The Fantasy Baseball 2014 Draft season is officially upon us. As part of our ongoing coverage, we’re going to take a look at several players that can provide one of fantasy baseball’s most elusive stats – Steals – and can do it on the cheap. We know Mike Trout, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Billy Hamilton will be among the league leaders in stolen bases, but if you don’t want to pay the price tag, here are a few late round speedsters worth a look. We’re talking Average Draft Position (ADP) of 150 or later only.
Eric Young, Jr.
In 2013, EY Jr. stole 46 total bases between time with the Rockies and the Mets, good for second among all base-stealers in MLB. He looks to be on track to lead off for the Mets this year, and with Wright, Granderson, and Murphy batting behind him he could easily lead the league in steals in 2014. Best of all, you can get him outside the top 200.
Villar has borderline-inhuman, blazing, video-game speed. He stole 18 bases in only 210 AB’s, in his rookie year. You have to project him for at least 40 steals if he can keep his AVG in the .250’s and OBP above .300, with some definite room for upside. He’s the Astros SS of the future and they don’t really have any reason not to unleash him on a full time basis this year.
Gordon is going undrafted in most early drafts, and that’s slightly ridiculous .He has a chance to start at 2B for the Dodgers while Alexander Guerrero gets more seasoning in the minors, and if that is the case, Gordon could be a menace on the base paths. He stole 49 bases in only 433 AB’s in his 2013 AAA campaign, while posting a .297 AVG and .385 OBP. He’s been given chances like this before and blown them, but e’s still only 26 and should be entering his prime. For a last round flier or FA wire grab, he’s all upside and no risk.
Once a highly touted prospect in the Angels organization, Bourjos fell more or less flat on his face in 2013, prompting the Angels to deal him to the Cardinals for David Freese and Fernando Salas. You have to love this move for Bourjos’ fantasy value – He’s going to bat at or near the top for a powerful Cards lineup, and is expected to start in CF for his amazing defense. He’s so good defensively, he’s pushed Trout to left. But best of all, he’s going to play every day, and this is a guy that has stolen 50 bases before in the minors and 22 in the only full major league season he’s played. He’s on record that he wants to steal 40 this year. This is a no-brainer pick towards the end of any draft.
In 2013, in his first 500+ AB season, Leonys stole 36 bases in 45 tries. At times he batted leadoff any went on multiple dynamic, week-winning runs for his owners. He came from nowhere and was an excellent waiver wire pickup. He won’t come quite as cheap this year, but still figures to get 35+ steals and 450+ AB hitting at the bottom of a powerful Texas lineup.
Last year, Davis stole 45 bases in only 331 AB across 108 total games for the Blue Jays. He’s since moved on to Detroit, where in theory he will serve as the right-handed side of an outfield platoon with Andy Dirks. Trouble is, Dirks is out until June with a back issue, potentially leaving Davis as an-every game starter for the first 10 or so weeks of the season. Rajai can’t hit righties at all (.228 vs .319 against lefties) but if he were to ever get 500 AB’s, he could easily lead the league in SB’s. Regardless, Davis is a good bet to steal 30+ bags, and he’s a great late round flier or wavier wire grab.
The word out of training camp is that despite a strong spring thus far, Bonifacio will neither replace Darwin Barney as the Cubs primary 2B, nor Starlin Castro as the primary leadoff hitter. What’s bad news for Bonifacio is good news for speed-needy owners. Emilio should come almost free at the draft table, and in fact can probably be left on waivers in most formats. The key here is to keep an eye on the Cubs injury situation, and look for opportunities for Bonifacio to start. He’s so fast that he doesn’t really need a full-time role to produce – he’s averaged 29 steals in fairly limited action over the past two seasons. At ADP 239.0, he’s the absolute definition of cheap speed.
Murphy is almost more of a great overall value draft pick than a late round speed pick, but he’s a perfect later round pick if your first 10-12 picks don’t look like they’ll give you many bags. Murphy was only caught 3 times in 26 attempts in 2013, so he’s proven that he’s trustworthy to steal more this coming year. Hitting behind Eric Young, Jr and in front of David Wright and Curtis Granderson should provide Murphy more than his share of opportunities to get 20+ bags again this season.
Gardner has averaged 36.5 steals per year over the last four years for the Yankees. He just signed a $52 million extension and will obviously be a fixture in the New York lineup. The Yankees don’t really have much team speed in 2014, and they will depend on Gardner to create havoc on the bases. He’s just outside the top 150 we’re discussing, but he’s a perfect 3rd / 4th / 5th outfielder who can be trusted to bring a minimum of 25 steals to the table, along with decent contributions in AVG and Runs.