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Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: 3 Stolen Base Guys to Target in 2014

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What a pesky little category the stolen base is. When someone on your fantasy team hits a home run, he improves your team’s standing in four of the five standard offensive categories. What’s the other one? Stolen bases, of course. So many stolen base guys seem to steal every time they get on base, but they contribute basically nothing else to your fantasy team. As a result, they’re not really worth having on your roster. So, what stolen base guys are?

Before we go on too much, I would like to clarify what a “stolen base guy” is. Mike Trout may well lead the league in steals this year, but he doesn’t qualify, he’s an all-around stud. Similar things can be said about guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Alex Rios. By the same token, Miguel Cabrera may lead the league in homers, but he’s not a masher.

These are guys who won’t contribute much to your fantasy team outside of steals, but they will be good enough to not kill your team elsewhere.

 

  • Leonys Martin: Texas Rangers

We’ll start with the best overall player on the list, or at least the one with the most potential. On one hand, Leonys Martin will be done in by the fact that he’s going to bat at the bottom of the order. On the other hand, it’s going to enable him to steal more bases. Stealing with Prince Fielder or Adrian Beltre at the plate risks losing their bat. With all due respect to Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus, that’s not a big concern with them at the plate.

As for the rest of his game, I don’t know that Martin return to his MiLB form, when he was a .323 hitter. But if you can count on about 40 steals, a repeat of his pedestrian .260 average from 2013 would be just fine, and I think he’ll be better than that.

Batting at the bottom of the order will get Martin plenty of chances to score runs when the lineup turns over and while you don’t draft him for power, he’s good for about 10 bombs.

Stolen bases is obviously what you’re drafting Martin for, but he won’t hurt you in really any other category.

 

  • Eric Young Jr: New York Mets

For starters, why don’t we just look at the stolen base splits from Eric Young Jr. in 2013?

He stole 46 bases, second only to Jacoby Ellsbury. The first 57 games of the season were with the Colorado Rockies when EYJ stole eight bases. After getting moved to the Mets, he stole 38 in 91 games. Terry Collins certainly wasn’t afraid to move him when he got on base, and I don’t see that changing this year.

David Wright is one of the best hitters in the game, but the Mets just don’t have the offense around him to go station-to-station. If they’re going to score runs, they have to force the issue when they earn chances.

Now, Young is not the overall player that Martin is, so you can’t count on much more than five homers, and I wouldn’t even argue if you called that optimistic. That said, the way he stole bases with the Mets in 2013 makes me think that Young is a real threat for 50+ swipes this year. As long as he stays in that .250 range, you’ll be okay. Remember, this is the same guy who hit .316 in 2012, so .250, or even significantly better, is not at all unrealistic.

 

  • Jonathan Villar: Houston Astros

In part, Jonathan Villar gets mentioned here because he’s a shortstop, and that’s always a thin position.

Also, like the Mets above, the Astros definitely have a lineup that will make them force the issue with men on base, as they don’t have a Miguel Cabrera type of guy who can be counted on for dozens of extra-base hits throughout the year. So, I’m guessing he’ll have a green light more often than not, and that’s a good way to get 30+ steals.

While Villar’s average has always left something to be desired, he’s also shown 10-15 HR pop, and that’s not something that can be taken for granted at SS. Give him a full year taking aim at the Crawford boxes at Minute Maid Park, and that total isn’t far-fetched.

Like the other guys on this list, you’ll have to build around some flaws, but Villar’s SB potential mixed with some pop will provide value to your fantasy team. If nothing else, he’s worth a late-round/waiver wire gamble.

 

 

Just missed the cut: 

  • Rajai Davis, Detroit Tigers: He’s been one of these guys for a while, but runs he risk of losing playing time in a crowded Detroit outfield. Though not impossible, it’s awfully hard to see him approaching 40 steals again. More likely will be used as late-inning pinch runner/defensive replacement type of guy.
  • Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds: We don’t know what kind of player he’s going to be, but the hype machine is already pretty strong for this kid. He’ll be drafted much higher than a typical stolen base specialist will. That said, if he steals 75-100 bags, you almost don’t need to worry about anyone else on your team.
  • Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres: Close, but misses on a few counts. One, he’s a shortstop and will likely be drafted too high to be a stolen base specialist. Two, I don’t know what kind of hitter he’ll be in 2014. He produced by far the best season of his career in 2013, and was also conveniently suspended for PED use to finish it. I just don’t trust those numbers. He’ll get steals, but he can also be a drain everywhere else.
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Tags: Eric Young Jr. Jonathan Villar Leonys Martin

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