Monday, June 30, 2014

Six Stolen Base Targets

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The Fake Baseball presents: Six Stolen Base Targets by Brad Johnson

We’ve been talking about the value projections to fantasy owners for a couple weeks. Generally speaking, they’re a LOT better at setting performance expectations than most fantasy players. They’re also more trustworthy than recent performance numbers. Let’s put the systems to use to target steals.

Once again, we’ll use the ZiPS projection systemavailable at FanGraphs. For years, fantasy analysts have been saying you can acquire steals on the waiver wire. True, a James Jones type comes along every year, and Dee Gordon did start the year as a free asset. For the most part, the freely available base hawks are guys like Jarrod Dyson or Jordan Schafer – they pick up steals without doing anything else. They don’t even start. You’ll probably need to make a trade if you have to recover from a first half deficit.

In a way, the hitters I highlight today will not be surprising. Since projections lean on what has already happened, a leaderboard of steals to date would contain almost all the same players. The value in this analysis is selecting those base thieves who won’t kill your other categories.

Let’s dispense with the upper crust. Yes, it would be fantastic to own Mike Trout or Carlos Gomez. WhileJose Reyes and Jacoby Ellsbury are a long step below that elite pair, they’re still too expensive to purchase on a whim. Similarly, let’s look past the glaringly obvious. The three headed monster of Billy HamiltonJose Altuve, and Dee Gordon lead baseball by a wide margin, and they are also projected to finish the second half with the most steals. Obviously, if you need steals, you should acquire these guys.

6. Eric Young Jr. – Mets: Young, 29, has stolen a base once every 10 plate appearances. Our projections expect a decline in that rate, but he’s still tabbed for 17 swipes in 221 plate appearances. Young is relatively available in many fantasy leagues for several reasons. His production in home runs and RBI is nonexistent, and he’s not an asset in runs or average either. As a one category mercenary, he’s better for spot starts than full time employment. The Mets have a crowded outfield, which prevents Young from everyday work.

5. Rajai Davis – Tigers: Detroit’s 33-year-old speedster has always been a fantastic waiver option against left-handed hitters. Unlike Young, Davis has just enough pop to be a non-zero in home runs. He occasionally bats atop the Tigers’ lineup, so he scores runs at a reasonable rate. He’s swiped 21 bases to date and our projections think he’ll tack on another 21 over the second half. The biggest issue is playing time. J.D. Martinez‘s power display has pushed Davis towards the fourth outfielder role. What’s more, since the Tigers feature three right-handed, starting quality outfielders aside from Davis, he’s not even guaranteed to play against lefties. There’s no point owning him if you can’t tinker with your roster after daily lineups have been announced.

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