AL-Only Steals Targets
Due to the nature of the American League, speed stats are hard to come by. Instead of utility infielders taking up roster spots, AL rosters are much more likely to have first base/designated hitter/outfielder type players holding bench spots. The top picks in an AL-Only league that aren’t Mike Trout will be Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and other little-to-no speed players. Top level power is a scarce commodity and stockpiling home runs and RBI’s at the top of the draft is absolutely the correct strategy; however, this strategy will leave you lacking in the category of steals. To properly implement the power first, speed later strategy, I have identified several players who can help you stay competitive in the steals category.
Eric Hosmer, First Base, Kansas City Royals: In one of the most disappointing sophomore seasons in recent memory, Hosmer still swiped 16 bags. First base is normally a position where the average roto player assumes that aren’t going to be getting any stolen bases from and will have to make up for that fact. Hosmer can help eliminate that worry. Worries that he will be incapable of bouncing back from a terrible 2012 abound, but his Mock Draft Central ADP of 42 in AL-Only eliminates some of the risk. If you choose to target Hosmer as your first basemen or corner infielder, you have began making up for the lack of steals from selecting someone like Prince Fielder or Joey Bautista earlier in the draft.
Coco Crisp, Outfielder, Oakland Athletics: In 2012, Crisp was able to steal 39 bags in only 508 plate appearances. There are always concerns about Crisps’ health and possibly splitting time with newly-acquired outfielder Chris Young, but nothing to justify not taking him at average draft position of 150 in AL-Only Leagues. This is a player who will hurt your batting average, but not as much as you think. A career .274 hitter isn’t great, but when you are getting 30 plus steals and even close to double digit homers, it is a move that must be made.
Micheal Saunders, Outfielder, Seattle Mariners: Unlike Crisp, Saunders batting average will most likely really impact your statline in a negative way. However, there is a very solid chance that he ends up hitting 20 home runs and stealing 20 bases. Saunders hit 19 home runs last year in 553 plate appearances with a line drive percentage above 20. With the fences coming in at Safeco, there is a chance that Saunders far surpasses his 126 AL-Only ADP and provides you not only with cheap steals, but some additional power as well.
Emilio Bonifacico, Second Base/Outfield, Toronto Blue Jays: This Jays team is going to be running all over the place with Jose Reyes, Rajai Davis as the 4th outfielder and Bonifacio manning second base. While he most likely won’t start the season with second base eligibility in your league, by the 3rd week of the season he will have gained it. Unlike the other three options, Bonifacio is a steals only player. He doesn’t hit for a good average, has 7 career home runs and has never slugged above .400. Playing in a stacked lineup will help his RBI’s and runs and is a perfect middle infielder or bench reserve in AL-Only leagues.
Some other guys I like, depending on playing time and how situations change during the year are Lorenzo Cain, Peter Bourjous, Darin Mastroianni, and Brett Gardner.