In my 12-team, 5x5 roto league, which drafts 360 players, I'm scheduled to have the 11th pick.
My strategy is to draft a big bopper and then pick a prime stolen base player that contributes some in the power categories (HR and RBI).
The two guys on my radar are Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. Both are logical picks because they will hit 10 to 12 home runs, drive in 60 runs, and provide a batting average around .300.
Therefore, I'm not hurting those categories when drafting these guys for runs and steals. Plus they have a nice track record, which also provides added incentive.
Let's say you don't want to grab steals in the first two rounds...no problem.
Major League clubs are changing their philosophy that takes us back to the '80s. The '80s brought us players like Rickey Henderson, Otis Nixon, Gary Pettis, Tim Raines, Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, Gerald Young, and Mookie Wilson, who were very productive and desired by every club.
Like those "rabbits," there are a good number of young players who would have been successful in the '80s. With these young players joining veterans like Crawford, Jose Reyes, and Jimmy Rollins, there are a lot of steals to go around.
So go ahead and draft pop early.
Tier One (Rounds One and Two)
Hanley Ramirez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Jimmy Rollins, Ichiro Suzuki, Ian Kinsler, Matt Kemp, Mark Reynolds, and Chase Utley
These players are being drafted in the first two rounds because most impact all five categories.
Ramirez, Kemp, Kinsler, and Utley are capable of joining the 30/30 club.
Ellsbury and Crawford will dominate the steals category and won't hurt you in the power department.
Suzuki doesn't dominate the steals category, but he does in the batting average category.
Rollins is solid in four of the five categories and can make it all five if he brings up his batting average.
Reynolds has the most power of the bunch, and the steals were a nice surprise. Think of him as Howard with some speed. Just remember you will need to compensate that average.
Tier Two (Rounds Three and Four)
Jose Reyes, Dustin Pedroia, Brian Roberts, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Derek Jeter, and David Wright
Infielders dominate this tier, which includes three players who were first round picks the past two years. So go ahead and feel comfortable drafting these players in the third and fourth round because you may be getting these potential first rounders at a discount.
Reyes is the most intriguing of this bunch because he can put up numbers that match Ellsbury and Crawford, but at the shortstop position.
Tier Three (Rounds 5-10)
Michael Bourn, Denard Span, B.J. Upton, Chone Figgins, Nate McLouth, Bobby Abreu, Shane Victorino, Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Gonzalez, and Nelson Cruz
If you didn't draft any of the 16 players listed in the first two tiers, you may need to grab two of these guys—especially if you don't get Bourn or Figgins.
CBS Sports is projecting Bourn to finish second in steals. If he keeps his average around .280, he will prove to be a good pick because the steals are for real.
Figgins will be a target player because he has the ability to break 50 steals and provide this total from the third base position. However, the power numbers (one home run and 22 RBI in 2008) may suffer grabbing Chone for his steals. So you will need to compensate for taking him around the fifth or sixth round.
Span, Abreu, and Victorino are interchangeable. They will provide 30 steals and 10 to 15 home runs. All three will bat in the top of three good lineups, so close to 100 runs should be expected. All three will also help in the batting average categories.
Granderson and Cruz are two players who wouldn't surprise anyone if they joined the 30/30 club. They both bring a nice combination of power and speed, but with low averages.
Tier Four (Rounds 11-15)
Nyjer Morgan, Dexter Fowler, Elvis Andrus, Andrew McCutchen, Jason Bartlett, Alex Rios, Drew Stubbs, Rickie Weeks, Juan Pierre, and Ryan Theriot
This list features players who will be drafted as No. 4 or No. 5 outfielders or middle infielders.
Bartlett is probably a surprise this late, especially after hitting 14 home runs with 66 runs batted in. However, I just don't see those numbers being repeated.
If you expect 20 to 30 steals with a solid .280 average and seven home runs, you won't be disappointed. Therefore, I don't think he falls in the top 120 draft picks.
Theriot is basically Bartlett and may be available about three to five rounds after Jason is picked. Therefore, Theriot is the better value pick.
Morgan, Fowler, Andrus, and Pierre are guys who will only help in runs and steals. Power is not part of their game. Selecting them late won't hurt you if you have an abundance of power at this time of the draft.
Stubbs, McCutchen, and Rios are three guys who have the potential for 20/20, though Rios is probably the best bet since the other two are still developing power.
Tier Five (After the 15th round)
Rajai Davis, Carlos Gomez, Everth Cabrera, Alcides Escobar, Chris Getz, Willy Taveras, and Chris B. Young
If you still need speed at this point, you are in trouble. But if you need additional speed to rotate in the U/Bench spot, then these guys will help.
Actually, Escobar and Cabrera will help out in the MI spot. Both will provide speed but no power, so draft accordingly.
Davis and Gomez are intriguing picks because they are projected to be leadoff hitters for their respective teams, so there's sleeper potential here. Expect ups and downs with these two if drafted.
Getz, Taveras, and Young are just bench players who may help contribute here and there.
Please adjust the round predictions based on your type of league. These predictions are based on 12-team, 5x5 roto leagues for both NL and AL players.
I hope this helps to understand the speed potential heading into 2010. This can be used as a tool for you to come up with a strategic plan.
Good luck and have fun.
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