In a 5x5 standard league, the five offensive categories are batting average, home runs, runs batted in, runs scored and stolen bases. Arguably the toughest category to draft for is steals.
There are three routes to choose from when trying to fill out the speed category on your team come draft day:
1. Draft as many multiple-category players as you can. Finding 20 homer/20 steal hitters to fill out your team is dream-like. Ten homers and 10 steals is a lot more realistic and equally desirable.
HR / SB 2008 2007 2006
30 / 30 2 3 1
20 / 20 9 17 6
10 / 10 49 46 45
2. Draft as many top-10 stolen base guys as you can, as they are a rare commodity and cornering the market on anything is always beneficial.
SB 2008 2007 2006
50 3 6 5
40 9 8 11
30 16 19 18
20 37 41 34
10 85 88 82
3. Punt the category. It's always an option, but let it be a path that another owner chooses!
We are only going to focus on option No. 2 when evaluating the following players. These rankings are based on projected steals that they will be able to get this season.
20. Alex Rios, OF, Toronto Blue Jays — projected steals total of 25
Before last year's total of 32 steals, Alex Rios had topped out at 17 steals with a low of 14. He did take a step back in every offensive category except for steals, but that can be attributed to a much-weaker Toronto lineup.
19. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins — projected steals total of 27
Hanley Ramirez's bat is starting to take center stage and his wheels are going to suffer. After two years of 51 steals, his total slipped to 35. Florida has already said he will be hitting in the third spot this year.
18. Johnny Damon, OF, New York Yankees — projected steals total of 28
Does Johnny Damon ever let us down in the steals department? The second all-time active leader in stolen bases is going to keep on running.
17. Denard Span, OF, Minnesota Twins — projected steals total of 29
Stole a nice 18 bases last season in limited work, which was reminiscent of Michael Bourn's rookie season in 2007. We're assuming that he is able to get on base more consistently.
16. Cameron Maybin, OF, Florida Marlins — projected steals total of 32
The Marlins will be happy to have Cameron Maybin in center field this year. He has the confidence of the coaching staff to be put in Hanley Ramirez's old batting slot. A possible 20 homer/20 steals player for the rest of his career.
15. Willy Taveras, OF, Cincinnati Reds — projected steals total of 33
Willy Taveras saw his OBP drop to a career low of .307, but he inexplicably saw his steals reach a career high of 68. After topping out at 34 bags before last season, Willy Taveras should revert back to his usual self.
14. Chone Figgins, 3B, California Angels — projected steals total of 34
Chone Figgins matched his career low in steals last season with 34. The Angels are going to be relying on his table-setting ability that much more this season.
13. Carlos Gomez, OF, Minnesota Twins — projected steals total of 35
Carlos Gomez's steals will increase the more he gets on base. He posted a low .296 OBP last season and if he wants to make sure he plays every day, he will ensure this number rises.
12. Shane Victorino, OF, Philadelphia Phillies — projected steals total of 37
The Flying Hawaiian had 37 steals in 2007 and 36 last year. We like Shane Victorino for his consistency.
11. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Seattle Mariners — projected steals total of 38
Ichiro will likely be the lone bright spot in what will be a tough season for the Seattle Mariners, the Ken Griffey lovefest aside. In a season which we will see him pass 2,000 career hits, Ichiro will put up his usually solid speed totals.
10. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies — projected steals total of 40
Is Jimmy Rollins ready to hit 40 stolen bases three years in a row and four times in the last five years? Another rock of consistency.
9. Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians — projected steals total of 40
Grady Sizemore has been a 20/20 player since 2005, finally making the jump to a 30/30 producer. Is 40/40 next?
8. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers — projected steals total of 41
Ian Kinsler has seen his stolen base totals increase every year since he entered the Major Leagues. A 10/10 producer every year and a one of the few players who is capable of of producing a 30/30 season.
7. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers — projected steals total of 42
Does anybody know where those 35 steals came from last year? Matt Kemp rewarded Joe Torre's confidence with a solid all-around campaign that he is ready to repeat.
6. Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles — projected steals total of 46
Brian Roberts might be the happiest person in Baltimore right now. Two years removed from a career high of 50 stolen bases, Roberts will be looking to take advantage of an improved Orioles lineup and maintaining his production.
5. B.J. Upton, OF, Tampa Bay Rays — projected steals total of 50
Last year saw B.J. Upton's stolen base total double to 44. With the Tampa Bay Rays showing that they play well together, Upton will take advantage of spots and run as much as he can.
4. Carl Crawford, OF, Tampa Bay Rays — projected steals total of 52
Carl Crawford already has four season of 50 steals or more. With a career low of 25 steals, Crawford is going to make up one-third of what will surely be the fastest outfield in the the majors alongside B.J. Upton.
3. Michael Bourn, OF, Houston Astros — projected steals total of 57
The problem Michael Bourn had last year was that his on-base percentage was only .288, not high enough to keep Darin Erstad on the bench. If Michael Bourn is able to get close to the .348 mark he had his rookie season, this stolen base projection might be a low number for him.
2. Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets — projected steals total of 66
Jose Reyes is unfortunately the third best shortstop in the National League. Overall, he's easily behind Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins, but if speed was the only skill that counted, he would without question be No. 1. Luckily for Jose Reyes, it is the only category that counts on this list.
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox — projected steals total of 70
Jacoby Ellsbury seemed to hit a wall last season. By June, he had stolen 34 bases, but had only one steal in July, but bounced back with 15 collectively in August and September. Now that Jacoby Ellsbury has a season under his belt his total of 50 bags are sure to increase.