Late Stolen Base Sources in Drafts
For those of us who play in roto fantasy baseball leagues, stolen bases are perhaps the biggest stressor on draft day.
Total flight volume declined rapidly a few years ago and shows no signs of an imminent recovery. And with rare sweeps, speedsters who also have strong plate skills are hot commodities in 2022 drafts.
The problem of finding fantasy steals is compounded by the fact that there is a poor historical track record for mediocre hitters who have superior speed. While some of these players have had spurts of success, there are plenty of occasions when their low batting averages or lack of power ultimately cause them to lose their starting roles. For this reason waiting for the mid rounds to conclude most of your stealing hopes on someone like Myles Straw is a risky plan.
The best plan to manage flights is to get some early. Of course, everyone is doing the same thing, but this is a time when following the peloton is the right thing to do. My goal in most drafts is to have at least two players in the first five rounds of whom I expect to sweep 15 (and preferably 20+) bases. And with that base, you can narrow the category through the middle rounds by finding a few players who have strong plate skills and are projected for double-digit steal totals.
The final piece of the stealing puzzle is securing a few fast players late in the game. These players will provide category insurance if one of your speedsters gets injured or lead you to the top spot in the category if all goes according to plan.
Here are some sources of late flights to consider, listed in order of personal preference.
Robbie Grossman, Detroit Tigers (OF, ADP 227)
If I could draft any player on this list, my choice would be Grossman. The outfielder is coming off a breakout season in which he produced 23 home runs and 20 interceptions, and the seeds for that breakout were planted during the shortened 2020 season when he had eight homers and eight hits in 51 games. I expect Grossman to release a similar line of statistics this year.
Akil Baddoo, Detroit Tigers (OF, ADP 248)
A Rule 5 draft pick, Baddoo came out of nowhere to tally 13 homers and 18 interceptions in his rookie season. At just 23, the youngster has even better in store for fantasy managers in the future.
Still, there are a few reasons why I’m stopping at Baddoo this season. First, the Tigers now have the option to place him in the Minors. Second, Baddoo struggled against southpaws last year (.523 OPS) and could be stuck in a squad role.
Ramon Laureano, Oakland A’s (OF, ADP 233)
Laureano will miss the first 27 games of this season due to a PED suspension, but should be a useful and diverse contributor after his return. After all, the outfielder only needed 88 games to collect 14 out-and-outs and 12 interceptions in 2022. In my opinion, Laureano is worth hiding in every five-outfielder format.
Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals (OF, ADP 255)
Bader made huge strides with his strikeout rate last season, which could be a sign of an impending breakout. The outfielder has contributed 16 homers and nine interceptions while hitting .267 in 103 games, and he could have 20 long balls and 15 hits if he can top the 500-at-bat mark this year.
Lane Thomas, Washington Nationals (OF, ADP undrafted)
Thomas never had a chance to establish himself with the Cardinals before seeing his career take off as a full-time player with the Nats after the 2021 trade deadline. As the team’s first player in last streak, the 26-year-old averaged .270 with seven homers, four interceptions and 33 runs scored in 45 games. It’s easy to see the edge Thomas has as a possible six-month table setter in 2022.
Raimel Tapia, Colorado Rockies (OF, ADP 237)
A lack of power limits Tapia’s ceiling, but his ability to collect base hits (.280 career average) and steal bases (20 in 2021) gives the outfielder solid ground. The addition of the NL DH could open up enough opportunities for Tapia to set a career high in plate appearances this year.
Jonathan Villar, FA (2B/3B/SS, ADP 246)
Still a free agent, Villar won’t need any attention from the mixed league if he signs a bench role. But the 30-year-old has been impacting the steals category for many years and would be among MLB’s leaders in sweeps if he finds a team that can offer full-time work.
Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners (OF, ADP 240)
Those willing to hide a potential speedster should look no further than Rodriguez, who is one of baseball’s hottest hitting prospects and could join the Mariners in early 2022. The outfielder needed just 74 games to collect 21 shots in the minors last season.
Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers (OF, ADP 240)
After producing eight homers and 13 interceptions in 78 games last season, Cain remains fairly productive per game. There’s a good reason for the 35-year-old’s dwindling draft value – he was injured for much of last season and missed most of the 2020 campaign – but he could at least provide a short-term boost at the start of this season. .
Garrett Hampson, Colorado Rockies (2B/OF, ADP 254)
Like Tapia, Hampson could benefit from the addition of the NL DH. This multi-position speedster has had an inconsistent career at the plate but has enough of a power-speed combo to tally nearly 15 homers and 25 interceptions if everything clicks for him in 2022.
Andres Gimenez, Cleveland Guardians (2B/SS, ADP 240)
Because he can’t earn a starting job in spring training, Gimenez only deserves a very late draft pick. Still, the fantasy advantage is evident for someone who has produced eight homers and 19 interceptions in 342 career plate appearances so far. With the potential for double-digit long balls and 30 shots, Gimenez is definitely someone to watch right now.