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8 Players To Draft for Steals (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

8 Players To Draft for Steals (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

MLB’s changes to the rules before the 2023 season completely changed the stolen base landscape. In the 2022 season, there were 2,486 stolen bases. That number skyrocketed to 3,503 stolen bases last season.

The massive increase in stolen bases changed how they must be approached in fantasy baseball. It used to be possible to take one speedster and compete for the category. Those days are gone. To compete in the top spot, one needs to have a plan.

A good place to start is to take one of the players most likely to contribute at least 30 stolen bases early in your draft. ATC projections have eight players projected over 30 steals. Four of those players have ADPs in the top 10 overall, making selecting them dependent on draft position. Three more will come off the board in the first five rounds, according to ADP.

If you find yourself missing out early on stolen bases, you will need some later targets. Listed below are players at every position, with ADPs outside the top 100 who can be later targets for stolen bases.

Players to Target for Steals in Fantasy Baseball

Bo Naylor (C – CLE)

In the last 10 seasons, there have been four double-digit stolen base seasons by a catcher. All four of those seasons have been by J.T. Realmuto, with three of them in the last three years. Bo Naylor has the skill set to be the next catcher in the double-digit steals club.

Naylor was a rookie last season who was called up in mid-June but played sporadically until the end of the season. In the end, he was just shy of 200 Big League at-bats. He still was able to steal five bases including four in the last month. He also had two in the Minor Leagues before he was called up for a total of seven last season between both levels.

His 2021 season was even better in the stolen base department. That season was split between Double-A and Triple-A, where he stole 20 bases. In the past 15 seasons, only Realmuto has had a 20-stolen base season by a catcher. With an ADP of 200, you don’t have to make an early investment in case we get another one.

Luke Raley (1B/OF – SEA)

One of the more unique Statcast pages belongs to new Seattle Mariners outfielder Luke Raley. He strikes out 31.5% of the time, which is in the bottom 10 percentile. That’s explainable by his 39% whiff rate, the worst percentile in all of baseball. The good news is when he does make contact, it is usually very hard contact.

Even though Seattle is the worst hitter’s park by Park Factor, Raley should still hit for power. His exit velocity, barrel % and hard hit % are all well above average. What is surprising is that his sprint speed is also in the 87th percentile. He used those skills to accumulate 19 home runs and 14 stolen bases in only 316 at-bats.

Tampa Bay utilized Raley in a platoon role, playing him nearly exclusively against right-handed pitchers. While Seattle would likely prefer to do the same, they don’t have the same outfield depth as the Rays. It’s possible that he could get more at-bats against left-handed pitching. If that happens, a 20 home run-20 stolen base season is well within the range of possibilities for a player who can be had outside the top-300 picks.

Tommy Edman (2B/SS/OF – STL)

Tommy Edman is one of the safest bets in all of baseball for stolen bases. Last season would have likely been his third consecutive of at least 30 stolen bases if he hadn’t missed most of July with a wrist injury. He still finished with 27 stolen bases in 137 games played.

It’s not just the speed in Edman’s game that is reliable. It’s all five categories of production that have been incredibly consistent over the past three seasons. His runs scored dipped a bit last season, as he spent more time towards the bottom of the St. Louis batting order, but 69 runs are still useable for fantasy. He hit 11 home runs three seasons ago and has followed that with back-to-back 13-home run seasons. His batting average was depressed by a lower BABIP but was still .248 last season. Regression to the mean should get him back into the 260 range from the past two seasons.

Edman’s ADP consensus is currently at 145, the highest of anyone on this list. It makes sense. At that point, you’ve probably taken a few shots at upside plays. Balancing off an upside selection earlier with a steady producer who also happens to be triple eligible is a solid strategy for building a winning team.

Noelvi Marte (3B – CIN)

Finding stolen base options at third base beyond the first few rounds can be difficult. Noelvi Marte could be a difference-maker in the stolen base department if he can maintain his playing time.

Marte was only in the Big Leagues for the season’s last six weeks. Even in that limited playing time, he still accumulated six stolen bases. He stole five bases in his first 11 games. It’s not easy to see why he was successful when you examine his Statcast data. Marte is in the 91st percentile for sprint speed. He also is not just a speed-only option, as he also hits the ball extremely hard. There are similarities with fellow Cincinnati Reds infielder Elly De La Cruz at much less cost.

