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.