2015 Fantasy Baseball2015 Fantasy Baseball Draft GuideAndrew Miller

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Undervalued Stolen Base Options

Thursday night I had the opportunity to take part in the #MockDraftArmy, a project headed by Howard Bender of Fantasy Alarm. The purpose of the MDA is to gather as many writers and fans as possible to take part in as many legitimate mock drafts to gain a sense of trends and gather average draft position data.

Here’s a better breakdown of the MDA as well as some analysis of a few of the drafts completed so far and some ADP data at the end.

Also, here’s the mock that I took part in Thursday, which featured Steve Gardner of USA Today, Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus, Bender, and Seth Klein of Razzball. The mock was 15 teams – five outfielders, a middle- and corner-infielder, two catchers and nine pitcher spots. I used it to prep for my 16-team league, which has different settings but is similarly deep.

The purpose of this article will be to highlight some players that went late in this draft and/or have attractive price tags overall who will help you pile up stolen bases. For “late-round” purposes I’m going to use ADP from the MDA and from Mock Draft Central, and to qualify a player will need to have an ADP of at least 100 in both.

The first name I’ll highlight is Denard Span, whom I drafted Thursday at 210. His ADP from the MDA and MDC is currently 179 and 180, respectively. To begin, Span has stolen 17, 20 and 31 bases, respectively in each of the last three seasons. He’s posted speed scores – which measures stolen base percentage, frequency of attempts, percentage of triples and runs scored percentage – of 6.6 and 6.9 in each of the last two seasons, with those scores ranking just below the “excellent” label on Fangraphs’ definition chart. So that tells us that, while almost 31, he’s still a strong runner. Also, he’s not just a one-trick pony for steals. Batting atop a powerful Washington lineup he should be able to repeat last year’s 94 runs as well as come close to last year’s .302 average; I’d say .290 is a safe bet.

Adam Eaton (203, 166) went just less than a round before Span in my mock. Despite spending 32 days on the DL last year Eaton stole 15 bases in just 123 games. Eaton is projected by Steamer to steal 18 bases and score 87 runs this year batting atop a pretty good White Sox lineup. I think the runs projection is pretty legitimate, but the steals projection is quite low. Due to Eaton’s plate discipline (career 8.1 walk rate) and ability to hit for a high BABIP (career .333 in the Majors and .389 in almost 1,300 plate appearances in the minors) I like his chances on getting on base a ton and having a lot of opportunities to run with some solid hitters behind him. He has individual seasons of 20, 24 and 38 steals in the minors. I think 25 is a solid floor for him this year.

Depending on how deep your league is once you get past the first, say, two shortstops it’s pretty much a crapshoot as to who will perform and who won’t. That’s why I’m suggesting you to draft Alcides Escobar (175, 180) as you won’t have to deal with injury, age, inconsistencies or unknowns with him. Escobar has at least 552 plate appearances in each of the last five seasons and he’s played in at least 155 games in each of the last four. He’ll be 28 this entire season, and since 2011 he’s stolen 26, 35, 22 and 31 bases, respectively. His speed scores have ranged between 6.2 and 7.2 in that same time span. As long as Ned Yost is at the helm Escobar is safe; the Royals have led the league in steals in each of the last two seasons.

Lorenzo Cain (182, 186) is another reason why the Royals have led the league in steals the past two years, and he shone in his first full season as a starter in 2014. Cain stole 28 bases in just 502 plate appearances. Cain should see that number again this year, and his other numbers should rise. He hit most often in the seventh and eighth lineup spots last season, but he started hitting third in mid-September and continued there throughout the postseason. He’s projected to hit there again this year, so while the steals should stay steady his runs and RBIs should go up. I think he’s rosterable in all leagues, but especially in deeper leagues he’s starter material.

I’m going to cheat a little bit with my last pick. Kolten Wong‘s MDC ADP is 176 and his MDA ADP is 98. But the MDA number is based on just a few drafts so as baseball analysts are wont to do: small sample size! But Wong has arguably the best upside of any second baseman, depending on if Javier Baez qualifies there in your league.

Wong most likely will hit seventh for most of the season in a loaded Cardinals lineup. Wong stole 20 bases in the Majors last year and 26 overall, which is his third consecutive 20-steal season. His runs and RBIs should be just fine for a second baseman; he’ll have a lot of runners on for him. The crazy thing is Wong hit 15 home runs and stole 21 bases in just 463 MLB plate appearances last year. 20/20 is easily attainable at that rate, and his age and minor-league numbers say that his average and overall numbers should go up this year. He never once had a BABIP lower than .318 in the minors, but his BABIP last year in St. Louis was .275. The Cardinals rarely run, but seeing Wong go 21 for 25 on steals in his rookie year shows me that he’ll be the exception to that rule.

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