Yesterday was busy with baseball news including a rush to the wire for Matt Harv…I mean Cody Anderson. Speaking of players who look like other players, remember when Charlie Morton started aping Roy Halladay? That sure was fun.
I’ve been telling people all spring that the entire point of acquiring Drew Storen is so that Roberto Osuna doesn’t get used to closing. He reportedly already likes life in relief more than starting. The Jays have named Osuna as the closer which may permanently shut the door on starting. See Jonathan Papelbon, Aroldis Chapman, etc.
Other things happened too – Jose Reyes is no longer riding a runaway train to deportation. Fear not Trevor Story owners. I hear the Rockies will trade or cut Reyes. The Roto Riteup has more details on everything. It’s time for me to switch gears back to stolen bases. Yesterday was for the AL sleepers so guess what’s up today (oh, you read the headline).
There’s one good thing to say about terrible rebuilding teams – they have nothing to lose by taking risks. Whereas Kevin Pillar of the Blue Jays will think twice before attempting a steal with Jose Bautista at the plate, the Braves should run wild.
At the major league level, Peterson, Aybar, and Inciarte all have 20 stolen base ability. Inciarte, the nominal leadoff man, is most likely to reach or exceed that threshold. Peterson would need to tap into his minor league tendencies while Aybar has aged past his 30 steal days. Peterson is a little like Michael Brantley on the bases, getting by with reads rather than plus foot speed.
Eventually, we’ll see Smith enter the picture. The prospect is a burner who could be a 60 steal threat in future seasons. He’ll make for a nice waiver claim later in the season. Buyer beware, there are other flaws with his game.
Turner will start the year in Triple-A, but it’s only a matter of time (and/or injury) before he’s a major league regular. He’s an easy 25 steal guy. While he should hit for a solid average, there isn’t much else to his game. His profile reads bottom of the order to me which also means no run production.
Taylor is slated for a reserve role behind Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Ben Revere. He’ll eventually get a chance at regular reps. Taylor’s biggest weakness is a career .282 OBP. He’s basically a poor man’s George Springer, and there’s no sign he’ll ever make more contact. If he did manage to reach base over 30 percent of the time, he could steal 20 bases.
As with the Braves, the Phillies have nothing to lose by attempting steals. And they have plenty of speedsters who can only help their value to the club by swiping bags. Hernandez is the guy who will play regularly, and he could be the leadoff man. He stole 19 bases in 452 plate appearances last season. I see upside for 30 swipes as he grows more comfortable. He’ll eventually fall into a super utility role, but it probably won’t happen this year.
That leaves us with four corner outfielders who can run. Odubel Herrera fits here too, but I’m not counting him as a sleeper. Maybe I should. Bourjos stole 22 bases in 2011. He’s been injured for most of the intervening time. Venable stole more than 20 bases each season from 2010 through 2013. He’s more of a 15 steal guy in a half season of work.
Goeddel and Hunter interest me. Both minor leaguers can get frisky on the base paths despite average speed. Goeddel is much more likely to take off although I could see Hunter being the more efficient runner. Look for 20 steals from Goeddel over a full season and perhaps 10 to 15 from Hunter. Of course, neither guy will play a full season. They’re waiver wire streamers.
Brewers – all of them
If he reaches base enough, shortstop Jonathan Villar has the speed to swipe 40 bases. He also has non-trivial power – especially at Miller Park. Villar has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, introducing a high risk element. He may be one of the top actual sleepers in the league.
If Villar fails, Orlando Arcia is just waiting for the door to crack open. He’s more of a 15 to 20 steal threat with a high average and solid power. Prospect watchers are impatiently awaiting his arrival.
Keon Broxton is expected to start in center field. He’s like Taylor (National) except with less power. Broxton has the necessary speed to take 20 to 40 bases over a full season. It’s less certain if he has the contact skills required to post a .300 OBP. Let the great experiment begin.
Other Brewers to watch include Colin Walsh, Yadiel Rivera, Rymer Liriano, and Michael Reed. Walsh and Rivera are in reserve roles, Liriano is injured, and Reed is hanging out in the minors. They all could accrue 20 or more steals in a good year.
The Reds really like to run – even average speed Reds tend to attempt 20 or more steals per season. Schebler has slightly better than average speed and a history of using it in the minors. While I wouldn’t count on a big total, 15 swipes with even more power is possible. His minor league contact skills evaporated in his first test at the major league level. There’s a chance he’s a Quad-A type.
I’m not sure I see where Peraza is going to play – especially since Brandon Phillips refuses to leave. There’s no question Peraza and Billy Hamilton could combine to out-steal every other team in baseball. He was a little more restrained on the bases last year, making me think he’s a 40 steal guy rather than 60 or more.
Segura was a baffling addition for the Diamondbacks in large part because his skill set is entirely redundant. Nick Ahmed is the best all-around middle infielder on the team, but the club seems intent to reduce him to a bench role. If Segura does somehow rediscover what it’s like to live in 2013, Arizona will look brilliant. If Segura continues to supply below average defense will a 65 wRC+…well that’s what’s going to happen. No need for the “if.” So long as he plays regularly, he’ll throw you an empty 20 to 30 steals.
Owings is the favorite to start at second base. The first order of business is to fix his pitiful .264 OBP from last season. If he buffs it to around .310, he’ll be a 20 steal threat. He’s running early and often throughout the spring to further develop this particular skill. The 24-year-old has more breakout potential than Segura.
Brito and Yasmany Tomas have both hit well this spring. The decision on starting left fielder may come down to defense, and there’s no question Brito is the better option. Brito may even represent a +20 run improvement on defense. Like many of the players on this list, Brito’s base stealing comes from smarts rather than raw foot speed. I’d peg him for 15 swipes in a full season.
With Andre Ethier set to miss a big chunk of the season, Crawford should get regular action against right-handed pitching. He’s not the runner he once was, yet he still took 10 bags in 193 plate appearances last year – about one base every five games. He’ll make for a good streamer. If he hits a hot streak, his name could grant him extra trade value.
Even when dealing with serious injuries last season, Span still managed to take 11 bags in 275 plate appearances. That’s a 20 to 25 steal pace. If he’s healthier and atop the Giants order, a 30 steal throwback season is possible. Of course, health is a HUGE if for Span.
Is Story a sleeper? Well I guess it depends on your league. He’s been one of the worst kept secrets this spring, leaping up draft board by the day. Now he’s the Rockies Opening Day shortstop. Story has 20/20 potential despite average-ish speed. He’s an athletic dude who likes to show off all his tools. Don’t be surprised when he stops running in a couple seasons.
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