Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down four players who have a surprising number of stolen bases this season.
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals
Molina had a career-high nine stolen bases in 2009, which is impressive from a catcher. He already has seven steals this season, in addition to 11 home runs and a .319 batting average. It’s hard to believe, but the Cardinals may have picked correctly when it came to which free agent to give a big contract to in the offseason, Molina or Albert Pujols. So far, Molina is performing at a higher level this season.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
Kipnis’ career high in stolen bases was 17, which he achieved last year between AAA and the majors. He already has 17 steals this year and is on pace for nearly 40 by the end of the season. He’s also contributing in the power area with 11 home runs, 46 runs and 42 RBI.
Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners
Saunders stole 29 bases in 2009 in the minors and has 12 stolen bases so far this season. What is surprising is how much playing time he is getting, but he can’t be taken out of the lineup with a .267 average, eight home runs and 35 runs.
Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals
We know that Beltran has speed, as he became just the eighth player in MLB history to have 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases. However, he only had seven stolen bases in the past two seasons combined, making his seven steals this year so surprising. He is also batting .312 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI.
For more fantasy baseball insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
When it comes to sleepers fantasy managers are often looking for late round picks that could contribute throughout the season. A more valuable sleeper is the talent who is already drafted in the middle rounds, but has the ability to reach superstar potential. Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer happens to fit that mold of sleeper.
The 22-year-old talent was the third overall pick of the 2008 draft. Last year he earned his first taste of Big League action and he found immediate success. The Miami native did it all. He blasted 19 home runs, swiped 11 bases, and offered a .293 average.
While Hosmer may be the Royals top young talent, he is not alone. After several years of struggles, the Royals finally have the making of a top-notch lineup with veterans such as Billy Butler and Alex Gordon joined by Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, amongst others.
This season Hosmer should take another step forward and fantasy managers considering drafting Mark Texeira in the first or second rounds are better off scooping Hosmer in the fourth or fifth rounds. He is more well-rounded than Texeira and could end up offering similar power production as well. Hosmer is one of the top sleepers in baseball even if you have to draft him in the middle rounds.
The Reds already have one megastar in the form of Joey Votto, but there may be another in the lineup. Jay Bruce actually had more buzz around him when he made his debut than Votto. The 12th pick of the 2005 draft, Bruce has been in the Big Leagues since he was 21-years old. While there have been some growing pains over the last few seasons, he has improved, and at 25-years old he should be closer to his prime this season.
Bruce has always possessed power. He already has 100 career home runs before he even turned 25. Last season was his first reaching the 30-home run plateau, as he slammed 32 round-trippers. More impressive for his sabermetric fans, Bruce offered great patience at the plate with 71 walks, which made up for his .256 batting clip.
One of the streakiest hitters in the game, Bruce blasted 12 home runs with a .342 average in May, but then hit less than .240 in three of the next four months. Fantasy managers are hoping that another year under his belt will lead to some maturity and consistency at the plate. Bruce is one of the rare talents who can slam 40 home runs with a .280-plus average. However, that’s just talk of potential, and when drafting you need to take more into account.
He’s already in his mid-20s, but Paul Goldschmidt could end up being a fantasy star as soon as this season. An eighth round pick out of Texas State, Goldschmidt has been a pleasant surprise in the Diamondbacks farm system.
Goldschmidt’s power is legit, as he has slammed 73 round-trippers over the last two seasons. He also has cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walks the last few seasons. In his Big League debut, Goldschmidt slammed eight home runs in 48 games. He also swiped four bases, which is a pleasant surprise for a slugger.
While sluggers often take some time to develop in the Big Leagues, Goldschmidt is expected to produce as soon as this season. BloombergSports.com Front Office projects 30 home runs this season, which could land the Diamondbacks right back in the thick of the hunt for the Division Title.
BY ROB SHAW
The top stolen base threat will be Braves outfielder Michael Bourn. Bloomberg Sports forecasts that he is the only speedster who will surpass 50 stolen bases this season. Though he has little power, Bourn has evolved into a fine fantasy option with a high average and as many as 61 stolen bases in a season. In 53 games with the Braves last season following a trade, Bourn swiped 22 bases.
Next, the Yankees and Red Sox both have speedsters as Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are next on the list. Ellsbury will again be an MVP candidate while Gardner’s value depends upon where he is in the lineup.
Ellsbury is projected to again surpass 20 home runs this season with 40-plus steals. The fact that he offers an all-around game has taken away from his stolen bases, but fantasy managers should have no gripes. Gardner, on the other hand, is more of a one-trick pony who relies on stolen bases. If the Yankees wish to take advantage of his high OBP they could have him bat leadoff, which would lead to more runs, but Yankees Manager Joe Girardi seemed to like having him at the back of the lineup last season.
The Oakland A’s will have no need for speed with Coco Crisp on their team. He is a bit injury-prone, but steals with the best of them. Crisp also has a little pop, twice hitting 15 or more home runs in a season. If the A’s lineup shows some improvement you should expect many more runs coming from Crisp.
