Brad Johnson

Saves and Steals

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All About Steals: NL Edition

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We spent the last six weeks reviewing every bullpen in major league baseball. We kicked off our detailed closer coverage with a high level All Bullpen Review. We've also looked deeper at the NL East, AL East, NL Central, AL Central, NL West, and AL West. While a few potential breakout relievers may have slipped through the cracks, those seven articles offer hot takes on nearly every major league reliever. Now it's time to incorporate the “steals” portion of Saves and Steals.


In the past, I've used categories like The Elite Rabbits to cover 30 meaningful runners. This time around, let's get the complete picture.


As always, I welcome any and all criticism or suggestions. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @BaseballATeam.


Editor’s Note: Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Baseball: Get in the game and create or join a league today.





Philadelphia Phillies


Known Factors: Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez

Upside Plays: Aaron Altherr, Roman Quinn


Herrera is, without question, the big name in the Philadelphia. The 25-year-old stole 25 bases in 32 attempts last season while continuing to refine his offensive game. Remember, Herrera did not follow a typical path to the majors. He was a Rule 5 pick prior to the 2015 season and had no experience at Triple-A. It's reasonable to expect 20 to 30 steals.


His teammate, Hernandez, broke out last year. Unfortunately, he swiped only 17 bags in 30 attempts – a pitiful success rate. Hernandez's lack of success had nothing to do with his speed. Now that he's an established regular, an increase in confidence could lead to more than 20 steals. Altherr, if healthy, has the ability to snag 15 bases over a full season. He also hits for power. Quinn has some pop too for a speedster. He'll likely post a better than 40 steal rate when playing.


Atlanta Braves


Known Factors: Ender Inciarte, Brandon Phillips

Upside Plays: Dansby Swanson, Emilio Bonifacio


Phillips is a throwback player. Since 2006, he has just two seasons with fewer than 14 stolen bases. He's a perfectly acceptable roster patch if you need an emergency second baseman. Inciarte isn't a prolific base runner, but he'll chip in around 20 bags over a full season. His lack of power puts a lot of pressure on his batting average and runs scored.


Swanson is frequently complimented on his baseball intelligence. The portrait scouts paint is reminiscent of Chase Utley. In his prime, Utley leveraged his merely average speed for roughly 15 steals a year with a very high success rate. Could we see the same from Swanson? Bonifacio is an old friend. He's reportedly in top condition. Don't count on much, if any, opportunity.


Miami Marlins


Known Factors: Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto


Gordon was a hot mess last season. He was among the league leaders in... soft contact. Not exactly an auspicious category to lead. He still stole 30 bases in 37 attempts – all in just 345 plate appearances. Another 60 steal season is in the works. Yelich, meanwhile, has seen his steal attempts decline from 28 to 21 to 13 over the last three seasons. It's safe to say he sees himself as a slugger rather than a burner. Relative to catchers, Realmuto's 10 or so steals are a big total. In the grand scheme, they're just a couple drops in the bucket.


New York Mets


Known Factors: Jose Reyes

Upside Plays: Matt Reynolds, Amed Rosario


It feels right to see Reyes back in New York. Despite missing the first half of the season due to a domestic violence suspension, he still took nine bases in 11 attempts (279 plate appearances). That's roughly a 25 steal pace. He also buffed his fly ball rate, leading to an over 20 home run pace. He could be a cheap fantasy asset with David Wright waylaid.


If the Mets have to reach deep for middle infielders, Reynolds and Rosario have the speed to post a 20 steal pace. They're unlikely to accrue more than a handful starts.


Washington Nationals


Known Factors: Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Adam Eaton

Upside Plays: Wilmer Difo


The Nationals have the most athletic offense in the NL East. Turner is a regular first round pick in fantasy drafts on the expectation of 50 steals with at least 15 home run power and plenty of run production. Those hoping for another 21 steal season from Harper may want to hold their breath. He has a try-hard approach to base running and a mediocre 21-for-31 success rate. Given the quality of the Nationals offense, Harper should be given the red light. However, I can't imagine anybody telling Harper he's not allowed to do something. He'll probably take between 10 and 20 bases.


Similarly to Harper, neither Rendon nor Eaton are particularly successful stealing bases. They'll still pick their spots. Dusty Baker has a long history of aggression on the base paths. Count on another 10 to 20 steals. Difo, if he plays, has plenty of raw speed. He stole 28 bases in 39 attempts last season in Double-A (451 plate appearances).




Cincinnati Reds


Known Factors: Billy Hamilton, Jose Peraza, Eugenio Suarez


The Reds are the odds-on favorites to lead baseball in steals, but it all comes down to two guys. Hamilton is the most prolific rabbit in the game, and he made real improvements at the plate last season. He now appears to be merely below average as a hitter rather than flat out terrible. With health, that could unlock an 80 steal season.


Peraza makes much more contact than Hamilton which should help him to a higher floor as a hitter. He also has more useful position eligibilities. While Peraza won't run at the same rate as Hamilton, a 30 to 40 steal season seems well within reach. Suarez will run a bit too, and even old man Joey Votto will chip in with a few.


Milwaukee Brewers


Known Factors: Jonathan Villar, Orlando Arcia, Keon Broxton, Ryan Braun, Hernan Perez

Upside Plays: Brett Phillips, Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell


According to my research, bad offenses are more likely to steal bases. The finding lines up with theory since good teams are better at scoring runners from first base. Outs are costlier. The Brewers probably aren't a good team, and they could compete with the Reds for the team stolen base crown. Villar took the individual crown last year with 62 steals in 80 attempts. Now that he's fully established, I anticipate a more conservative season on the bags – maybe something in the range of 30 to 40 steals.


Broxton is a very popular sleeper after showing off his power, speed, and selectivity in 244 plate appearances. He snagged 23 bags in 27 attempts to go with nine home runs. There's a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, making him something like a poor man's Alfonso Soriano. Braun, meanwhile, continues to run even as his body slowly breaks down. He managed a 16-for-21 season in 2016.


Arcia is the new kid on the block. It's easy to forget that he's only 22. His debut left much to be desired – he played at replacement level. His one positive category was stolen bases – he was a perfect 8-for-8 in 216 plate appearances. There's breakout potential in the other categories too.


Perez is a fantasy hero who probably belongs on a real world bench. The righty posted 13 home runs and 34 steals in just 430 plate appearances. Those numbers were accompanied by a middling .272/.302/.428 batting line. He's currently penciled in for a super utility role.


St. Louis Cardinals


Known Factors: Kolten Wong, Dexter Fowler


The Cardinals may be among the stolen base laggards this season. Wong and Fowler both have the ability to swipe between 10 and 20 bases. No other regular starter is an easy bet to reach the 10 steal plateau. Wong's playing time is very uncertain after a brutal 2016.


Chicago Cubs


Known Factors: Javier Baez, Jason Heyward

Upside Plays: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant


The Cubs are an example of a team that runs less than they could. Rizzo stole 17 bases in 2015 before taking just three last year. Bryant also declined from 13 to 8. Both athletes could probably mimic Wil Myers if they had a green light.


Baez was a solid 12-for-15 in 450 plate appearances last season. While he doesn't stand out in any category, he's adequate across the board. Heyward's stock is in free fall. He made as much soft contact as Dee Gordon. His stolen base total also fell from 23 in 2015 to 11 last year – probably because his OBP dropped over 50 points.

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You can read more from Brad Johnson on Rotoworld, FanGraphs, and RotoBaller. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.
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