StrategyJune 16, 2011

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Evaluating Speedy Outfielders

By Brandon Gray

There comes a time for most teams where 3-4 stolen bases a week can bring back great value.  Maybe it’s to grab 2-3 more points in rotisserie league, or win a category in H2H.  Unfortunately, as owners, we often group all of these players as one of the same, not factoring in their additional abilities or lack there of.  In this article, I aim to find the best base stealing outfielders for you to pick up or try to acquire via trade.

The players evaluated are primarily known for their excellent speed and lack of power.  You will not see the likes of Matt Kemp, Drew Stubbs, or even Shane Victorino because we all know they contribute far more than just stolen bases.  We’re looking at players with 10 or more steals, but less than five home runs.

In reverse order, here are my top 10 speedy outfielders.

*Stats as of 6/15/11

10. Juan Pierre, White Sox, 10 steals

Pierre barely cracks the list, making it because mainly because he hits only singles (88%) and has ability to put the wall in play (only 22 strikeouts).  Other than that, there’s not much to like here.  He will give you a few runs, but is a liability elsewhere.  For anyone in a points league that subtracts points for CS, stay way, Pierre is only +1 on the year.

9. Carlos Gomez, Brewers, 15 steals

Gomez truly is the one trick pony when it comes to fantasy.  He has a remarkable 15/16 steal success rate.  The downside for Carlos, he strikes out too frequently (52 Ks) and is only hitting .216 on the year.  He is such a drain in AVG, OPS, and RBI, that he should only be used in the most extreme situations.  I would only start him vs. below average pitchers.

8. Jason Bourgeois, Astros, 15 steals

Bourgeois could see his value sky rocket if he received more playing time.  Unfortunately, that is not happening; therefore, the seven guys below him are safer for the short term.  The Astro has 15 steals in only 71 plate appearances.  His overall hitting stats are spectacular .368 AVG / .394 OBP / .850 OPS but come with the small sample size warning and are guaranteed to regress.

7. Jose Tabata, Pirates, 14 steals

Tabata is sporting a respectable .360 OBP and a modest .267 average.  In other words, he doesn’t kill you there.  He brings good run production if he’s atop the Pirates lineup.  He has been caught five times and only successfully steals a base in 5.5% of his plate appearances.  Despite over 250 PA, he’s only managed to accumulate 12 RBI.

6. Rajai Davis, Blue Jays, 18 steals

If Davis makes it to first base, you best believe he is taking off.  He successfully steals a base in 9% of his plate appearances, which is fantastic considering he is never on base and is often caught stealing.  His lowly .280 OBP leaves a lot to be desired, as does his eight walks to 38 strikeouts.  Look to play Davis against weak pitching or weak catchers like Boston or New York.  He has the biggest upside for SB among the group.

5. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners, 16 steals

I really can’t believe I had to group Ichiro with these types of players, but his production this year warrants it.  He is hitting a career worst .265 and has a .316 OBP.  He will score you runs if he gets on and steal bases still.  It’s worth noting that 84% of Ichiro’s hits are singles.  I think it is a nice buy low time for the former MVP.  The steals seem like the only thing on pace for year end expectations.  Everything else should improve.

4. Bobby Abreu, Angels, 10 steals

Another player you may not expect to see on this list.  The truth is, Abreu has lost almost all his power (two HRs on the year).  He still remains a great source for AVG and OBP (.409).  His OPS (.787) is certainly below career average but towers over the rest of this list.  He can also provide ample runs and RBI.  I would expect about 18-20 steals on the year, but likely less than a dozen homers.

3. Coco Crisp, Athletics, 19 steals

Crisp is tearing up the base paths this year again even though he is having trouble getting to first.  He only has 11 walks to date.  I expect the .256 AVG to remain in that ballpark as well as the .673 OPS.  Crisp has a moderate amount of runs (32) and RBI (21) for a base stealer.  As long as he can stay healthy, he is a decent option.

2. Brett Gardner, Yankees, 14 steals

Gardner had some trouble in the beginning of the year (nine CSs) but has found a groove recently.  He has raised his batting average to .282 and has an impressive .362 OBP, and he is really going to increase his chances thanks to the recent DL stint of Derek Jeter.  Expect Gardner to lead off the majority of games.  He will still sit often against lefties in favor of Andruw Jones, but if he is in the lineup for New York, he should be in your lineup that night as well.

1. Michael Bourn, Astros, 27 steals

Bourn was a no-brainer number 1 for me.  His 27 steals are eight more than anyone else on this list.  Despite the lack of power (one HR, 21 RBIs), he remains a huge asset for fantasy teams.  He has scored 43 runs and is currently hitting .276.  He has a stolen base in 9.1% of his plate appearances.  If the owner in your league thinks Bourn is nothing more than a base stealer, make a move.  In a rotisserie league, Bourn could easily acquire almost 50% of the steals it would take to win the category.  He’s also has been caught only three times, so while effective, he is also efficient.

Brandon can be found at home being a dad and novice landscaper, in the corporate office being a hamster, on the diamond being a softball coach, or at Fenway Park enjoying a frank. You can follow Brandon on Twitter (@bginda2g).
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