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Predicting the Top 10 Finishers for Stolen Bases in 2018


Predicting the top 10 of anything is usually an exercise in futility. No matter how much research one does, how many numbers are crunched, or how much time is put into compiling a top ten list like the one below, there will always be injuries, breakouts, and other surprises to throw everything off.

Who would have guessed that after swiping an MLB-high 62 bases in 2016, Jonathan Villar would completely forget how to hit and end up nabbing just 23 bases on 31 attempts in 2017? Or what about that guy Starling Marte who, after swiping 47 bags in 2016, got suspended for half of the 2017 season and finished with just 21 steals?

Villar and Marte are just two of the types of surprises that come up during the season. Predicting the top 10 stolen base guys is not going to be a walk in the park, but at least there are a handful of guys who will almost certainly be on the list. With that being said, I'm not trying to conservatively pick the top 10 guys, so don't be shocked if you see some unexpected names on this list. Without further ado, my picks for the top 10 base stealers in 2018:

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Top 10 Stolen Base Threats

10. Jonathan Villar, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

Yes, the aforementioned Villar will finish in the top-10 in steals in 2018. This is not that bold of a prediction; despite Villar's precipitous drop-off in 2017, he still finished tied for 17th in the majors in steals. I think Villar is more than capable of getting back to 30+ steals this season, but it's hardly a lock considering that Villar is not projected to play full-time. If the 26-year-old manages to get his OBP back on the right side of .300 (wow, what a sad thing to write), he should have no trouble getting additional playing time, but until that point, it's hard to trust Villar. All-in-all, it's hard to bet against Villar returning to the top-10, just don't expect him to replicate his 2106.

9. Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres

This is probably the most out-of-place name on the list. Margot finished just outside the top 30 in SB in 2017 with 17. Given his speed and pedigree, it came as a surprise that he didn't attempt more steals in 2017. It could have been because Margot was not terribly efficient in stealing bags last season (his success rate was just a lick over 70%), but the Padres do not have much to play for, so it would not be shocking to see Margot get the green light more in his second full big league season.

8. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

Buxton, despite performing much better overall in the second half of 2017, actually stole fewer bases after the All-Star break (13) than before (16). Still, if Buxton puts up numbers similar to his second half last season, he should threaten a 20/40 season. Not only is Buxton one of the speediest players in baseball, but he stole bases at a 96.7% success rate last season. The efficiency should dwindle to a less superhuman rate in 2018, but an 85%+ success rate with 40 swipes is nothing to sneeze at, especially considering that Buxton is just entering his age-24 season.

7. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Marte being 7th on this list is more of a testament to my belief in the abilities of the other players on this list than a knock on his abilities. Yes, he was suspended for half the season last year so there is certainly a rust factor, but even with that suspension, Marte swiped 21 bags at an 84% clip in 77 games. Prior to last year, Marte had stolen at least 30 bases in four straight seasons and over 40 in two of those four. He has the speed and the tools to put up a high SB total once again in 2018, and I fully expect him to rebound in the SB department after his suspension-shortened season.

6. Jose Altuve,  2B, Houston Astros

Two or three seasons ago, Altuve would be solidly in the top half of this list. The 27-year-old led the AL in steals in back-to-back seasons in 2014 and 2015, but since his 56-steal season, his steals have dropped considerably. That's not necessarily a bad thing; his steal attempts have gone down because he has become a more complete fantasy player. For just stolen base purposes, though, the power uptick doesn't help him. Look for Altuve to steal around 30 bases again in 2018 and remain a perennial first-round pick.

5. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

I did say I was going to have some surprise names on here, right? Look, we know Trout can do everything well and that includes stolen bases; he stole 49 in his rookie campaign (which was nearly a 30/50 season, in case you're keeping track). Trout is going to come back after his first season hitting the disabled list and remind everyone why he is the best baseball player on the planet by stealing 40+ for the first time since his rookie year. If not, he'll at least get to 30. But I predict Trout will go 40/40 this season because I like to live on the wild side. #BoldPredictions.

4. Delino DeShields Jr., OF, Texas Rangers

I like to preach the mantra "sometimes opportunity trumps talent in fantasy" in nearly all of my fantasy articles. I think this could not be more true for DeShields. That is not to say that DeShields is not a talented player, but he hasn't had the opportunity to fully showcase his abilities in prior seasons because he has never received regular playing time. This year, DeShields is projected to be an everyday outfield for the Rangers and hit in the leadoff spot. If DeShields approaches 600 PA, 50 steals should be a possibility, but 40 steals is the more likely outcome. Either way, DeShields is going to be running a lot this season, so scoop him up at his relatively inexpensive ADP of 185.

3. Dee Gordon, 2B/OF, Seattle Mariners

The move from Miami shouldn't affect Gordon's ability to wreak havoc on the basepaths. Gordon has stolen 58+ bases in three of the past four seasons, his suspension-shortened 2016 notwithstanding. Even in that campaign, though, he was on track to steal 55+. Three things are certain these days: death, taxes, and Dee Gordon swiping 50+ bags in a healthy/not suspended season.

2. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds

The only shocking thing about seeing Billy Hamilton on this list is that I'm not projecting him to finish the season as the MLB leader in steals. Hamilton has stolen 56, 57, 58, and 59 bases in each of the past four seasons, respectively, so is this the year he gets to 60+? I want to say yes, but there are rumors of a possible four-man platoon for the three outfield spots in Cincy this year, which gives me pause about making Hamilton getting to 60 steals this season. And for all I know, he's going to make me look silly by having a career year with a .330 OBP and 80 steals.

1. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals

Turner stole 46 bases in 447 PA last season. Extrapolated to 600 PA, that's a pace of 61(!!!) steals. I don't really think I need to say much more about the fact that Turner tops this list, especially because Turner can handle his own with the bat and Hamilton can't. The only downside of Turner stealing so many bases is that there is a very real possibility of him going 20/60, which is reflected in his first-round ADP. If you do manage to grab Turner for your squad this year, though, sit back and watch him run up the stolen base tally on your opponents.

 

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