Need for Speed: Stolen Base Options to Stream (8/14-8/19)

Adam Howe sheds light on deep stolen base bets based on matchups.

Every stolen base means that much more in this shortened season and odds are it was difficult to prioritize speed in your recent drafts. 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 this year, it’ll be stolen bases. The category may be the tightest in every roto league, with just a couple being the difference between the top and bottom of the standings.

Here are 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. 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 (looking at you, Jarrod Dyson), but mostly on sneaky pickups that can take advantage of their matchups.

One thing to consider here is that these matchups are always subject to change, as most things are nowadays, and 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 few days:

 

Jorge Mateo, San Diego Padres:

 

Mateo’s speed throughout his stint in the minors is legendary at this point. Most scouting reports have given him 80 grade since he began his professional career way back in 2012. He went on to prove everyone right by stealing 283 bases on 361 attempts bases in 702 games (a stolen bag every 2.5 games). His speed has never been an issue, and it’s certainly not the reason he played two full seasons in AAA. He did everything he could to prove he’s made adjustments in 2019, perhaps taking advantage of the super happy fun ball in the process by popping 19 home runs on top of swiping 24 bags and now finds himself in the majors, making his debut for his 3rd organization after starting the season on the Covid IL.

Mateo is out of options and has made himself very flexible in the field – spending time at shortstop, second base, and the outfield—giving him many opportunities to create a roll for himself in San Diego. He’s still just 1% owned in Yahoo leagues, but some have been stashing Mateo since the start of the season waiting for his speed to be that difference-maker. He finally has his opportunity to show it off, and the Padres have proven they don’t mind taking risks on the base paths (they lead the league in attempts at 25 and successful stolen bases with 21). What skills Mateo might lack elsewhere, he more than makes up for with his legs and if there’s an opportunity for him to prove himself it’ll be on the base paths. It doesn’t hurt he’ll get a game or two against Carson Kelly and the Diamondbacks, who have given up 18 stolen bases so far this year (2nd in the league).

 

Robbie Grossman, Oakland Athletics: 

 

There’s a lot of reasons to pick up Robbie right now (there’s a whole lot of red showing up on his Baseball Savant page after all). Let’s just focus on his sneaky ability to steal bases in the right moments. Playing mostly every day and sitting against lefties, Grossman has a righty heavy slate of games coming up against San Francisco and Arizona. The opportunity will be there. San Francisco has provided opponents with the second most stolen base opportunities in the league (Note: I’m using the Baseball Reference definition at the moment for Stolen Base Opportunity, being plate appearances with a runner on first base or second base with the next base open) and as mentioned earlier, getting a series against Carson Kelly following that doesn’t hurt.

Robbie isn’t a burner. He’s ranked in the 69th and 66th percentile for sprint speed in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and currently sits in the 72nd this season, but he can take advantage of the opportunities he gets. He did so this past series against the Angels, stealing two bases against a team that has given up a league-leading 20 stolen bases so far this year. (Anaheim would still lead the league without Grossman’s two bags). Robbie has been swinging as hot a bat as anyone lately (7 hits in his past 5 games), so here’s that pick up recommendation that very well may not hurt you in other categories while still getting you that extra base you desperately need.

 

Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals: 

 

What are we supposed to do with the Cardinals? If MLB can’t answer that, I’m not sure any of us should be expected to either, but we’ll try right? There are obviously a few players for St. Louis that won’t be joining the team when they finally re-take the field this weekend (at least we hope they’ll finally take the field this weekend). Bader, pending his own health, may very well benefit from the lack of depth. Even with the potential call up of Dylan Carlson, Bader should see a bit more playing time than he might have prior. He had already played in four of the Cardinals five games in centerfield, so the opportunities should be there for the speedy outfielder. Now, throw in the fact that the Cardinals are already set to play 8 games in 5 days between Saturday 8/15 and Wednesday 8/19 (albeit it the 7 innings variety for all but two of them), Bader should get some extra attention. As long as he plays in 4 of those 6 doubleheader games, he’ll see the same amount of plate appearances as if he played in 5 full 9 inning matchups over the course of that same time—so I believe the potential reward in extra opportunities outweighs the risk here.

Bader is still only owned in 1% of Yahoo league—not playing actual games for so long may have something to do with that of course—so should be readily available. He’s proven his speed, being ranked in the 99th and 98th percentile for sprint speed in each of the past two seasons respectively and with stolen 29 bases on 38 attempts in 302 games in the majors (including the team’s lone stolen base of this short season) after hitting double-digit stolen base marks in each of his minor league seasons prior.

 

Honorable mentions

 

Jon Berti and Magneuris Sierra vs Atlanta Braves (8/14-8/16) and Jacob deGrom (8/19)
Ender Inciarte vs Anibal Sanchez (8/17) and Stephen Strasburg (8/19)

 

Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)

Adam Howe

Adam resides in Indianapolis after spending the better part of a decade in Oakland, CA and growing up in Massachusetts. He spent the 2006 season working with the Dunedin Blue Jays, but stays true to his Red Sox fandom. Follow him on twitter @EightyGrade

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