Fantasy Baseball: 10 Ways to Grab Steals Without Sacrificing Power
Let's be clear from the start. If you consider power, speed, average and affordability, you can normally only have two or three in one player. For the sake of this article, and considering affordability a must in trade targets, most of these guys will not help your batting average.
That being said, these are trade targets who will boost your stolen bases without taking up a lineup space devoid of power. Unless your team is stocked with Adam Dunn-types and Dee Gordon-types, the 20/20 guys can make or break your team.
Keep in mind, my category-league teams rarely win the batting average category because I load up on 20/20 guys.
Drew Stubbs, Cincinnati Reds
In 308 games between 2010 and 2011, Drew Stubbs had 37 HR and 70 SB. He scored 183 runs and knocked in 121. He also struck out 373 times, so you know what you are going to get.
This career .250 hitter has shown more of the same in 2012, with five homers and seven steals over his first 40 games, along with 26 runs scored and 48 strikeouts. He's fortunate to bat in a lineup with Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. There will be plenty of runs scored.
Stubbs' owners tend to get fed up with the strikeouts, especially in leagues that count batting average. But if you own one of the average boosters like Votto or Miguel Cabrera, then Stubbs might come to you for a bargain, and the hurt is offset.
BJ Upton, Tampa Bay Rays
BJ Upton had 164 steals between 2008 and 2011. In that time, his home runs went from 9 to 11 to 18 to 23. He has scored 79 or more runs for five years in a row, and his 81 RBI in 2011 were one short of his career high.
However, unlike Stubbs, Upton is showing signs in the one category his owners have always sacrificed, average. In 28 games since his return from the disabled list to start the year, Upton is batting .283. There is some hope he can maintain it. Upton batted .300 in 2007 and .273 in 2008 at 22 and 23 years old.
BJ might represent the most upside of anyone on this list, as he has shown he can hit 20-plus home runs, steal 40-plus bases and bat .300. He has done them all. Buy Upton as the .240/20/40 guy and enjoy his average and runs-scored upside.
Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians
Shin-Soo Choo was the pinnacle of consistency from 2009-2010. He batted exactly .300 in each year, hit 20 and 22 home runs, stole 21 and 22 bases, knocked in 86 and 90 RBI and scored 87 and 81 runs. His OPS was .883 and .885.
Choo struggled through an injury-plagued 2011, managing to appear in only 85 games and shaking the confidence of many of his supporters in fantasy leagues. Many question if he can stay healthy, and even if so, can he continue to produce in a lineup lacking support.
This season hasn't done much to dissuade the doubters. He has only two home runs, and his OPS is 100 points below its range in those two great years. But there's still a .300/20/20 guy here, and by the end of the year, you're going to wish you bought in now.
Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
Stubbs' teammate Phillips hasn't been buy lowable in years. He has annually been among the best second basemen in fantasy due to his ability to provide a useful average along with power and speed.
The career .271 hitter has been over .275 in four of the last five years. He has six straight seasons of 17-plus home runs. He has over 20 steals in four of the last six and never less than 14 in that span. He has 75 or more RBI in five of six years and twice over 90. He has over 75 runs scored in six straight, twice over 100.
Phillips is batting just .259 with two home runs and one steal this season, but he has been hampered by an injury and was only recently given the green light on the basepaths. Buy now, if you can.
Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
Jason Kipnis, at 25 years old, is on pace for 24 HR and 24 SB. In 36 games last season, Kipnis hit seven home runs and stole five bases so these numbers are consistent with dual-threat production.
Kipnis has flown under many radars so far this year, which might allow you to buy cheaper than usual.
While he's only batting .256, he was a .297 batter through 254 minor-league games and batted .272 in his cup of coffee last season. There's no reason to think Kipnis can't bat .270 or better this year and settle in as a .280-.290 hitter with 20/20 production in subsequent years.
Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres
When talking about San Diego, saying a guy won't kill your power is a relative term. Cameron Maybin only hit nine homers last season, but he added eight triples, 82 runs scored and 24 doubles. That's all not to mention his 40 steals.
Certainly, Maybin is farther to the speed side of the power/speed continuum, but run production doesn't always have to be hitting the ball out of the ball park. For one example, the three category leagues I played in last year were all won by the team that won the "runs scored" category. There's a direct correlation between players who score a lot of runs and good overall fantasy teams.
All that being said, even 10 home runs from a guy that adds 40 steals is more than welcome on any of my teams.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
Derek Jeter before 2011 had managed at least 10 home runs every single season since 1996, and over 15 eight times. He also had at least 11 steals every year since 1996, including 2011, with over 15 in a season 12 times.
Jeter, at 38 years old, is having a career year. He is batting .343 and has already hit five home runs and stolen three bases. That's a pace for 20 HR and 12 SB.
Jeter's age and 2011 struggles make him one of the more affordable 20/15-capable, batting-title contenders in the history of the shortstop position.
Now, I don't expect him to hit 20 home runs, but 15, with 15 steals isn't remotely out of the question. Add to that a probable .300-plus average and his 14th career 100-run season and you win.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
In 21 games since his call-up, Mike Trout has four homers and six steals and is batting .350. To put that in perspective, over a 162-game season, that's a pace of about 30 HR and 45 SB. He's that good.
Even if Trout plays 120 games at that pace (or 135 games, with a slump thrown in), you're looking at 20 HR, 30 SB and an average north of .300, AKA a landslide Rookie of the Year.
It may be too late to buy-low on Trout, but in keeper leagues, he may already be worth a top-30 overall hitter in trade, and you may catch some wily owner thinking he can "sell high" on the kid, when in fact this production could continue all season (aside from the average, which may "slump" to .300).
Bobby Abreu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Between 1998 and 2010, Bobby Abreu never had less than 15 HR or 74 RBI. Between 1998 and 2011, Abreu never had less than 19 steals. Between 1999 and 2010, he never scored less than 88 runs.
Having left the crowded outfield of the Angels for a job with the cross-town rivals in Chavez Ravine, Abreu is motivated to prove the team that dumped him wrong. He stole 21 bases in 2011, so the ability is still there.
Abreu is one for deeper leagues to have in mind. Shallower leagues can probably find better options.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Remember at the beginning I said between average, power, speed and affordability, you can usually only have three and that I was making affordability a must for this article? Well, this is the exception. Throw the kitchen sink at the owner in your league who has Andrew McCutchen.
The one they call "Cutch" in Pittsburgh is batting .340, on pace for close to 30 HR and SB (has seven of each now), 100 runs and 85 RBI. Oh, and he's only 25.
He's not cheap, but he has all of the other components and looks like a top-15 overall player for the next five years.