The concern with Marte is the playing time. At this point, there are more infielders than positions for the Reds. Matt McLain, Jonathan India and Elly De La Cruz seem likely to rotate between the middle infield positions. The corner infield positions are anchored by Marte, Jeimer Candelario and Christian Encarnacion-Strand. Even with one player playing designated hitter most days, there is still a glut of options. If Marte can find 450 at-bats, a 20 home run and 20 stolen base season could follow.

Maikel Garcia (3B/SS – KC)

Maikel Garcia is a Statcast darling with his power and speed. He hasn’t reached his power potential in games yet because he still hits too many balls into the ground. It only takes a launch angle adjustment to tap into more game power. Even if he doesn’t, he still has a very safe batting average floor.

With the safe batting average comes the potential for even more stolen bases. As a rookie last season, Garcia stole 23 bases in 123 games. He was also caught seven times, so the Royals weren’t afraid to let him attempt to steal. Without an injury, there is no reason to think that Garcia won’t play more games this season. With more games comes the potential for even more steals.

Garcia has a current ADP of 292. His positional versatility makes him appealing at that price. He has both third base and shortstop eligibility, which means he can cover both the corner and middle infield positions. Add in the potential for 10 home runs and 25 stolen bases, and Garcia becomes a player to target later in your drafts.

Jarren Duran (OF – BOS)

Jarren Duran is the definition of a post-hype sleeper. Overwhelmed when he was first called up to the Big Leagues in 2021, he has shown improvement every season. His strikeout percentage has dropped from 35.7% when first promoted to just 24.9% last season. Making more contact and an extremely high BABIP boosted his average to .295. The average seems unlikely to repeat, but a healthy season could lead to a new career-high in stolen bases.

Stolen bases are another statistic where Duran has set new highs each season. In his first year, he stole only two bases. His second season saw him steal seven bases. Last season, he exploded with 24 stolen bases. Certainly, some of that can be explained by the increase in playing time. The exciting thing is that this is the first season where, barring injury, it seems likely that Duran has a guaranteed full-time position.

Even though he hasn’t done it before, expecting 30 stolen bases out of Duran isn’t unreasonable. He is plenty fast with a 96th percentile sprint speed. Add that he is projected to bat leadoff, and you have the recipe for a fantasy breakout. With an ADP of 227, finding out doesn’t require much investment.

Harrison Bader (OF – NYM)

Injury concerns abound with Harrison Bader. The most at-bats he has accumulated in any of his seven seasons is 379. Last year, he missed time with oblique, hamstring, wrist, rib and groin injuries. You can bank on two facets of Bader’s game when he is healthy enough to play baseball. One is he will provide his actual MLB team with stellar defense. The other is he will steal bases for fantasy teams.

Even as he was battling his ailments last season, Bader still managed to steal 20 bases in what was essentially a half-season. Bader signed a one-year contract this offseason to go back to New York City, but this time to play for the Mets. While he’ll likely bat toward the bottom of their lineup, he also should have no concerns with playing time if he stays healthy.

With an ADP of 394, Bader is essentially free, even in 15-team leagues. While you can’t rely on Bader for a season’s worth of statistics, it doesn’t matter at that price. If you get his typical 350 at-bats, he is still likely to return 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases. In doing so, he’ll return a profit from that position.

Johan Rojas (OF – PHI)

Called up in the second half for the team in the middle of the pennant race, Johan Rojas delivered in his rookie season. Like Bader, he is another superb defensive player who can steal bases.

Rojas only accumulated 154 Big-League plate appearances. Even in such a small sample size, he was still able to steal 14 bases with his 96th-percentile sprint speed. There is no reason to doubt that when he gets on base, he will steal. What is reason to doubt is that he will get on base at the .342 pace from last season.

Rojas hit for a .302 average at the Big League level last season. While his speed can allow him to run a higher-than-average BABIP, his 410 from last season is unrepeatable. Add in that he only walked five times, and his reaching first base will drop substantially.

Rojas’ ADP is 315. With Rojas, more than 30 stolen bases are a possibility. Just recognize that if you draft him, it is more likely to come with an average of .240 than the .302 from last season.

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