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Riding the Waive: Filling Speed Needs

In rotisserie and head-to-head categories formats, stolen bases are a key part of fantasy lineups that can’t be ignored. However, there isn’t as much of a premium placed on finding stolen bases in drafts and auctions as there is on power production. That makes it much easier to find stolen-base weapons for cheap either on draft day or in free agency during the season. If you believe your team needs an injection of stolen bases, here are a few players to consider.

OF Jarrod Dyson, KC

Dyson is a tough guy to use in head-to-head formats due to the spotty playing time that comes with being a bench player. However, he’s racked up at least 30 stolen bases in each of the last three seasons while not receiving more than 300 at-bats in any single year. He’s only good for the one category, but deep-leaguers could do worse than sticking him in the fifth outfield slot and letting him fly.

OF Eric Young, ATL

Young led the National League in 2013 by swiping 46 bases, and he came back with 30 more last season despite taking just 280 at-bats. He’ll likely be a drain on other fantasy categories, but the speedster does have one season of quality slash statistics in his career (2012 with the Rockies). He’ll open the season as the Braves’ starter in center field and possible leadoff man could shift to left once Melvin Upton returns, provided he’s proven his worth to Fredi Gonzalez.

OF Dalton Pompey, TOR

Pompey is in line to serve as the starting center fielder with the Blue Jays, and he’s managed to hit .310/.341/.429 with three stolen bases in his first 42 spring at-bats. He racked up 44 stolen bases in 2014 across four levels, including limited work in the majors. He had 38 stolen bases in 2013 as well. If his 2014 offensive numbers have more of an impact on his major-league performance this year, he could be a fantasy steal. If he fails to perform well during the early part of the season, the Blue Jays figure to send him down for more seasoning.

2B Micah Johnson/Emilio Bonifaco, CWS

Johnson racked up 84 steals across three levels in 2013 in just his second professional season, though he managed just 22 steals in 419 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A last year, though that can at least partially be blamed on lingering hamstring issues. He’s in the middle of a fine spring, hitting .405/.463/.568 with three steals in his first 37 at-bats, and could be the favorite to start at second base, which would make him interesting as a steals/average option. The other main candidate to start at second base for the White Sox is Bonifacio, who has a 40-steal season to his credit and has also stolen more than 25 bases for four straight seasons.

SS Everth Cabrera, BAL

Cabrera carved out a niche as a cheaper steals weapon at the hard-to-fill shortstop position in fantasy leagues over the last couple years, but a down season in 2014 saw him chased out of San Diego. He landed in Baltimore, where he may not have the opportunity to start early on but could eventually work his way into a regular role at second base if Jonathan Schoop doesn’t impress. Cabrera has also seen time in the outfield this spring, opening up the possibility of triple-position eligibility for fantasy owners this season.

2B Devon Travis, TOR

Travis appears to have the inside track at Toronto’s starting job at second base after impressing the team this spring, hitting .364/.404/.500 in 44 at-bats and playing good defense. He doesn’t have quite the steals upside as some on this list, as he’s managed just 41 stolen bases in 993 career minor-league at-bats, but he does have more power (26 homers across the last two seasons) than most other late-game speed options while bringing the potential of contributing positively in batting average. A hot start could keep him on the field once Maicer Izturis is healthy enough to play, but he could be sent down if he struggles initially.

OF Jordan Schafer, MIN

Schafer isn’t in line to start this season, but he certainly could work his way into the mix in center field if he continues his strong performance from last season’s stint with the Twins, when he hit .284/.345/.362 with 15 stolen bases in 130 at-bats after being picked up off waivers from the Braves, where he also racked up 15 stolen bases but in only 80 at-bats. The outfielder has averaged a little more than 25 steals per season over the last four years despite never having a regular role, so if it appears the Twins will use him every day at some point this season, steals-needy teams should snap him up.

OF Anthony Gose/Rajai Davis, DET

Gose has managed 34 stolen bases in 552 at-bats across three major-league seasons but has yet to impress with the bat. However, the Tigers are expected to give him a shot at the top of the lineup against right-handers, so he could generate plenty of fantasy value if he can rack up a steal every 10 at-bats like he has in the minors (271 stolen bases in 2,588 minor-league at-bats). If Gose doesn’t work out in a regular role, that would mean more playing time for Davis, who has proven to be a quality steals weapon in his own right.

Other cheap SB threats to consider:

2B Jace Peterson, ATL; 2B/SS Jose Ramirez, CLE; OF Michael Bourn, CLE; OF Jake Marisnick, HOU; 2B/OF Odubel Herrera, PHI; OF Billy Burns/Sam Fuld/Craig Gentry, OAK; SS Nick Ahmed, ARI