From a strategy standpoint, very few categories bump a player’s evaluation like a stolen base. And, why shouldn’t they? Outside of a player’s intent, there aren’t many indicators to precisely predict who will get a green light. This level of uncertainty has fantasy managers paying full freight for anyone causing disturbances while on the base paths.
You may be telling yourself, but all I need to do is find players that get on base and lightning quick. Simple. Well, not so fast… Take a look at this chart below:
While Jon Berti and Jorge Mateo are burners, Mateo isn’t a guy you’ll find on base often. Furthermore, both of these players found time on the bench as neither registered a wRC+ north of 100 (replacement level). Yet, last year, both were first and second in stolen bases.
Conversely, Kolten Wong‘s lack of sprint speed buckets him in the same place as catchers like Jonah Heim and Elias Díaz. Although, he still found a way to swipe an astonishing 17 bags (91st percentile). And Mike Trout has video game skills with the bat and is still very fleet of foot but shows little desire to take the extra base.
In summation, predicting stolen bases is challenging, and many speedsters come with plenty of issues. To make your draft a little easier, I’ve listed a few players going later in drafts that could give you that much-needed bump in stolen bases. Enjoy!
10 and 12-Team Targets
Garrett Mitchell, Milwaukee Brewers
Mitchell ranks near the top of all players in the MLB with a 30.2 ft/sec sprint speed. Additionally, his 4.01 home plate to 1B was faster than anyone to put on a uniform. Say we are simply looking at players with speed, Mitchell has to be on the radar.
In 2022, Mitchell wasted no time making his presence known by efficiently swiping eight bags, and not getting caught. As well, he was perfect in nine SB attempts in Triple-A. Last season, Mitchell was only gunned down one time in 26 attempts. Again, plenty of intent and extremely efficient are qualities we crave when targeting a late SB target.
From a playing time perspective, Mitchell already has the nod as the team’s starting CF. No doubt, he’s got the range and defensive skills to play every day. However, the elephant in the room is his unsightly 41.2% K-rate. While we can argue over whether 68 games is a large enough sample size, making more contact is paramount for keeping him on the field. If he racks up 550 plate appearances, there’s not much standing in his way of 20-plus stolen bases.
Lastly, reports had Mitchell sidelined with a dreaded hamstring injury but there was no bad damage and he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
CJ Abrams, Washington Nationals
Let’s start by getting some of the ugly parts out of the way. Abrams put the ball on the ground over 50% of the time and had a 24.4% hard contact rate (HC%). That’ll be a big factor in why his xwOBA (.242) was 343rd in the MLB and we saw a .604 OPS-yikes!
Ok, now that that’s out of the way. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Nationals’ newly acquired shortstop. The then 21-year-old prospect, started to show signs of making adjustments and handling MLB-level pitching, as shown by the graph below:
Even with growing pains, Abrams still managed to swipe seven bases in 11 attempts. Furthermore, Washington turned him loose as six of his SBs came in only 163 PA. Some quick math would put him somewhere in the 20 stolen base range if he kept up this pace. Should Abrams make gains at the plate, get on base at higher than his .280 clip, and keep taking bases at a quick pace, 20 steals could be the floor.
Esteury Ruiz, Oakland Athletics
If you’re considering drafting an Oakland Athletics player, you know it’s late in a draft. We can look the other way when it comes to counting stats if a player can steal 40 bags. With Ruiz, the ever-important intent is there. Take a look at the havoc he wreaked on the minors last season:
- SDP (AA): 232 PA / 37 SB
- SDP (AAA): 142 PA / 23 SB
- MIL (AAA): 167 PA / 25 SB
Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Last year, Ruiz stole 85 bags in less than 600 minor league plate appearances. If there was an unknown player that could lead the MLB in stolen bases for this upcoming season, the favorite might be Ruiz. Additionally, with the new bases, the sky is the limit for a player like Ruiz.
Honorable Mention: Jon Berti, Miami Marlins
Miami’s jack of all trades snuck his way into the lineup at 2B (47 GP), 3B (37 GP), SS (10 GP), and OF (19 GP). Which means his eligibility is plentiful. Furthermore, he managed to rack up 41 SB in slightly more than 400 PA. However, the team made several additions that could stunt his chances. If he can routinely find his way onto the field, he’ll get the green light every time just don’t expect much else.
Brice Turang, Milwaukee Brewers
If you’re unfamiliar with Turang, it could be because he still hasn’t taken a swing from an MLB batters box. Although, if you build your team with a strong power base, he could help balance your team. In fact, Turang has found success on the basepaths at every stage of the minors:
- 2019 (A/A+): 564 PA / 30 SB
- 2020: No MiLB
- 2021 (AA/AAA): 596 PA / 20 SB
- 2022 (AAA): 603 PA / 34 SB
Additionally, for those who completely avoided any middle infielders, Turang will grab 2B eligibility quickly. And we all know how scarce it is at that position. It’ll be tough to put a figure on how many bases he’ll swipe. It could be ten…could be 20…could be 30. Either way, in deep leagues, this is the type of player you’ll want to take a shot on for SBs.
Jose Siri, Tampa Bay Rays
Coming over from Houston, Siri possesses the range to cover a ton of outfield territory in Tampa. On top of his stout defense, running wild on the basepaths is a bonus. In only 325 PA, Siri swiped 14 bags. This means there could be plenty more on the horizon if he can stay locked into a role. Unfortunately, his K-rate tips north of 30%, and given the Rays’ desire to mix-n-match, it’ll be challenging to see Siri touching 600 PA. Still, with the third-fastest sprint speed in the MLB (30.4 ft/sec), 20 stolen bases are well within reach.
Honorable Mention: Jorge Mateo, Baltimore Orioles
Mateo’s lack of on-base skills completely buried him in the batting order. However, when allowed to run- he did. His 35 SB is plenty of proof. If he can keep making enough contact and limit the Ks, there’s still a shot he winds up near the top of the SB leaderboards once again.
Robbie Grossman, Texas Rangers
This has been a late target of mine in several draft-and-holds. Luckily, he found a cushy landing spot in Texas with a hole in the OF. Keep in mind, he’s only a year removed from a 20 SB/20 HR season, and with very little competition as Leody Taveras recovers from a strained oblique. While he’s not the best for your batting average, his 12% career walk rate will lend a hand in getting to first base. The rest is up to him from there.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Kiermaier, Toronto Blue Jays
Injuries ravaged the later parts of Kiermaier’s career and have hindered his previous few seasons. Although before 2020 Kiermaier was a lock for double-digit SBs. Can he get back there? Sure, the legs are still there (29.2 ft/sec sprint speed), he just needs to stay on the field.