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He did it again! For the third time in four seasons, Dee Gordon held the top spot of the steals leaderboard. He concluded the 2017 season with 60 swipes. Gordon is averaging 53 SB over the past four years. That includes the 2016 season where Gordon missed 80 games due to a suspension. The Seattle Mariners had a need for speed and made a trade with Miami, sending the speedster to the Pacific Northwest. Gordon will likely transition to the outfield, but still qualifies at second base.

It was more of the same from the likes of Billy Hamilton (59), Jose Altuve (32), and Jarrod Dyson (28). These usual suspects have cracked the top 10 regularly since 2014.

Now that we’ve talked about the familiar faces, lets go over the players who surprised us, both in a positive and negative way.

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Stolen Base Risers

Whit Merrifield (2B/OF), KC - 34 stolen bases

Welcome to the SB community, Mr. Merrifield! After stealing only eight bases in 2016, the Royals second baseman boosted his production to 34 steals in 2017. He finished with the fourth-most SB and led the AL. With 2B studs like Altuve, Jose Ramirez, and Brian Dozier (among others), Merrifield will get lost in the shuffle. However, he’s not a one-trick pony. Merrifield blasted 19 home runs, with 12 coming after the All-Star break. He also finished with a .288 AVG in 587 AB. Also, don't be worried that Merrifield could be a one-and-done contributor to the SB leaderboard. While in the minors, he stole at least 20 bases four times in six seasons. Merrifield swiped 32 bags in 2015 with the Kansas City Triple-A affiliate (Omaha Storm Chasers).

Byron Buxton (OF), MIN - 29 stolen bases

From 2014, when he missed most of the season due to wrist injuries and a concussion, to the end of 2017, Buxton has come a long way. Last year, he played in 140 games (462 AB) and stole 29 bags. Only 29 players compiled 20 stolen bases last season. Before that, 28 players accomplished that feat in 2016 and 30 players do so in 2015. The act of pilfering bags is a lost art and players, like Buxton, are becoming more and more of a commodity. Keep Buxton in mind when selecting outfielders late in fantasy drafts.

Tommy Pham (OF), STL - 25 stolen bases

What’s up, Pham?! In his first full season as a starter, Pham finished with 25 SB (tied for 13th-most), 23 HR, and a .306 AVG. I mentioned earlier that only 29 players stole 20 bases in 2017. Well, only only nine players were members of the 20/20 club last season. Pham’s phenomenal performance launches him into the top 25 of outfielders for 2018 fantasy drafts. Batting between Matt Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna should help Pham’s production, as well.

 

Stolen Base Fallers

Hernan Perez (2B/3B/OF), MIL - 13 stolen bases

After his 34 SB in 2016, all eyes were on Perez for 2017. While his HR and RBI numbers were nearly the same, the SB dropped substantially. Also, while his playing time increased from 404 AB to 432 AB, Perez struggled against right-handed pitchers (.239 vs. RHP, .316 vs. LHP). Until we see most consistent numbers from the Brewers utility player, I’d steer clear in 2018.

Odubel Herrera (OF), PHI - 8 stolen bases

A big factor in Herrera’s drop could be due to his power. Herrera doubled the amount of doubles he produced from one year to the next. In 2016, Herrera hit 21 doubles and stole 25 bases. Then, the following season, Herrera hit 42 doubles and swiped only eight bags. This is a case where fantasy owners may be disappointed in Herrera’s SB production, but will be happy as long as he continues to provide solid AVG and OBP numbers.

Leonys Martin (OF), DET - 7 stolen bases

Remember when Martin had back-to-back season of at least 31 stolen bases for the Rangers from 2013-2014? Since then, Martin has struggled to stay on the field. Seattle traded for the outfielder in 2016 and Martin stole 24 bases. Then, he bounced around between the Mariners and their farm system before the Cubs acquired him in 2017. In December, Detroit signed Martin to a one-year deal where he’ll patrol center field at Comerica Park. The Tigers have been looking for stability in the CF position since 2014, after Austin Jackson was traded to Seattle. While Martin is in the “faller” section for now, he could make the transition to the “riser” side following the 2018 season.

 

2018 MLB Risers and Fallers





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