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Base stealers are quickly becoming an endangered species. Fantasy managers can now find sluggers in every round of their draft, but they are often hard-pressed to arrive at Opening Day with more than 100 projected swipes in their starting lineup. The steals category will decide many roto leagues, making the following players — all of whom should provide at least 20 steals and can be plucked later than Pick 150 – more valuable than many managers realize.
Mallex Smith (OF), Seattle Mariners
Smith presents a unique dilemma for fantasy managers. Mostly a one-category contributor, the 26-year-old is a fit only for teams who have come through the initial 150 picks in a desperate position for steals. And managers can’t plan their draft around Smith unless they are willing to reach for him. Still, the speedster will meet the needs of at least one team in every league, as he leads the Majors with 86 swipes across the past two seasons. That said, there are major red flags with Smith after his strikeout rate ballooned last season and his batting average dropped nearly 70 points to .227. (ADP: 173, Projected Steals: 38)
Amed Rosario (SS), New York Mets
Although Rosario took a step back in the steals category last year (from 24 to 19), he made notable improvements in home runs, RBI and batting average. Managers can now dream on the 24-year-old putting it all together this year and being a five-category contributor who reaches 25 steals for the first time. Rosario — who slashed .319/.351/.453 after the All-Star break — would be much more valuable if the Mets move him from the bottom third of their lineup to the leadoff spot. (ADP: 188, Projected Steals: 22)
Elvis Andrus (SS), Texas Rangers
Andrus has been one of the most consistent steals producers, topping the 20-steal plateau in all but one of his 11 Major League seasons. The career .275 hitter can also help in the batting average category but has produced more than 12 homers or 72 RBI just once, and he failed to reach the 80 runs plateau five times. In today’s offense-charged environment, Andrus seems destined to leave his managers needing to make up power numbers at other positions. Additionally, his bat faded badly last season, including a .605 OPS after the All-Star break. (ADP: 155, Projected Steals: 22)
Cavan Biggio (2B/OF), Toronto Blue Jays
Even a novice baseball analyst can figure out what Biggio is trying to do at the dish. The youngster is consistently trying to hit a home run, as is evidenced by his outstanding rates of fly balls (47.0 percent), hard contact (39.5 percent) and pulled balls (49.4 percent). And when pitchers don’t give him something to pull, Biggio is looking to draw a walk (16.5 percent). All of those pulled fly balls could soon lead to a 30-homer season, and all of those walks give him the opportunity to swipe 20 bases. (ADP: 164, Projected Steals 20).
Danny Santana (1B/2B/3B/SS/OF), Texas Rangers
Santana presents managers with a tough dilemma, as he collected 28 homers and 21 steals in his age-28 season after totaling six long balls and 28 swipes in the previous four campaigns. He deserves credit for boosting his hard-contact rate by nearly 10 percent to 45.1, but he also continued to show embarrassingly poor plate discipline (0.17 BB:K ratio). With his 2020 role still up in the air, this potential flash in the pan feels risky at his current ADP. (ADP: 151, Projected Steals: 20).
Kevin Newman (2B/SS), Pittsburgh Pirates
Pirates rookie manager Danny Shelton has promised that his team will be aggressive on the base paths, which is hardly surprising given the club’s overall lack of hitting ability. Still, the approach should work well for Newman, who hit .308 with 16 steals as a rookie last year. The middle infielder has a chance to hit leadoff, which would allow him to produce at least 80 runs and 20 swipes in his sophomore campaign. (ADP: 210, Projected Steals: 20)
Kolten Wong (2B), St. Louis Cardinals
Although a seven-year veteran, Wong was an unexpected 2019 steals source when he swiped 24 bags after totaling 21 in the previous three seasons. But his speed game wasn’t completely unheard of, as he stole 20 bases in 2014 and 15 the following year. A career .260 hitter who has career highs of 12 round-trippers, 61 RBI and 71 runs scored, Wong is mostly a one-category asset who should be left for the late rounds. (ADP: 254, Projected Steals: 20)
Jon Berti (3B/SS/OF), Miami Marlins
Berti lacks a full-time role, but he needed just 287 plate appearances to compile 17 steals last season. All but one of his swipes came after August 1, which leaves fantasy managers hoping that the multi-position asset could produce 30 steals in a high-volume utility role this season. Berti also regularly hit out of the leadoff spot down the stretch, and additional work near the top of the lineup could result in a solid runs-scored total. (ADP: 246, Projected Steals: 25)
Nick Madrigal (2B), Chicago White Sox
Steals are hard to find on the waiver wire, which makes stashing Madrigal a solid option. The 2018 first-round pick is already knocking on the White Sox door after hitting .309 with 43 swipes in 163 Minor League games. Chicago has been aggressive in promoting prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, and they could continue that pattern by getting Madrigal into their leadoff spot early this season. (ADP: 246, Projected Steals: 22)