Finally, BJ Upton has yet to meet his lofty expectations but he does pack some power and should steal close to 40 bases. Last season Upton shined in four categories with 80-plus runs, 80-plus RBI, 20-plus HR, and 35-plus steals. Unfortunately, he only hit .243. There remains some hope he can be the complete package as the 27-year-old once hit .300 for a full season. On the other hand, Upton has finished with an average less than .245 in three straight seasons.
The ultimate sleeper is Dodgers middle infielder Dee Gordon, while his teammate Matt Kemp predicts that he will go 50-50 for the first time in baseball history.
For more fantasy insight visit BloombergSports.com.
By R.J. Anderson //
In early March, I detailed why Cliff Pennington
could be a valuable piece in deeper leagues because of his ability to
steal bases. So far, he’s been well worth the late-round draft pick.
To date, Pennington’s stolen base total sits at 15. That places him sixth amongst shortstops, behind the usual names like Elvis Andrus, Erick Aybar, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes. Pennington
will probably finish within the 25-30 steals range; not bad for someone
without the hype or draft status of a Hanley or Reyes. What I expected
from Pennington was a hot streak that placed him among the game’s best
hitters for a prolonged period. Yet, over the last 30 days, he’s been
absolute on fire, batting .408/.463/.563 and placing him amongst the
top 10 batters in the entire league.
Fantasy league veterans
know all about the positional scarcity that comes with playing
shortstop. Any morsel of value from a non-elite shortstop or catcher
should be savored. Pennington ranked second in shortstop batting
average during the month of June (.338, only Rafael Furcal was
above .320) and he is hitting .375 in July. With that kind of
performance for the last month, you would think his stock would be up.
That is not reality, though, as he’s owned in only 26% of ESPN leagues
and 46% of CBS leagues.
Data courtesy of FanGraphs
obvious caveats apply to Pennington’s streak. Do not expect this level
of performance to continue. Besides the fact that nobody hits .400
anymore, Pennington plays in a cavernous ballpark. Despite all that
room, the park’s dimensions restrict hits of all variety from either
hand due to the large area of foul territory. A safe projection for his
performance from here on out is essentially his slash line to date:
.267/.338/.389. That looks similar to his 2009, when he produced
.279/.342/.418, in far fewer at-bats.
If you need shortstop help for the short-term in a standard league, grab Pennington and hope to ride out the wave.
For more information on Cliff Pennington and hundreds of other
players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy
league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.
measure, Shane Victorino has put up a season so far that’s
came into the 2010 season a good bet to be slightly above average in
every major statistical category. Throughout his career, Victorino has
always put the ball into play, striking out just 13 percent of the time.
That’s typically led to a pretty decent batting average (.283 for his
career) and he has buttressed his fantasy value with decent pop (two
straight seasons of double-digit home runs) and excellent speed (61
combined steals in 2008-2009).
Victorino is slightly off his career batting and speed numbers. He’s
hitting .275 and is on pace for 25 steals, when most people expected at
Victorino a disappointment. Right now, he’s slugged 8 HR out of the
ballpark, which gives him two more than teammate Ryan Howard and
puts him on pace for 36. He also has a team-leading 32 RBI and 28 runs
scored, second on the high-powered Phillies offense.
could go 12-.290-90-60-30 and right now he’s looking like a
35-.270-110-140-22 player. What in the name of Alfonso Soriano is
strikeout rate is up slightly, but he’s been the victim of poor luck
on balls hit in play. Despite possessing ample speed to beat out
infield hits, Victorino’s BABIP sits at .277, where league average
typically hovers around .300.
from .153 to .244, but it appears he’s been the beneficiary of good
luck in the HR department. Victorino is putting the ball in the air
more, increasing his flyball rate from 33% to 44%, but at the same time,
his fly-ball-to-home-run rate has rocketed from 5.5% to 13.3%.
for steals, this depends on one’s viewpoint. His speed indicators —
such as extra-base hits and his stolen base success rate — are all
fairly normal. He’s simply not attempting as many steals as he did in
Polanco in the off-season, manager Charlie Manuel slotted Victorino
into the seventh position of his batting order — bad luck since that
slot is not known to produce many SB opportunities. But then, Jimmy
Rollins got injured and in a stroke of good luck for him, Victorino
got time as the leadoff hitter. Victorino actually hit .289 in the
leadoff slot compared to just .161 in the 7th slot, but he didn’t use
his time as Rollins’ replacement at the top of the order to swipe many
bases. Instead, he just knocked one ball after another over the fence.
Monday, Rollins was activated from the DL. For one game at least,
Victorino remained in the leadoff spot, with Rollins and his out-making
bat hitting third.
that adjust for the flukish good and bad luck that Victorino has
been seeing lately, he should be the same batter we expected all along.
(See the graph to the right.) Decent, but not great pop. Good speed.
strange numbers could mean there’s a reasonable chance that Victorino
ends up pushing that highly improbable 20-20 season. Go figure.
Shane Victorino, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.
