ROTISSERIE: Finding September Stolen Bases

This article appeared in the September 4th edition of Sports Weekly.

While finding power for your fantasy team has gotten a little easier with the lively ball, speed is in high demand, and can be extremely scarce on the waiver wire. It’s something all owners have to pay close attention to though, as just a couple of steals can make a huge difference in the standings here in the season’s final month. We’ll take two separate looks at potential September stolen base sources; on a player/team level, and by examining the remaining schedule.

Players/Teams

The Astros have refrained from calling up Kyle Tucker (OF, HOU) all season, but it’s expected that he’ll finally get an opportunity in September. Despite a slow start to the season, he has hit 34 home runs and stolen 30 bases in Triple-A this season. Tucker has been stashed in many leagues for much of the year, but if he still happens to be available in your league, now is the time to grab him. Once he’s up, he can help not only in the stolen base category, but with solid contributions across the board.

Jon Berti (SS/3B/OF, MIA) has made a significant impact over the past month, batting .282 with four homers and seven steals, yet he remains available in a lot of leagues. His speed was on full display the past two seasons, mostly in the minors, as he stole 54 bases across 661 plate appearances. Berti has been a fixture atop the lineup since returning from an oblique injury in late July and could deliver another handful of steals the rest of the way, with a little power to boot.

Delino DeShields Jr. (OF, TEX) has already swiped 20 bags this year, and he’s been getting consistent at-bats lately, starting 16 of the team’s last 20 games. He’s only hit .220 during that time, but has at least chipped in five stolen bases. The Rangers lead the majors in steals, so DeShields should keep running, and could be a real difference-maker in the category. Teammate Zach Granite (OF, TEX), who has 24 steals in Triple-A this year, could also be worth a gamble in deeper leagues if he gets called up in September.

Tommy Edman (3B/2B/OF, STL) has been getting regular at-bats since late June, and he’s been pretty valuable, contributing a .283 batting average with five home runs and 10 steals in 228 at-bats. Look for Edman to continue to get the green light, as he’s been caught just once in 20 tries between Triple-A and the majors, and the Cardinals rank fifth in the league in steals.

Edman’s teammate Harrison Bader (OF, STL) was recently recalled from Triple-A Memphis, where he hit .317 with seven home runs and three steals in 75 plate appearances to earn a recall. He has struggled in the majors this season, but swiped 15 bags in 2018, and if he can get out of the eighth spot in the lineup, he could be a pretty valuable source of speed over the final few weeks.

The Mariners have also been aggressive, as they rank fourth in stolen bases, and are second in attempts. Recent call-up Tim Lopes (OF, SEA) swiped 26 bags at Triple-A, and is getting on base at a .384 clip so far in the majors, which has given him some chances at the top of the lineup lately. He already has three steals in 86 plate appearances and is a good bet to provide a few more. Teammate Jake Fraley (OF, SEA) stole 22 bases in the minors this year, and while he typically sits against left-handers, he may be worth a look for owners in need of speed.

Sam Hilliard (OF, COL) offers an exciting power/speed combo, having recorded 35 homers and 22 steals in Triple-A this year. He should get a chance to play while David Dahl and Ramel Tapia are sidelined, and while he strikes out a lot, Coors Field can help offset his contact woes. Hilliard doesn’t have any steals yet, but homered twice in his first three games, and offers some upside for the stretch run.

Stolen base-friendly schedules

One way to potentially gain an edge is by carefully analyzing upcoming schedules. When scrounging for stolen bases, targeting players who face several teams down the stretch that are easy to steal on can help make a difference in tight races. The Mets have allowed by far the most steals at 110, and the Angels the next most at 87. Then there’s a clump of 10 teams that have allowed between 68 and 79, then a drop off to the next tier. Let’s look at a few teams that could see a lot of stolen base opportunities over the final few weeks.

Houston Astros get a very friendly schedule down the stretch from a stolen base perspective, as 19 of their last 22 games are against the top 12 in stolen bases allowed, including seven against the Angels. They also get two vs Texas, tied for third in most steals allowed, and four against Oakland (tied for sixth most). Tucker becomes even more intriguing given these details, and speedster Myles Straw (SS/OF, HOU) would be worth grabbing as well if playing time were to open up.

Oakland Athletics haven’t been very aggressive as a team, as their 41 steals rank sixth lowest in the league. But 15 of their final 22 games are against the 12 easiest teams to run on, with 11 of those against teams in the top four in the category. Ramon Laureano (OF, OAK) could immediately make an impact on the bases upon his return, and Jorge Mateo (SS, OAK), who has 23 steals in Triple-A this season, should be worth an add in most formats if he gets called up.

Chicago White Sox have three games left against the Angels and seven against the Tigers—that’s 10 of their final 22 games against teams that are among the four easiest to steal against. They also have three games against the Mariners, who have allowed the 11th most steals. Tim Anderson (SS, CHW) and Leury Garcia (OF/SS, CHW) could have some fun on the bases over these last few weeks, and even Adam Engel (OF, CHW), who stole 16 bases in 2018 and has been playing more lately, could have some appeal down the stretch.

Atlanta Braves will be facing teams that are among the 10 easiest to steal on in 13 of their final 22 games. This includes a series against the Mets on the last weekend of the season, and three games against the Giants the weekend before that. We know Ronald Acuna (OF, ATL) and Ozzie Albies (2B, ATL) will be active on the bases, and if the team doesn’t have anything at stake towards the end, don’t be surprised if Billy Hamilton (OF, ATL) sees a playing time bump and helps decide some leagues with his wheels.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.