We all know that it is best to build a statistically balanced roster and avoid depending on two-category players to compensate for deficiencies. But, the best-laid plans can go awry. Of all the standard offensive categories, stolen bases is the one for which owners most commonly seek a specialist’s help. So, I thought it would be helpful to mention a few players who might be helpful in the speed department who are not getting much ADP love.
A quick point before delving in to some players—even if you’ve built a balanced team, there are some other possible reasons why you may want to invest in cheap speed later in the draft. Unlike a team’s power supply, which is largely spread out among several players, a team’s speed quotient is often wrapped up in a few players, even when the team is balanced. Having a host of 15-steal players helps balance risk, but usually there are one or two players whose speed your team can only hope to tread water without. Cheap speed guys can be thought of as insurance policies to those players. They also make great throw-ins in trades.
Also, as we just established, even within a balanced roster, you often need one or two big basestealing threats, and the prices for the top guys can be steep. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and a healthy Jose Reyes bring more to table than just speed. But, it is totally reasonable to feel very hesitant to invest a top 100 pick in a player like Michael Bourn. So, it’s also feasible to strategically look to the late rounds to acquire your speed.
A final tangent and shameless plug, for those of you who just aren’t in enough fantasy leagues already, you can support us at the THT simply by playing fantasy baseball. You may have noticed the link to CBSSportline.com’s fantasy baseball site in the left hand column of our homepage. By joining a league through that link, you can help keep our virtual lights on and irritate your wife at the same time.
Now, let’s take a look at a few players who project to be assets but are currently sitting outside the top 150 in ADP.
Julio Borbon (159)
Borbon has been a given a lot of attention as a sleeper this preseason, so I won’t waste too much ink on him. Amidst the hype, it’s important to remember that Borbon is not a sure thing—though he sure looks the part. He didn’t really have to hit lefties at all last year and he did not steal bases at the clip he did last year when he was in the high minors. Also, Borbon never hit more than seven homers in a minor league season, so the fact that his 2009 MLB numbers would have projected 12-15 homer power should be taken with a grain of salt.
Rajai Davis (160)
Davis ran wild on the scene last season, swiping 41 bases in 125 games for the normally reluctant to run Athletics. Davis has an extensive minor league history of stealing 40+ bases and his basestealing skills were given a preseason endorsement by Rickey Henderson. Secure in his starting job, I don’t see any reason why Davis can’t build on last season; he may actually be a batting average asset as well. If somebody offered me two-to-one odds on Davis stealing more bases than Bourn this season, I think I’d take the bet.
Juan Pierre (199)
Jay-Z rapped that he “ran base like Juan Pierre.” In the remix version filmed as a public service announcement to keep kids off drugs, Jadakiss fired back with “Kids, please stay off base like Juan Pierre.” OK, so I made that second part up.
Anyway, one of the tried and true sabermetric whipping boys will be manning the outfield and leading off for Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox. We know that Ozzie values looking like you are trying hard above things like getting on base or having a stronger throwing arm than Kathy Griffin (sorry, that’s the face that happened to be on the television when I looked over to fill in this blank). So, Pierre should enjoy a full season as a crappy leadoff hitter who will prove a nice source of steals, runs, and a hollow, but weighty .300-ish batting average.
Oh, and by the way, if you’re longing for more nonsense and to indulge in schadenfreude at the expense of others’ woeful grammar and misspelling, hit Senor Guillen up on the Twitter.
Carlos Gomez (227)
At the outset of Gomez’s major league career with the Mets, his claim to fame was that he was allegedly faster than Jose Reyes. Well, that may or may not be true, but with a career .292 on-base percentage, it hardly matters either way. Gomez has the potential to be a nice source of steals and runs if he can stick atop the batting order in Milwaukee. As somebody keeping Ryan Braun in my main league (hold on while I go look at his stat page again and drool—OK, I’m back), I sincerely hope Rickie Weeks or somebody with better on-base skills is given the privilege of trotting around the bases as Braun and Prince Fielder launch moon shots and ringing doubles in the gaps. Like the Willy Taverases before him, Gomez’s fantasy utility will be inversely correlated with the baseball IQ of his real-life manager.
Everth Cabrera (229)
Cabrera is locked in as the Padres starting shortstop and, from what I can glean, the organization seems to really like him. Cabrera made pretty quick work of the minors; in 2007, in A-ball, Cabrera swiped a whopping 73 bases in 121 games. Last season, at the big league level, he nabbed 25 in 103 games. He hasn’t shown any power and did not hit for a high average last season, but he does have plenty of natural speed and the Padres should be itching to run with their lack of power and cavernous home stadium. Cabrera could easily steal 35 bases next year, which makes him worth a look at your MI slot if your team is short on speed.
Dexter Fowler (278)
I’m not really sure what to make of Fowler. Throughout the minors, he ran more frequently at some points than others and he’s never been a high percentage basestealer. Colorado doesn’t seem to be too concerned with that; see Tulowitzki, Troy. I spot started Fowler a bit last year, and it seems that he runs in spurts. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend him, but he does have something of a wild-card dynamic to his game. He also seems to have gap power at least and at 24, it’s possible he develops a bit more. He’s got to improve from the left side though if he wants to be a true asset to his team and the fantasy community, and avoid the threat of being platooned.
Drew Stubbs (311)
Stubbs is an interesting option late in deeper drafts at least. Throughout the minors, he’s not been a great hitter for average, but he has shown legitimate on-base skills. He did not flash any power to speak of though. In his cameo appearance at the MLB level last year, he showed mediocre on base abilities and flashed previously non-existent power. Eight homers and six extra-base hits spells flash in the pan though, and Stubbs should be expected, like most others in this column, to be a liability in the power department. However, Stubbs has shown not just speed, but basestealing acumen throughout the minors, posting considerable steals total at impressive success rates in the higher minors. Stubbs could be a cheap source of 25 steals.
Eric Young Jr. (388)
E-Y Jr. has the potential to be a terror on the base paths. Over more than 500 minor league games, he’s averaged over half a steal per. In A-ball in 2006, he attempted 118 steals in 128 games, pocketing 87. He’s also shown decent on-base and contact skills. Coming into the exhibition season, the consensus among the Colorado brass was that Young was unlikely to make the Rockies Opening Day roster. But keep your eyes open; a hot spring or a key injury could catapult Young into the lineup. Were such an event to happen, Young would immediately join the ranks of the game’s most formidable basestealing threats.