shortstop in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft but has moved permanently to center field. He has an extensive injury which has hindered his development but is a switch-hitter a line drive approach from both sides of the dish and some sneaky power thanks to good bat speed. He could stand to improve his disciple and approach a bit if he wants to become a true leadoff table setter.

Quinn profiles as an above average defender as true 80 runner with a plus arm in the outfield. He can help your team as early as later this season and the Phillies hope he becomes an integral part of their franchise’s prosperous future. His floor is that of a fourth outfielder but if he can stay healthy he has the tools to become Billy Hamilton with an average or better hit tool.

Jorge Mateo

Mateo signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 and is currently listed as a shortstop prospect in the Yankees system where he is an average defender. He possesses true 80 speed and lead MiLB with 80 stolen bases in 2015. Yes, eighty.  Since his defense at short only projects as average, there is a chance he moves over to the cornerstone, but the better bet is that he follows the path paved by Roman Quinn and Billy Hamilton and moves to centerfield where he’s been getting reps.

jorge-mateo-6bcbc45097d6c474At the dish, Mateo has average raw power but his contact skills could use refinement. He’d benefit from an improved approach with more walks and fewer strikeouts. The Yankees hope he irons out this part of his offensive profile and becomes an exciting two-hole hitter. Some makeup concerns arose last year when Mateo earned a two-week suspension for insubordination after argued with team officials after not receiving a call-up to Double-A. It remains to be seen whether this was an uncontrolled competitive spirit or arrogance, but he’ll need to iron out the kinks before his debut which will likely come next year.

Greg Allen

Allen is my personal favorite of these three short-term options yet his song remains relatively unsung because the plus aspects of his profile are defense, speed, and his makeup. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft and has quietly climbed the Indian’s farm system. He’s probably the slowest player mentioned here with only plus speed but has exceptional instincts and baseball IQ that support his stolen base production. In the last two seasons, he’s stolen 45 and 46 bases respectively and projects as a plus defensive centerfielder with his combination of speed and above average arm strength.

Allen, Greg 1408 (Mitchell).jpg

Allen brings a disciplined grinder mentality to the batter’s box that boasts strong OBP skills as hardly ever gives away an at-bat. This profile, despite any true power potential, could mature into a prominent leadoff hitter at the top of the Indians’ lineup. The Indians’ outfield is far from stable at this point in the season and Allen is in a battle with Brad Zimmer for the first call up. Whether it’s later this season or early next season, Allen is a stolen base asset whose defense will earn him daily at-bats that will give his bat an opportunity to blossom.

Long Term Lottery Tickets:

Cristian Pache

Pache signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 and is a raw outfielder whose fluid baseball movements and natural athleticism pass the eye-test. His offensive profile is a little unconventional as he has a line-drive approach in the batter’s box that lacks extra base hit production and offers no power potential.26201018773_b4ea5c0900_b His swing is geared toward pure contact and he’s shown the ability to make contact with anything close to the strike zone thanks to his exceptional hand-eye coordination. However, he could benefit from improved plate discipline to draw more walks and boost his OBP.

On defense, Pache has an above-average arm with noteworthy range thanks to his baseball instincts and 70-grade speed. He has the tools to become an impact centerfielder for the Braves. Pache’s defense projects to earn him the plate appearances to join the stolen base elite. The Braves hope Pache fills out in the weight room over next few years because with added strength and offensive development he could become a top of the lineup hitter to pair with his impact defense in center field. That type of player is a perennial All-Star.

Jonathan MachadoMachado_prospect_ln2im0af_lskdfqlg

Machado signed a lucrative deal last season out of Cuba when he earned the largest international signing in the Cardinals’ history. An undersized, wiry center fielder with 70 speed and an average arm, he is another contact-oriented hitter with a gap-to-gap approach and very little power. However, he has the makeup of a true leadoff hitter as makes consistent contact and rarely strikes out. Machado’s age and questions about the hit tool long-term make him a riskier selection for fantasy owners, but excruciatingly patient owners that trust the historically strong Cardinals player development department could land themselves a stolen base gem.

TJ Friedl

TJ-Friedl-2016-bmFriedl’s story is unique. He went overlooked and undrafted last year despite raking at Nevada as teams did not realize he was draft-eligible as a redshirt junior. After the draft, a bidding war ensued among teams that had money left over from the draft and the Reds’ ended up signing him for $735,000.

He is probably the sexiest option for these three for fantasy owners because he more closely fits the offensive-minded, speedster profile. He has a plus hit tool with a doubles-oriented, gap-to-gap approach that profiles as a two-hole hitter with below average power. In the outfielder. And he plays above-average defense in center field. He’s a college bat with a history of hitting as an amateur and is the lowest risk fantasy prospect of these three longer-term options.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Rafael Bautista

MiLB: SEP 01 Championship Series Game #2 - GCL Nationals at GCL Red Sox

Bautista is beyond his true prospect years as a 24-year old in the Nationals’ farm system. He’s a slasher at the plate with zero power and grades as an above-average defender in the outfield. No matter how you cut it, it’s tough to see him carving out a relevant career for fantasy owners in the long-term. However, as a prototypical pinch running type call-up once rosters expand, he’s a name to monitor for redraft owners in need of a stolen base boost during the pennant race. Especially in the wake of the recent injury to Adam Eaton.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join guest host Andrea Lamont, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 30th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #85 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, a 5 year veteran in MLFB leagues, and a really handsome guy. His articles publish every Sunday. He helps “Pick Your Spots” for the coming week.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday May 7th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #86 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Bryan Luhrs. Bryan is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, and the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

Native Mainer. Ski the East. I enjoy dynasty league formats and am partial to Latin American prospects. Currently living in the Dominican Republic.

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