FROM A TO ZINKIE: Finding late-season steals sources

Although the full-season data at the end of September will tell the definitive story, the results at this point in the season indicate that steals are becoming even scarcer. Worth 20% of the hitting points in a standard roto league, swipes have become so rare that we may not have a 40-steal player in 2018, and many mixed-league teams will need just 100 steals to post a respectable finish in that category. And with owners coveting the occasional base theft more than ever before, players who have any degree of speed have become valuable options. Here are 12 players who are sitting on waivers in many leagues and could provide at least a handful of steals during the final weeks of the season.

Tony Kemp (OF, HOU) is quickly proving to be an exciting hitter, having slashed .288/.378/.424 as a reserve player on a talented Astros squad. And he has also flashed his speed at times by picking up eight stolen bases. An injury to George Springer (OF, HOU) has opened the door for Kemp to get more playing time, and the diminutive speedster should be active in most leagues until Springer returns. He could also parlay his success this season into regular work in left field, where the team has yet to find a full-time starter. A career .312 hitter with 144 steals across 552 minor league games, Kemp definitely showed the skills at the developmental levels to get fantasy owners excited.

Harrison Bader (OF, STL) is one of the most underrated speed sources at the moment, as the trade of Tommy Pham (OF, TB) and an injury to Dexter Fowler (OF, STL) have ensured that he will have a full-time role for the foreseeable future. And the 24-year-old has had his speed on full display when given opportunities this season, as he has collected 12 steals across 258 plate appearances. Bader even has a bit of pop, having accumulated 11 homers across 319 career at-bats and logging a 20-homer season in Triple-A last year.

Adalberto Mondesi (SS, KC) has shown a natural ability to compile steals in the majors, swiping 26 bags across 335 career plate appearances. And even those who struggled in their high school math classes can extrapolate the youngster’s career-long production to see that he could be a 40-steal player across a full season of regular playing time. Expected to have a sizable workload down the stretch, Mondesi—who has already swiped four bases in August—could produce an additional 6-10 steals the rest of the way. And as an added bonus, he has posted a respectable .260 average this year.

Jonathan Villar (2B, BAL) was part of an extremely interesting trade when he was dealt to the Orioles at the trade deadline. After all, the speedster—who led the majors with 62 steals just two years ago—is the exact opposite of the powerful, plodding, walk-averse players who usually populate Buck Showalter’s lineup. Showalter’s aversion to steals is legendary, but at the same time, he hasn’t had players in recent years who rely on the speed component to the same degree as Villar. While the manager could keep Villar tied to first base, there is the potential here for the 27-year-old to rank among the American League steal leaders from this point forward.

Jose Iglesias (SS, DET) has been the epitome of a boring steals option this season, posting a career-high 14 swipes while occupying a full-time role in an unremarkable Tigers lineup. And the 28-year-old has been a bit more than a one-category contributor, as his .267 batting average is a respectable mark and his 47 RBI are a serviceable total for a middle infielder in deep-mixed leagues. For those in deep formats who are in a tight steals race, adding Iglesias to one of their last lineup spots could get them the extra few steals they need to pick up additional points.

Cameron Maybin (OF, SEA) has swiped just one base with Seattle, but there is some speed upside in this veteran who compiled 33 swipes a year ago. The Mariners have been aggressive on the basepaths in recent seasons, allowing players such as Jean Segura (SS, SEA), Dee Gordon (OF, SEA), and Jarrod Dyson (OF, ARI) to maximize the value of their fleet feet. Maybin may not post enough all-around stats to warrant a spot in mixed-league lineups, but his AL-only contributions will likely mean a lot to teams in close steals races.

Phillip Ervin (OF, CIN) is strictly a deep-league option, but he might have a little more valuable than many owners realize. The 26-year-old has shown some skill with his bat across 171 career plate appearances (.280/.347/.447 slash line), including hitting .293 so far this season. And although Ervin has yet to run the bases aggressively in the majors, he clearly has superior speed after stealing 93 bases in the minors across 2015-17. With the Reds running out of outfielders, he has an excellent chance to get regular playing time down the stretch.

I think there is a fantasy bible somewhere that states a writer must include Rajai Davis (OF, CLE) in every cheap-speed article! But the energizer bunny of base-stealing threats deserves to be mentioned again this year, as he currently ranks 21st in the majors with 16 steals. Although Davis is likely too much of a one-trick pony to stay in mixed-league lineups for more than a short period of time, his specialized skill set will be just what some owners need during the final weeks of the season.

Delino DeShields (OF, TEX) seemingly toys with fantasy owners’ hearts every year, having productive stretches but never putting things together across a full campaign. And this season has been no different, with the speedster hitting .281 in April and swiping 13 bases across May and June before totally bottoming out (.096 average, two steals) in July. With his starting role having disappeared, DeShields may not be a mixed-league factor down the stretch. But it is worth noting that his July dry spell came with awful batted-ball luck (.147 BABIP) and respectable plate discipline (0.39 K:BB ratio). His ever-changing value profile could soon trend back up.

Anthony Alford (OF, TOR) should benefit from being part of a Blue Jays organization that is retooling but not going deep into a rebuild. The club figures to have a respectable lineup the rest of the way, while also giving opportunities to some young players. One of those youngsters is Alford, who has stolen 13 bases across 85 games in Triple-A this season. Alford has already debuted, but he could get his first opportunity to have a sustained role if the team unloads veteran Curtis Granderson (OF, TOR) later in August.

Roman Quinn (OF, PHI) is a long shot for late-season production, but those in NL-only leagues should keep an eye on him. The speedster is on the Phillies’ roster at the moment, and he proved during his time in the minors to be one of the fastest players at any level (183 career steals in 429 games). Quinn is no threat to hold a starting job, but reserve outfielders Aaron Altherr (OF, PHI) and Scott Kingery (SS, PHI) haven’t done much at the dish this year and have no real claim on getting a few starts per week. As a pinch runner and occasional starter, Quinn could pick up five steals from this point forward.

Raimel Tapia (OF, COL) is currently toiling in Triple-A, where he has hit .312 with 19 steals across 86 games. The 24-year-old with a lifetime .321 average in the Minors could likely help the Rockies down the stretch if not for a crowded outfield picture that currently contains too many bodies to fit Tapia on the active roster. Still, if playing time emerges via injury or unproductive stretches from veterans, Tapia could produce a high batting mark and several swipes in September.

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