We’re betting on the latter. If you own him and can sell high, do it.
By Erik Hahmann
Those numbers prompted the Rangers to promote the then-23-year-old to Triple-A at the start of the 2009 season. Facing his toughest competition to date, Borbon continued to put up strong numbers, hitting .307 and getting on base at a .367 clip. Although Borbon stole only 25 bases at Triple-A, his patience at the plate showed improvement; his walk percentage climbed to 7.2%, the highest of his three minor league stops.
Bloomberg Sports’ B-Rank projects Borbon as the 14th-best center fielder in MLB in 2010, ahead of better-known players like Nyjer Morgan, Vernon Wells, and Carlos Beltran to name a few. Those players, and others of the same ilk, might get picked ahead of Borbon in many leagues based on name recognition alone. That’s a perfect formula for landing one of the best sleeper names in fantasy baseball this season.
By Tommy Rancel
For the first five years of his career, Alex Rios was a productive hitter. From 2004 to 2008, he averaged .288/.338/.455 (AVG/OBP/SLG). But after a slow start in 2009, he was placed on waivers by Toronto, then given away to the White Sox for no compensation other than the amputation of his bloated contract. Overall in 2009, he hit just .247/.296/.395. His batting average was just .199 after moving to Chicago.
Despite the dip in those slash numbers (AVG/OBP/SLG), Rios still hit 17 home runs and stole 24 bases, providing continued value for fantasy owners.
Obviously, the most alarming loss for Rios came in batting average. In 2006-2008, his batting average was .297. His 2009 average of .247 represents a 50-point drop. For a speedy player who was only 28 years old, this was odd.
Sure enough, when we look at his batted ball data from last season — notably batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and his percentage of line drives hit (LD%) — we see some outlier numbers.
Thanks to his speed and ability to hit line drives (more on that in a minute), Rios has a slightly elevated career BABIP of .319. The league average is around .300. Last season, his BABIP dropped to .273.
Digging a little deeper, Rios has maintained a career LD% of 19.8%. In 2009, that number dropped to 16.4%.
Going even deeper into the numbers, Rios saw a tremendous drop in LD% against right-handed pitching (RHP). In his career, Rios owns a LD% against RHP of 19.8%; in 2009, that number sank to 14.7%. This is significant because Rios faced a right-hander 72% of the time last year.
Some studies, like the one here, suggest career BABIP is the best predictor of a player’s BABIP going forward. If this is the case for Rios, expect a healthy regression in batting average, and on-base percentage, towards career marks near .280 and .330.
After hitting 24 home runs in 2007, many expected Rios to become a 30/30 player; however, he is not that type of hitter. A big chunk of the balls he hits into play are line drives or groundballs (42.8% career groundball rate). This leaves little room for fly balls (37.4% career fly ball rate). Because of this, he’s averaged 19 home runs over the past three years; Bloomberg Sports projects a modest 18 homers in 2010, despite the homer-friendly climate of U.S. Cellular Field.
Meanwhile, Rios set a career-high in steals with 32 in 2008, followed by 24 more last season. Over the past three years, his success on stolen base attempts is a strong 81% (56/69). Bloomberg Sports projects 26 steals for Rios in 2010.
Although he had a down season in 2009, Rios narrowly slides into the top 100 players ranked by Bloomberg Sports; his B-Rank is exactly 100. His average draft position (ADP) is just 146.
Assuming a mid-round draft slot in an averaged size (12-14 team) mixed league, you could start your outfield with a combination like Ryan Braun, Bobby Abreu, and Rios. This trio would give you a well-rounded, durable outfield, despite using just one premium draft selection. All three players have averaged at least 620 plate appearances in the past three seasons, and provide a blend of average, (decent) power, and speed.
If we tweak the 30/30 projections on Rios down to 20/20, and add in the potential for batting average regression, we are looking at a productive third or fourth outfielder in many mixed leagues. Target him with other bounceback candidates in the middle of your draft.
For more on sleepers like Alex Rios, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.
fantasy baseball, we’re always looking for the player who can provide
all-around value. To most people, this means a guy with both power and
speed. Every year, we’ll see about a dozen guys crack 20/20. Last year,
there were 14 of them.
projecting Hunter’s 2010 season, there’s another consideration
to make. Besides having the rare ability to provide speed and the
opportunity to knock in runs, Hunter is one of only about 20 players in
baseball with 25-HR power and the ability to make contact with the ball
in at least 80 percent of his at-bats. Combined with the ability to run
quickly to first base after the ball is hit into play, this typically
translates to a pretty solid average. Last year, Hunter finished at
.299. Bloomberg Sports projects .289 for the upcoming season.
ranked 46th on the B-Rank scale, yet is being drafted well below his
projections. That’s nothing new. Hunter has a pretty long history of
being underrated in drafts year after year, and at age 34, few see him
as having the kind of statistical upside offered by many youngsters.
But is that assessment accurate? A player who provides power, speed,
RBI production, and average? Those kinds of players are a very rare
breed. Just ask Pujols, Hanley, and Braun.