Searching For Speed Among American League Outfielders

In my constant search for stolen bases I tend to hit the waive-wire pretty hard. As such, I often find myself picking up players with sub 10 percent ownership. While some of these names are being pressed into service due to injuries to teammates, some have the potential to stick around for the season. Their rate stats may not be pretty, but most fantasy teams can survive one poor batting average or on-base percentage without losing too much ground.

Billy Burns
I was surprised to see the Oakland A’s option Craig Gentry rather than Burns when the club activated Coco Crisp, but given the age difference and statistical discrepancy, maybe I shouldn’t be too shocked. I incorrectly guessed Burns would be sent down last month, and he has responded to his chance in the bigs with a decent .286/.318/.333 line. He won’t set the world on fire with power, but he does offer a ton of speed. Burns stole 57 bags last season across the upper minors and the big leagues, though 51 of those steals came in Double-A. Already missing Ben Zobrist, the A’s outfield is looking thin as both Josh Reddick and Crisp have a long history of being placed on the disabled list. Keep an eye on Sam Fuld as well, as he currently owns a .200/.270/.310 line — a BABIP 50 points below his career average isn’t helping him — as we could see him lose playing time to Burns as the season progresses. It’s possible the A’s will go to a platoon of sorts, but the switch-hitting Burns has seen more success against southpaws in his minor league career and Fuld hits left-handers best as well. Since it appears Burns is here to stay, he’s worth grabbing for those in the hunt for steals. If he spends the remainder of the season with the A’s, a 30 steal season is within reach. Boo-urns can be picked up in 90 percent of CBS leagues and more than 98 percent of ESPN and Yahoo! formats.

Ezequiel Carrera
Despite stealing 43 bases in Triple-A last year, I completely whiffed on Carrera being on my radar. He’s now playing his age-28 season and has received starts in both corner outfield positions for the Toronto Blue Jays and could continue to do so. As Jose Bautista takes on more of a DH role and Michael Saunders continues to be eased back in the lineup due to his knee, Carrera could be the beneficiary of available outfield time. A .260 AVG is a realistic guess for the speedster and like Burns, Carrera has 30 steal upside given enough playing time. Even more appealing is Carrera was moved to leadoff in yesterday’s game, and has the potential to see more time there until Jose Reyes returns to action. Carrera is available in 99 percent of the three major fantasy sites.

Delino DeShields Jr.
Already with nine stole bases on the season, DeShields is making the most of the his skill set. He’s stolen at least 50 bags for three consecutive seasons while sporting a double-digit walk rate as well. You can’t steal first, but DeShields’ ability to work a walk has already been shown in the big leagues as well, as he has seven walks in 43 plate appearances. DeShields has started in left and center field already this season and is most likely an outfielder at this point, but he was primarily a second baseman in the minors until 2013. He could grab some time there to gain MI eligibility to really give him a value boost. For those in OBP or points leagues, DeShields has solid value with his walks and steals. He’s owned in just 10 percent of CBS leagues and less than 4 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN formats.

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the best bet for playing would be Boo-urns (not as rich as his nicknamed character, nice reference!) for speed, because I think even a healthy Reddick and Crisp will sit more often.