The stolen base is that elusive stat that very likely will go a long way to determining whether or not you win your fantasy league this year. I have never been an advocate of dumping a category during the draft, and that goes double for SB's. Unlike saves, another category often ignored in drafts, stolen bases don't come into the league via the waiver wire. If you are going to build a team that will compete in the stolen base category, you will need to find your speed at the draft table.
Speed always comes at a price come draft day, so it is no surprise that the elite speedsters and 20/20 players disappear from draft boards in the opening rounds. Take a look at the players projected to steal 10 bases or more and you will see that about half of those players (40-50 hitters) will likely be drafted in the first half of drafts.
In most leagues there is usually one or two owners who load up on SB's and one or two who neglect or "punt" the category. Then there will be everyone else in the league grouped in the middle where the difference between 10th place and 3rd place might be 20-40 sb's over the course of the season.
Your goal should be to finish no worse than 3rd place in SB's this year. Take a look at last years standings to give you an idea of what to shoot for - but in mixed leagues using standard rotisserie lineups (14 active hitters) - 140-150 sb's is a nice range to shoot for. Let's assume for arguments sake that you have drafted your fair share of speed early in the draft, that would be about 4 speed guys in the first 12 Rd's, and about 80-100 sb's. That means you will need to find at least another 40-50 sb's the rest of the way.
The key is to try and draft a lineup that will help pad your stolen base totals without rostering players who drag you down in other categories. You know the guys I am talking about: Willy Tavarez, Juan Pierre and Michael Bourn are all names you will see drafted by owners looking to grab those 40-60 sb's with one pick. But these players often offer so little in the other 5 categories that the damage they inflict often negates the one positive attribute they bring to the table.
Now, you can put all your eggs in a speed demon like Tavarez's basket or you can spread the risk and draft sources of cheap speed later in drafts while still providing enough pop to keep you competetive across the board. Here is a list of players to target in the middle and end of drafts to help you steal those precious points in the stolen base category. ADP's are from Mock Draft Central's current list.
- C - Mike Napoli - LAA - ADP 156 - '09 Outlook: 8-12 SB - Besides offering tremendous power upside, Napoli also is the only Catcher outside of Russell Martin with the potential to add double-digit sb's for your team. He is an injury risk, which explains why he is often rostered later in drafts. But if you are waiting on the position or looking for the ideal #2 Catcher, Mike Napoli is the name to remember.
- 1B - Gabriel Sanchez - FLA -ADP Undrafted - '09 Outlook: 10-15 SB - First base is not the position to go looking for SB help. Only Lance Berkman stole more than 10 bases from the position last year. That being said in deeper leagues, if you get to the end of your draft, Sanchez makes a nice end-game SB gamble for your bench.
- 2B - Rickie Weeks - MIL - ADP 222 - '09 Outlook: 20-30 SB - Weeks' disappointing 2008 has him falling in drafts to the point where his power/speed combo and upside potential makes him undervalued this year . If you can roster him as your MI, even better.
- SS - Elvis Andrus - TEX - ADP 299 - '09 Outlook: 30-40 SB - The Rangers believe in Andrus' ability enough to have moved Michael Young to 3B this off season. He has been a trendy pick in expert leagues, such as the NFBC, but it is very likely here will be there for the taking late in many leagues. If you are going to target a one category speedster late - make it a MI and not an OF.
- 3B - Alex Gordon - KC - ADP 158 - '09 Outlook: 10-15 SB - The shine is off the former can't miss prospect, but if you miss out on David Wright, my advice is to wait and set your sights on Gordon right around Rd 10. The speed he brings to the table makes him at least as valuable as Garrett Atkins, who is being drafted 70 picks higher. If you somehow miss out on Gordon, Mark Reynolds can be a fallback plan, but he provides less speed and is a BA liability.
- MI - Felipe Lopez - ARI - ADP 317 - '09 Outlook: 15-20 SB - The MI position is a place where most fantasy owners will try to shore up their team speed later in drafts. Kaz Matsui, Alexi Casilla, Cliff Barmes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Luis Castillo, Ryan Theriot, Jason Bartlett and Emmanuel Burriss are others who will provide cheap speed from this spot. I like Lopez the best because he's leading off in Arizona, and there is at least double digit HR potential in his bat.
- CI - Josh Fields - CHW - ADP 332 - '09 Outlook: 10-15 SB - Look, Fields should be a reserve player on your roster if you draft him since he hasn't proved he can be the everyday guy. He is also a major BA risk. But he has displayed good speed in AAA to go along with better than average major league power. As nice guy to target as insurance if you draft a Chipper Jones or Ryan Zimmerman as your starting 3B.
- OF - Adam Jones - BAL - ADP 174 - '09 Outlook: 15-25 SB - Jones will be hitting in the 2 hole this season for Baltimore. Brian Roberts in front and Nick Markakis behind. He has already snagged 7 bases this spring and announced that he will be more aggressive on the base-paths this year.
- OF - Fred Lewis - SF - ADP 225 - '09 Outlook: 18-23 SB - Lewis is one of those players that help win titles. He has the LF job all to himself this season and is recovered from the foot injury that slowed him up down the stretch last year. He'll chip in at least 10-15 hr's as a bonus.
- OF - Elijah Dukes - WASH - ADP 246 - '09 Outlook: 13-23 SB - Dukes is a risky pick, I won't lie. He has been injury prone and his emotional problems are well documented. All this has done is keep his price reasonable. But if you are feeling lucky - few OF's in this range offer the 30/30 upside of Dukes. Of course that means a full season of a healthy, happy and motivated Dukes.
- OF - Cameron Maybin - FLA - ADP 277 - '09 Outlook 25-35 SB - Lastings Milledge's stock keeps rising by the day. He no longer qualifies as undervalued. Maybin's value is still being held down by his rookie status. But the Marlins have inserted him in the lead off spot, moving Hanley Ramirez down to third. Even if he struggles at times, 10 HR's and 20 SB's seem certain for the jewel of the Miguel Cabrera trade.
- OF - Jordan Schafer - ATL - ADP Undrafted - '09 Outlook 15-20 SB - Schafer at this point is potentially a steal of any draft. The Braves prospect has won the CF job in Atlanta. The Braves traded Josh Anderson to Detroit so the job is Schafer's. He brings power/speed skills to the table and will be given every chance to succeed this year.
You get the idea - don't go for the one category guys anymore - grab multiple guys who help you across the board. Some other names to consider: 2B Chris Getz, SS Mike Aviles, Of Coco Crisp, OF Randy Winn, OF David DeJesus, OF Daniel Murphy, OF Colby Rasmus, OF Chris Dickerson, OF Felix Pie, OF Ryan Spillborghs and OF Shin-Soo Choo.