The Need for Speed
It makes sense that in a traditional 5×5 roto league each statistic carries the same amount of weight. However a funny thing has happened in the last few years of fantasy baseball. Since 2011, stolen bases have been slowly trending down league wide. The scarcity of steals has, in turn, skyrocketed the value of guy like Dee Gordon and Jose Altuve (although, I guess Altuve is a power hitter now, which is insane and awesome), and has made the plight of Billy Hamilton both excruciating and endlessly interesting. With the price of steals going up, it’s more important than ever for dynasty league owners to scour prospect lists and stat lines to try to project sources for future steals. I’m hoping to help with the process.
There are some obvious names shooting up prospect lists with clear plus speed and stolen base potential, but we’re going to try to unearth a few names that are more under the radar. For this reason, you won’t see Trea Turner on this list (although I really like him, and you can read about it HERE). You also won’t see Raul Mondesi, Jr. on the list nor will there be a spot for DA GAWD Victor Robles. I could sound really smart and just toss these names out there and call it a day. These guys are going to be good, and should make an impact on the basepaths once they get the call. But what’s the fun in that (and clearly I’ve never gone out of my way to sound smart)?
Some factors that are important to look at when trying to project the next elite stolen base threat range from actual production in the stolen base category to efficiency in stealing bases to the ability to get on base to utilize a player’s speed. It’s also beneficial to consider the levels in which a player steals bases, as typically it’s much easier to steal bases in the lower levels of the minor leagues (for reference, Prince Fielder stole 11 bases in Double A). So, without further ado, here are a few guys that are currently doing some good things on the bases.
Michael Reed, OF, Brewers
Reed is a name to keep an eye on, as the 23-year-old has been stretching out his legs in centerfield for Triple-A Colorado Springs, with the idea that he could slide into the Brewers outfield at some point during 2016. Reed has had a knack for getting on base, never posting a walk rate below 13.2 percent since he broke into rookie league in 2011. His strong OBP has led to opportunity and success stealing bases. Reed has stolen 90 bases since 2013, at a 74 percent clip, giving him positive value on the bases at each minor league stop. Reed doesn’t hit for much power, with a career .380 slugging percentage in the minors, but if he can continue to display elite walk rates and maintain an average strikeout rate (has hovered around 20 percent in his minor league stint), Reed could make some noise on the bases at a relatively inexpensive cost.
Dustin Fowler, OF, Yankees
The Yankees selected Fowler in the 18th round of the 2013 draft. Typically not a whole lot is expected from this spot in the draft, and Fowler appeared to be no different, getting off to a slow start in his first two seasons as a pro. He enjoyed a bit of a breakout in 2015, however, placing him firmly on the radar of those outside the Yankees organization. Fowler hit .298/.334/.394 across two levels as a 20-year-old, stealing 30 bases in the process. He proceeded to follow-up that performance with a stellar outing in the Arizona Fall League, finally showing a smidge of pop with a couple of homers to go along with seven stolen bases in seven attempts. Fowler is another guy where you probably don’t want to roster him expecting any sort of power surge, but his ability to put the bat on the ball and make consistent contact should help him carry above average batting averages in the future. If he can find a way to get on base at a steady clip, Fowler could be a reliable source for stolen bases for a long time.
Greg Allen, OF, Indians
Allen is another super speedy guy without much juice in the bat (hmm, looks like a trend is developing). If you cross Joey Votto’s plate discipline with Billy Hamilton’s hitting, you’d probably get something close to Allen. Allen has been unheralded so far as a prospect, which makes sense considering he has a career .373 slugging percentage in the lower minors. That said, he has also walked more than he has struck out, and thus far in 2016 he has carried a .468 OBP. Allen’s ability to get on base has translated to steals. Lots of steals. In 2015, he stole 46 bases across two levels at a rate of 74 percent. In 2016 he’s already tacked on 16 more steals, and has only been caught once. Now, elite plate discipline aside, there are reasons to treat Allen with caution. He was drafted out of San Diego State in 2014, and while he’s succeeding so far, he might be a little old for his level as a 23-year-old. Additionally, he could run into a problem of pitchers just not fearing his bat and pumping pitches in the zone, which would negate a little of his value as a supreme OBP guy if he can’t make them pay for it. That said, if Allen can get a little stronger and develop even a semblance of power, he could be a fun stolen base guy moving forward, especially in OBP formats.
Dylan Moore, 2B/SS, Rangers
Finally here’s someone on the list with a little bit of pop (although admittedly, it’s relative). The 23-year-old Moore spent his first year as a pro biding his time between Low-A Spokane and High-A Hickory, putting up a line of .271/.376/.454. He also added seven homers in 282 plate appearances, which compared to the other guys on this list makes him look like Bryce Harper. With these gargantuan power numbers (fine, relatively gargantuan), Moore also added 15 stolen bases while only being caught once. While that many not initially seem like a total to get excited about, Moore has turned it up on the basepaths, coming out of the gates running in 2016, already stealing eight bases in 17 games, without being caught. Another added wrinkle to his game is that he’s significantly improved his strikeout to walk rates thus far this season. Last year, he compiled 32 walks to 65 strikeouts. Not bad, but not great. So far this season he has walked 10 times while suffering 12 strikeouts. These numbers tend to stabilize earlier than some others, so it’s worth keeping an eye on. If Moore can increase his already solid walk rate (11.5 percent in 269 PA in Low-A), and maintain an average in the .270 range, he could be a great option in D.C. for stolen base totals if and when he gets the call down the line.