I’d say the easiest category to make up ground in the final week is stolen bases. They could come in bunches and it’s easy to identify the players that contribute in the category. Often times speedsters are sitting on free agency as they contribute little else outside the steals. But heading into the final week of the season, you might not care about the other categories, just getting those three extra steals that will gain you a point or two. So here are five lesser owned named that are likely available and could give you that jolt you may need.
I just recommended Quinn in last Wednesday’s deep league waiver wire piece and he has rewarded my enthusiasm by going 3 for 22 since. However, that stretch has come with two stolen bases, and in his 65 plate appearances with the Phillies, he has attempted five steals and has been successful on four of them. His OBP sits at a solid .349, thanks to a strong walk rate. He should continue to get nearly every day at-bats and after swiping 36 bases in the minors this year, will keep on running on a team with nothing to lose.
It shocked me to learn that Peraza is owned in just 28% of CBS leagues. He has become the Reds’ every day shortstop and lead off hitter with Zack Cozart sidelined due to injury and has already attempted 24 steals in 227 plate appearances, succeeding on 16 of them. That’s a pace of 63 attempts and 42 steals over 600 plate appearances! He also makes excellent contact and is batting .326, so how on Earth is he unowned in so many leagues?! Sure, his walk rate is pathetic, and that’s certainly a long-term concern. But for now, he’s playing every day, hitting atop the lineup, hitting for average, and running often. He’s the most obvious pickup if he’s available and you need steals.
Remember Almonte? He was slated to open the season as the Indians’ starting center fielder until he got busted for PEDs, resulting in an 80 game suspension. You probably didn’t even realize that he’s been back and has already racked up 188 plate appearances on the season. He has stolen eight bases and has yet to be caught and half of those have come over the last two weeks. He actually hasn’t started a game since last Tuesday, so he’s probably the biggest stretch of these names. He’s more of a real deep league option given the playing time questions.
Hernandez hasn’t been very good on the basepaths this year. He has swiped 17 bags, but has only been successful on 57% of his attempts. The latest news posted on his FanGraphs page notes that manager Pete Mackanin said that Hernandez may lose the permanent green light he has had. That’s not good, of course. But is there really any benefit to making such a move? The Phillies are playing for nothing and Hernandez is only going to improve by continuing to run and learn from his mistakes. He owns an impressive .369 OBP, so he will continue to have opportunities to swipe a base. It would be a surprise if those opportunities are taken away with a week to go.
Remember when Merrifield was super hot when he was first recalled? He then predictably cooled off and eventually lost his job. But Raul Mondesi, who had taken over second base duties upon his promotion, has struggled, and Merrifield is back starting at second. He has attempted three steals in the last two weeks and stole 20 bases against just two caught stealings in the minors this year. In nearly the same number of plate appearances, Merrifield has attempted less than half the steals with the Royals as he did in the minors. So he hasn’t run as frequently, but his minor league success suggests the upside to run more is there.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.