With two and a half months off of our full 162-game schedule, we have to work that much harder to claw and scrape our way in each category throughout the three plus months remaining on the schedule. If you work at it as diligently in June as you might in September, you can put yourself in a good spot to not sweat the final few weeks.
Throughout draft season you hear it from every angle: You have to prioritize stolen bases early. Easier said than done though right? I’m here to tell you there’s still hope. You either have too much speed or not enough. This series will be focused on the latter.
If there’s a category to make up ground in, it’ll typically be stolen bases. Each week I’ll be providing a couple of options that may be sitting on your wire that have a good shot at getting you at least one more bag. I’m going for the deep cuts and focusing only on players owned in less than 20% of leagues, per Yahoo!, which typically focus on leagues with 12 teams.
This list will change week to week, but you’ll continue to see a general theme. The picks will be focused not just on the speedsters that are generally undrafted, but mostly on sneaky pickups that can take advantage of their matchups, may it be with an offense-first catcher or a starting pitcher with a history of focusing solely on what’s in front of them and ignoring the baserunners. Before we move on to this week’s recommendations, let’s see how last week’s speedsters fared.
Last Week’s Results
Yonathan Daza (COL) – 0 SB
Daza has yet to take advantage of his matchups this week and now has not been sent on the bases by Colorado since May 16. Daza still produces enough at the plate to help in other areas, and with him headed back to Coors Field for seven straight days next week he may be worth holding onto for a while.
Niko Goodrum (DET) – 1 SB
The Tuesday stolen base marked Goodrum’s 11th on the season, putting him just one away from his career-high of 12.
Bradley Zimmer (CLE) – 0 SB
It hurt Zimmer’s chances going into the week with two scheduled days off for Cleveland. He’s still starting every day in center field for Cleveland and has a good chance to tack on a bag this weekend as they continue to host Seattle.
Willi Castro (DET) and Harold Ramirez (CLE) – 0 SB combined
Not the best honorable mentions pairings, though I still believe both can continue to add value moving forward.
As a general rule as well, keep an eye out for players on teams that simply like to run. Individual speed is great and all, but if a speedster is stuck on a team that rarely takes advantage of their speed then it’s not worth hanging your hat on their sprint speed. Here’s a list of the top ten aggressive teams during the 2021 season thus far, followed by the 10 least aggressive teams.
Note: Stolen Base Opportunities here is defined by Baseball Reference as a “plate appearances through which a runner was on first or second with the next base open.”
One other thing to consider here is that these matchups are always subject to change, as most things are, most of these suggestions are best served in a league with daily moves. Weekly adds can still be considered in a pretty deep league, but know that this is only focused on the possibility of stealing bases, even at the expense of other categories.
So, after that disclaimer, let’s see who’s poised to run over the next week who may be available in your league:
Hindsight is 20/20, but I really wish I had recommended Jake Fraley last week. Sure, there’s a chance this is a week too late, especially after seeing Fraley steal a pair of bases this past week and four bags total over the course of the last 11 starts.
With the demotion of Jared Kelenic and the injury to Kyle Lewis, playing time looks to be a non-concern for Fraley, who has played in every game since returning from his own IL stint on May 31, and has been in the starting lineup for the Mariners in all but two of those games.
Fraley isn’t clocked as the fastest player on the team as shown by his 57th percentile sprint speed, but has a long history of taking advantage of the opportunities given to him on the bases, stealing 72 bases across 257 minor league games since 2016. Seattle loves to pick their spots, and even though their attempts have dipped a little bit from the start of the year, they still rank as the fifth most successful with an 81% success rate (29 stolen bases on 36 attempts).
And though Tampa Bays’ Mike Zunino has gotten a little better in recent time with throwing runners out, both him and Ryan Jeffers of Minnesota sit under the 22% caught stealing mark on the season. Seattle having a full seven-game slate doesn’t hurt either. Fraley is just 6% rostered across Yahoo!, but that may change with a strong weekend performance.
Remember the excitement we all felt when Willy Adames was traded away from Tampa, making the casual fan jump for joy as they assumed Wander Franco would be making his debut for the Rays in the corresponding move? Obviously that didn’t happen, instead the Rays called up the more logical player in Taylor Walls, who was already on their 40-man roster and provided plus defense, speed, and a solid bat in its own right to the middle infield.
Walls’ calling card had always been his speed and glove, and both have been on display just about every day since making his debut on March 22. Through his time in the minors, Walls stole 108 bases across 276 games since 2017. His early major league sprint speed times have put him in the 90th percentile overall and he has the pleasure of playing every day for the fifth most aggressive team in baseball.
Combine that with Tampa’s upcoming schedule, as they travel to play three in Chicago against the White Sox and four in Seattle, two of the worst three teams in allowing stolen bases – White Sox have allowed 42 stolen bases, while Seattle has allowed 41 – with both teams sitting at a 16% caught stealing rate on the season.
The main target here will be Zack Collins of the White Sox, who has only thrown out three of the 26 runners trying to advance while he was behind the plate.
Note: Last week I incorrectly noted that Luis Torrens was the catcher to target by teams playing Seattle. Torrens has indeed been in the minors for a while now, but the team itself isn’t doing much better at stopping runners without him, with Tom Murphy matching Torren’s stolen bases allowed on the season with 19.
Walls is just 2% rostered across Yahoo! and should be readily available as a fill-in shortstop with a full slate of games this coming week.
This is my stretch pick, I’ll fully admit. Not in the same vein as my Willie Calhoun pick a few weeks ago, but because Daz Cameron just isn’t guaranteed the amount of guaranteed playing time that would volume his way to the opportunities.
If it’s shown that Cameron is going to get an extended look in the Detroit outfield, his high strikeout rate should only hold him back so much from being able to steal a base or two, especially with the Tiger’s being as aggressive as they have been lately. Look, Niko Goodrum, my one successful pick from last week, already has 11 stolen bases before mid-June.
Cameron has a history of stealing bases throughout his minor league career and even put one on the board in his 2021 MLB debut just a couple of days ago. The Tigers should give Cameron a shot to show them what they have in him and could go out with something to prove during this seven-game stint next week.
Kurt Suzuki and Max Stassi of the Angels do not have a strong track record over the last few years of being catchers baserunner fear when they see a base open in front of them. Cameron is less than 1% rostered across Yahoo! right now and is probably going to see some bids in weekly FAAB leagues this Sunday.
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)