Where Speed Goes in Drafts

One of the biggest discussions around any draft gameplan is where to get your speed. Sure, you could try to ignore them, but I never want to go into a draft punting a category and leagues with an overall component like the NFBC’s Main Event and Online Championship make it so you can’t punt a category if you want a realistic shot at the overall grand prize.

To secure high end stolen bases, you really need to map out your draft and figure out exactly where they go. This piece aims to help with that by using The BAT X’s projection system along with the NFBC ADP. Teams needs around 120 SBs to be in the upper crust (I used the top 20% of Main Event leagues from 2019) and while the number is dropping yearly, it is a safe target to set for your drafts. It’s about 9 SBs per roster spots in the standard 14-player setup (2 C, 1B/3B/CI, 2B/SS/MI, 5 OF, UT) and there are only 87 players in The BAT X projected to reach that mark.

Of course when you draft someone with 20 SBs, they bring the average needed down, but it’s still alarming that not even 100 guys hit the average we need for every spot to reach our general target. Let’s see how everything breaks down:


Wondering why Adalberto Mondesi is going so high? Here is your reason. His 52 projected SBs are 1.5x that of the next best guy (Turner, 35) which is why so many are willing to take on his AVG downside with a top 25 pick. He crept into the first round during at least one Main Event this past week, going 14th overall.


The group of guys projected for 25+

Look at how expensive this group is outside of Straw! It takes some real planning to secure even a pair of these guys, especially if you don’t get a high pick in the first round as four could be gone before you even make a pick. Straw is the upside play, but he is a power drain with some playing time risk. We just can’t know if Houston will stick with him as the full-time CF all year or at least play him enough to approach the 27 SB projection. Robles is trending back up on the heels of a massive spring (3 HR, 4 SB).


The guys projected 19-24

Another obscenely expensive group! The average draft price is 78 among this pack of 12 with three going in the 100-130 range and then Kiermaier sticking out like a sore thumb. Despite heavy injury risk due to his all-out defense in center, Kiermaier is damn near a must-pick for anyone trying to bargain hunt their speed. He is only averaging 443 PA over the recent full seasons (2015-19) but he does have 17 SB per season in that time and was pacing for 22 with 8 in 159 PA during the shortened season.

There is at least some maneuverability here as you can definitely get multiple guys from this group both due to the positional flexibility and a little spacing between where they all go. Betts or Ramirez in the first, one of the multiple second rounders, one of Buxton-Moore-Gimenez, and then Kiermaier. Although you might be light on power if you get Gimenez (9 projected HRs) and Kiermaier (13).


The group projected with 12-18 SBs

This group has an ADP of 231. Only 4 of these 31 guys (Yelich, Bellinger, Harper, and Albies) are taken in the top 50 and only 4 others join them in the top 100 (Arozarena, Baez, Grisham, and Altuve). The remaining 23 are taken pick-130 or later, including a pair of undrafted guys (Dyson, Alford – I just put 500 to get a number for the average).

Those fantasy managers who say they like get contributions across the roster live in this tiers and probably aim to get 4-5 of them on their roster. There is some power risk among this group to be mindful of, though. When getting your speed, you have to be careful not to get it at the expense of your remaining offensive categories. There is a give-and-take, but you need about 26 HR per spot to compete and just 4 guys in this group hit or exceed that mark (Harper, Yelich, Bellinger, and Baez) with another 7 not too far off with 20-25 (Myers, Arozarena, Altuve, Albies, Ohtani, Grisham, and Bader).

Bader getting a 20 HR/13 SB projection is definitely notable with a 361 ADP. It only comes with a .233 AVG, but The BAT X sees some upside in a 27-year-old premium centerfielder with a lock on playing time who has averaged 18 HR/SB per 600 PA over the last three seasons.

There are another 19 guys projected with 10-11 SBs that includes Mike Trout and Juan Soto, but still has an ADP of 230 thanks to 8 of them going after pick-350. You can go to The BAT X projection page to see the names of everyone in this group.

All told, the top 70 SB guys that we have looked at here carry an ADP of 172 with 27 going in the top 100, plus another 10 going 101-150, meaning 53% of the group goes in the first 10 rounds of a 15-teamer. Speed is expensive but also necessary to win an overall competition and pretty important to winning a standalone league, unless you want to undertake a punt strategy which can be more difficult to execute than just paying up for the stolen bases.

How are you approaching speed? Are you panicked if you don’t have a speed component within your first 3 picks? Who are you speculation plays you think can greatly exceed their SB projection.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Buhners Rocket Armmember
1 year ago

I definitely don’t punt steals, but I also certainly don’t try to compete for top spots in that category. I think being in the top of the bottom third is a good spot to be where you can safely finish ahead of the teams who come away with little to no speed, but only a handful of steals from an unexpected source can move you to the middle of the pack. It’s not difficult to reach those target steals and have an offense within reach of sweeping the rest.

1 year ago

I agree. I think people look at SB the wrong way. There are less steals in the league, which means you need to less to win. It also means steals are much more bunched, so easier to make up ground with a few key pickups

1 year ago

I agree with the general point, I do think it is league dependent. For example you cannot do that in leagues with overall prizes because then you make it so you cannot possibly win the overall prize.