With a month and a half left in the season, you must keep focus on your placement in the various categories. Forget about overall fantasy value and worry about how each player on your roster will help you gain (or prevent you from losing) points in each category. If you find yourself in need of speed, here are six names that are likely available in many leagues that have been running over the past month.
Kevin Newman figured to open the season as the Pirates starting shortstop, but instead the job went to Erik Gonzalez, before Cole Tucker took over. But it’s been Newman for the majority of the season now and he has shown the all-around contributions that made him an interesting fantasy prospect. He has swiped 10 bases on the year in 15 attempts, which is a poor percentage, but at least he’s running. His low strikeout rate has offset a low walk rate, which has resulted in a respectable OBP. He’s a nice little under the radar guy who could contribute a bit everywhere.
Whether he opens the season as the starter or falls into starts at some point during the season, Jarrod Dyson somehow always finds a way to generate fantasy value with his wheels. He has now swiped 20+ bases every season except last year, and he has even flashed the most home run power of his career. His playing time is always going to be up in the air, but even if he loses the strong side of a platoon job, he’ll play enough to help you in steals.
Despite a pathetic walk rate, Leury Garcia has BABIPed his way to an acceptable OBP and kept him at the top of the order all season. There’s nothing exciting about this profile, but seven dingers and 14 steals has more value than you realize. And six of those steals have come in the last 30 days, so he continues to run. With shortstop eligibility now to go along with outfield, he’s a good guy to keep around for the occasional steal and injury replacement.
After a breakout Triple-A performance, Josh VanMeter, who failed to make the Reds preseason top prospect list, now finds himself with a starting job. He hasn’t exactly been a big basestealer throughout his minor league career, but he has attempted five steals in just 73 plate appearances over the last 30 days. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes players decide to run much more often in the Majors than they ever did in the minors. Even if the steals are a fluke, the rest of his skill set suggest he could contribute in homers, while not draining your batting average.
Though he’s supposed to be the Indians’ fourth outfielder, Greg Allen has started in their last six games. Of course, part of the reason is because Yasiel Puig has been serving a suspension for half of those. But he’s going to get at-bats, as he’ll play over Tyler Naquin every so often. Allen is a real speed demon and has stolen as many as 46 bases in 2015 and then 45 the following season. Amazingly, he has only swiped three so far this year in 154 plate appearances, for a pace of around 12 over 600. That’s disappointing, but all of his attempts have actually come over the last 30 days in just 66 plate appearances. So he has picked up the pace after failing to make a stolen base attempt over his previous 88 plate appearances.
It’s kinda funny that the Orioles, the team that owns the second worst record in baseball, is starting the 29-year-old Jace Peterson every day in left field and slotting him into the middle of the order. Just goes to show how barren their minor league system is that there’s no younger prospect they want to take a look at instead. But his opportunity is good for fantasy owners paying attention. Yes, he’s been terrible so far with a .289 wOBA (which makes it even more crazy that he continues to start every day), but he owns a pristine batted ball profile heavy on line drives, with no pop-ups, and has shown some power and speed. In fact, a full season 600 plate appearance pace would put him at 16 homers and 32 steals! For as long as the Orioles are starting him, you should consider him for steals.
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.