Fantasy Baseball: Where are the stolen bases coming from?

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Although the stolen base has seen a mild comeback in 2022, base stealing is not a big part of the current offensive landscape. The average team steals .51 bases per game this year. That number was as high as .67 bases as recently as 2011.

Most offenses today are centered on home runs and the idea that moving up a base isn’t that valuable — unless you are very confident you won’t get caught.

The move away from speed doesn’t have to be frustrating to fantasy managers — take heart that we need fewer steals these days to compete. But I wanted to examine the past 30 days of play and consider where we are getting steals, and where we are not.

Who is still stealing bases for fantasy managers?

Over the last month, the Rangers and Cubs have buoyed the steal market. The Rangers have 20 swipes, the most in baseball, and the Cubs are just behind with 28. They are the only teams with more than 30 attempts — Texas is 29-for-33, Chicago is 28-for-34.

Marcus Semien’s fantasy value stayed partially afloat through his willingness to run. Eli White also runs aggressively in Texas, though he doesn’t do much else. Christopher Morel has been a hitting, walking, running story in Chicago, and I think he sticks all year.

Chicago Cubs' Christopher Morel has been a fantasy revelation
Christopher Morel has been a fantasy surprise in all aspects. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

The Reds have 21 steals over this span, placing third. Cincinnati’s team isn’t good in 2022, but it’s not the offense’s fault — the Reds are seventh in runs over the past month. Unfortunately for the bags, they’re spread over 11 players, and TJ Friedl (four steals) doesn’t play enough or hit enough to carry fantasy value. I do have some interest in Kyle Farmer (reasonable category juice), and I would try to acquire Tommy Pham if I could, considering how unlucky he’s been with in the batted ball department.

The Guardians also have 21 steals in this period — maybe it’s an Ohio thing. Six of them come from superstar Jose Ramirez, who needs no introduction or promotion.

The Guardians are starting three near-powerless hitters who do occasionally run — Myles Straw (four steals over the past 30 days), Amed Rosario (four steals) and Steven Kwan (two steals). Straw and Kwan have outstanding plate discipline, but you probably need some acceptable baseline of power to be a bonafide MLB hitter. Honestly, the AL Central is my favorite steaming target right now.

The Dodgers have 20 steals over the month — if you give them a base, they take it. Trea Turner is the pacesetter, but stars like Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman (three bags each) will also run. Gavin Lux and Cody Bellinger are borderline fantasy plays, but three steals over the past month aid the cause.

Julio Rodriguez is running wild in Seattle, but it’s a one-man band. Dylan Moore has three steals in the period, and his average makes him fantasy irrelevant. J.P. Crawford isn’t running much (two steals for the year).

Which teams are avoiding the stolen base?

Seven teams have eight or fewer steals over the past month — the Tigers, Twins, Giants, Rockies, Padres, Diamondbacks and Blue Jays.

Byron Buxton hasn’t stolen a base since the fourth game of the year. Given his injury history, maybe it’s wise for the team to give Buxton the red light. Of course, of late, Buxton hasn’t hit much, either.

The Javier Baez story is depressing in Detroit. He has one walk, one steal, 29 strikeouts and a .172 average over the last month; Yahoo colleague Fred Zinkie reasonably suggests that some managers should cut Baez outright. Robbie Grossman stole 20 bases last year; he had just two this year before landing on the IL.

Toronto tries to score with its bats, not its legs. Teoscar Hernandez has two swipes in this period, the only Blue Jay with more than one. Maybe the team feels burned for trying; at 5-for-11, it has the worst success ratio in the past 30 days.

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