I love speed. Always have. And I've always made stolen bases a category I try to dominate in fantasy. I'm not sure why; it's one category just like any other. However, I think there is a correct way and an incorrect way to go about winning it, so if you hope to be strong in the category this year, read on. Note: I'm approaching this article from a head-to-head scoring perspective.
I often hear guys say things like "I'm going to target Michael Bourn and Juan Pierre in the draft, so they can just carry me in steals and I won't have to worry about it." While the idea of 2 players dominating a category for you is nice in theory, it unfortunately just doesn't work.
Bourn and Pierre were 4th and 9th overall last year in SB, so they were definitely elite in that category. But can they carry you in the category? Let's do the math. They combined 79 steals. Over a 22-week fantasy season, that's just 3-4 per week. That is not going to win the SB category that week.
So these guys you targeted in the draft--just to win steals--are really only giving you a small boost in your matchup. And that's fine--but not at the price people are overpaying for them in drafts. Every player has a "good value" price, but these guys always get drafted too early because someone wants them to help dominate SB. Unfortunately, as one-category contributors, they just don't match that draft position.
This is the part in the article where someone comes in and says "what do you mean, Bourn can contribute in runs...he hits for OK batting average....where do you get off calling him a one-category contributor?" Look, I like Michael Bourn. He's an asset on a fantasy team. But not at his inflated draft price. For example, Yahoo has him ranked right beside Shin-Soo Choo in their O-ranks. I would take Choo every time. Choo will hit for more average, RBI and home runs (and maybe runs, it's hard to call). And the kicker is that Choo will do all this while also helping you in SB -- he swiped 21 bags last year.
And that is my key strategy to winning SB: it has to pervade your team. You can't beat the system by drafting a few guys to lead the category for you--you have to commit to guys who can help in steals throughout the draft. Wherever possible, avoid the guys who never steal and will drag you down, and instead target only guys like this:
-R1: Trout, Braun, Gonzalez, McCutchen
-R2-3: Pedroia, Harper, Wright, J. Upton, Ramirez, Kinsler, Heyward, Jones
-R4-5: B.J. Upton, Goldschmidt, Kipnis, Desmond
-R6-7: Headley, Hill, Phillips, Rollins, Rios, Choo
All those guys are good for 15-30 steals, yet they contribute in the other categories as well. If you truly commit to this strategy, you won't have sacrificed your offense, yet you'll still have built a strong steals team. If these 7 players average 15 steals each (a low number, but I'll be conservative to illustrate my point), that's 105 total SB, or 4.77/week over a 22-game season. So, your team is balanced in all offense categories, and you didn't have to waste valuable picks on the "steals" guys.
And finally, the last reason not to draft the mega-steals guys is you can always find speed on the waiver wire. The best way to approach the SB category is to build a team that's capable of winning the category (like the one above), then do a check on Thursday/Friday to see where the matchup stands. If you're within a few SB of winning the category, add that free agent speedster in hopes of a final push. It's probably the easiest hitting category to stream. And then, when the matchup ends, you can drop that one-category contributor for someone a little more well-rounded (or better yet, someone pitching the following Monday!)
If you have other ideas about how to win the SB category, post them in the comments section. Thanks for reading, and happy drafting!