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Don't Overpay for Steals, Draft These Guys Instead

Steals are an increasingly precious commodity in roto leagues. If you don't grab a speedster early on, you are forced to find a modest source of steals in the middle and later rounds or just punt the category altogether. Since it's not advised to resign yourself to claiming last place in a category before the season has even started, let's focus on the former strategy.

Most of the top stolen base threats who can also contribute in other categories will be gone after the first few rounds. Then there's the risk of investing a second-round pick in Adalberto Mondesi, who could be a league-winner or an early-round landmine. If you attack pitching and/or power early, where do you get steals from?

Following are the top players to target in the middle-to-late rounds of your draft that can propel you near the top of the SB leaderboard while also helping you in other categories. No Mallex Smith types here, I promise.

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Dylan Moore (2B/OF, SEA)

The 28-year-old was a pleasant surprise in his second Major League season, swiping 12 bases while popping eight homers. He'll battle Shed Long Jr. for the second base job but that might not be a problem considering Long's defensive limitations and .171/.242/.291 slash line from a year ago. Moore is being viewed by some as a legit 20/20 candidate and an undervalued draft target.

Moore is projected to tie with Gimenez for 15th in steals with 22, according to the latest ATC Projections available on RotoBaller. What's not to love? Well, his baserunning is more a product of his role on an offense that struggles to manufacture runs than pure skill. Moore has been caught stealing 14 times in his two MLB seasons, landing near the top in that unfavorable category. His sprint speed is good but not even in the top quartile of the league at 71st. He shouldn't lose a step but he could lose running opportunities if he is unsuccessful at the same rate or gets dropped in the lineup. A slump could effectively kill his fantasy value. There's a lot to like but promise of a mediocre average and the inherent risk involved makes him a draft target only once he slips past the top 120 picks.


Victor Robles (OF, WAS)

Let's not mince words - Robles was god awful in 2020. The only positive that can possibly be gleaned from his Statcast profile is his sprint speed and even that took a dip after a ranking in the 95th percentile the year before.

He's not expected to post great hard-hit numbers and we can deal with the high strikeout rate if he were finding ways to get on base. Sadly, his xBA dropped yet again down to .202 while his walk rate also declined to 4.8%.

So where's the good news? The part where you're supposed to want to actually draft him? Well, harken back to pre-COVID 2019 where, even with a mediocre .255 average and .326 on-base percentage, Robles swiped 28 bags. He was one of nine players to go over 25 SB that season and that includes nine times caught stealing. He ran a ton and should continue to do so for a Nats team that has ranked in the top-eight in stolen base attempts per game the past two seasons.

His 2019 ADP of 76 overall was clearly too steep and he wound up burning a lot of fantasy teams. His current ADP of 165 is far more palatable for a player that could easily steal 20 or more bags and is projected by THE BAT to score almost 90 runs while approaching 20 HR.


Andres Gimenez (2B/3B/SS, CLE)

This pick could very well be Amed Rosario instead but it's assumed Gimenez will win the starting shortstop job while Cesar Hernandez retains his role at second base. Gimenez may not ever hit for power or a particularly high average but his glove will keep him on the field. He hit .263 in his rookie season and .250 his last season at Double-A, so he won't sink your average either. Still, speed is the calling card here.

Gimenez is going around the same spot as Robles, at 166 overall. His eligibility across the infield makes him inherently more valuable but his playing time is still uncertain whereas Robles should be penciled in the lineup each day. For what it's worth, if Rosario is the starter instead, he wouldn't necessarily be a straight replacement for Gimenez in fantasy. Rosario didn't steal a single base in 46 games last year despite stealing 43 the previous two seasons. He is going almost 100 picks later, however, making him a deep-league flier worth taking.


Ha-Seong Kim (2B, SD)

There are more questions than answers right now about Kim entering his first season in the Majors. How will his game transition from the KBO to MLB? Will he get the opportunity to run as much? Most importantly, how much playing time will he even get?

One would think the Padres, who are clearly making a run for the pennant this year, didn't sign Kim to a four-year, $28 million deal to sit him on the bench. Then again, they also re-upped Jurickson Profar for three years and have last year's runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year, Jake Cronenworth, who split time at second base. There is obviously no opening at shortstop on this team, so it must be assumed he will man second base while Profar is a utility bat off the bench and Cronenworth plays a Tommy Edman role across multiple positions throughout each week, including outfield.

A 60-grade runner who stole 56 bases over his last two seasons in Korea, Kim should get the green light plenty for a team that loves to run. The risk is that he struggles out of the gate and is given a short leash with the team moving back to Cronenworth. The upside is 20 steals but most projection systems are highly conservative on him right now, with ATC being the highest at 10 SB.


Leody Taveras (OF, TEX)

Despite his youth and a few holes in his long swing, the power/speed upside of the 22-year-old Taveras is too tantalizing to pass up at his 213 ADP. He slugged four homers and swiped four bases in 119 at-bats last season. If he leads off for the Rangers for the bulk of the season, we could be looking at a true, dare I say, breakout performer.

Taveras, cousin of former steals leader Willy Taveras, frankly has every tool you'd want in a prospect. Focusing on the speed, he's not only got the wheels with his 96th percentile sprint speed, but he has also shown great instincts thus far by stealing successfully on all eight attempts in 2020. He'll need to increase his contact rate, especially inside the zone, while cutting down on strikeouts. Even with a middling batting average, Taveras could easily finish among the league leaders in steals.


Garrett Hampson (2B/OF, COL)

There's no question about Hampson's speed. His sprint speed ranked in the 99th percentile in 2020, marking three straight years in the top 10. That's where the story of his fantasy relevance begins and ends, though. Hampson has seen his batting average drop each season, down to .234 last year. Inconsistent playing time has been an issue but that could be resolved this year now that Nolan Arenado has been dealt. Hampson will have to win a job over fellow beleaguered prospect Brendan Rodgers but could still see a fair number of at-bats between the infield and outfield.

ATC projects Hampson to steal 16 bases in just 98 games played so that number could climb substantially if he were to earn a full-time gig. Double-digit homers are a realistic possibility but his R+RBI won't excite anyone, especially if he sits in the eighth spot of the lineup. Hampson profiles as a later-round, speed-only pick. This is why he's mostly an afterthought in early February drafts, coming in at a 241 ADP.

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