March is here and is the annual question is upon us? Who are the best-paid players in college basketball? Just kidding. Was that too soon? Of course, the real question for inquisitive minds is how to best prepare for everyone’s Fantasy Baseball draft. As part of your draft prep, you’ve probably realized that stolen bases are becoming an endangered species. That’s why you need SCFE’s 2018 Cheap Sources of Speed.
In the past 30 years, SBs have dropped in MLB like red shirts at the beginning of classic Star Trek episodes. During that time, the total number of SBs dropped from 3,585 in 1987 to 2,527 in 2017. In 2017, there were 117 MLB players with 20 or more HRs, but only 29 players with 20 or more SBs. Whit Merrifield led the AL with 34 SBs in 2017. This was the lowest league-leading total in either the NL or AL since 1962. Yikes.
The decrease in SBs reflects a fundamental shift in the offensive philosophy of MLB teams. Teams no longer focus on manufacturing runs with SBs, bunting, and running plays. As MLB continues its trend towards a three-true-outcome game (K/BB/HR), SBs are essentially counterproductive. If all teams want is for players to get on base and then wait for an HR, why risk giving up an out with an SB attempt? It’s not that today’s players can’t run; their teams just don’t want to let them.
Teams are probably installing invisible fences and shock collars for runners on first. Basically, SBs are now Fantasy Baseball’s version of Unobtanium. You may not like this new reality, but you have to accept it. That makes identifying players who can provide you with SBs at reasonable value an essential part of your draft prep.
Thinking about a 2018 Cheap Sources of Speed Article brought to mind the movie Speed, which I’ve seen too many times to count. Homer Simpson sums up the plot of the movie best: “I saw this in a movie about a bus that had to SPEED around the city, keeping its SPEED over fifty, and if its SPEED dropped, the bus would explode! I think it was called ‘The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down.’”
Basically, Speed is Die Hard on a bus. I’m pretty sure that was the pitch for every major action movie made after Die Hard for the next several years. Think about it; Under Siege (Die Hard on a boat!), Under Siege 2 (Die Hard on a train!), and Con Air (Die Hard on a plane!). Makes you think Die Hard was on to something. Maybe they should make a sequel.
Watching Speed might be just the thing to relax while trying to figure out what has become the SB conundrum in Fantasy Baseball. The players discussed below all have ADPs outside the top 100. Landing one of these guys should make you at least competitive in SBs if you have any other speed on your roster at all. Let’s take a look at some 2018 Cheap Sources of Speed, accompanied by classic examples of the dry cool wit of late 80’s/early 90’s action heroes.
2018 Cheap Sources of Speed
2018 Cheap Sources of Speed No. 1: “Did you have any luck with the bomb? Yeah, it didn’t go off.”
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Speed is an entertaining movie and fits squarely into my Independence Day/Citizen Kane theory of films. You have Keanu Reeves solidifying himself as an action star and shedding off the last remnants of Ted Theodore Logan. You also have Dennis Hopper in a classic demented performance as the bad guy. Not to mention Sandra Bullock and Jeff Daniels being Jeff Daniels.
This quote from Keanu Reeves’s Jack Traven is an example of a key trait for action heroes. Always respond to questions about a deadly situation with a glib retort. You’ll need the same kind of bravado when it comes to Kevin Kiermaier. He’s a good player, but he’s also been an injury magnet for the last two years.
Due to a fractured left hand in 2016 and a right hip fracture in 2017, Kevin Kiermaier was limited to 366 ABs and 380 ABs in the last two seasons. When he returned from the DL in mid-August last year, however, he finished the season with a .306 AVG/8 HR/6 SB stat line in his last 36 games. Despite only playing in 60% of games during 2017, Kevin Kiermaier finished with a .276 AVG/56 R/15 HR/39 RBI/16 SB stat line.
Kevin Kiermaier not only has power and speed skills, but he’s also won two Gold Gloves. Combined with the Rays’ latest offseason roster purge, he’s going to hit in the top of the order and play every day if he can stay on the field.
The dilemma with Kevin Kiermaier isn’t his skills. Those are real. It’s just that you have to conclude every projection about him with the dreaded phrase “if he’s healthy.” It’s still possible, however, that he’s just been unlucky the last two years instead of being injury-prone.
Because of the scarcity of SBs, Kevin Kiermaier is worth the gamble in my mind. He’s going to play, he’s got 25 HR/25 SB potential, and the Rays have no reason to put the brakes on him. If you’re short on speed and you need OF help, Kevin Kiermaier is worth considering.
2018 Cheap Sources of Speed No. 2: “Anything else that’ll keep this elevator from falling? Yeah. The basement.”
Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
It’s not poetry, but action movie banter is like a mental breath of fresh air. Tell me you can’t read that without chuckling just a little. Just like the number of deadpan comments in action movies, the talent level of the SS position in Fantasy Baseball has reached impressive heights. If you’re looking for more information on overall SS options, check out SCFE’s 2018 Fantasy Shortstop Rankings by Michael Tomlin.
A recent wave of prospects has made SS a highly interesting position from a Fantasy Baseball standpoint. Orlando Arcia might have gotten lost in the shuffle. He was signed by the Brewers as a 16-year old international free agent in 2010 and became one of the Brewers’ top prospects. He made his MLB debut in 2016, but things did not go well. Picture Ned Stark in the first season of Game of Thrones.
Orlando Arcia probably wasn’t ready for The Show in 2016, but the Brewers kept the faith. As the Brewers’ starting SS in 2017, Orlando Arcia posted a .277 AVG/56 R/15 HR/53 RBI/14 SB stat line. The 7% BB rate needs improvement, but the 80% contact rate is solid. Not to mention the power can still grow.
The major issue with Orlando Arcia is that he’s going to start 2018 at the bottom of the Brewers lineup. All is not lost, however. He can always move up if he performs. The Brewers should also score lots of runs, which gives him RBI opportunities even if he doesn’t reach the top half of the lineup. He’s only 23, and a 20 HR/20 SB season is possible.
Orlando Arcia won’t be one of the top SS options on your draft board. But that’s not what this article is about. You should be able to draft Orlando Arcia as an MI who will give you SBs along with an improving overall skill set. Hitting in a potentially loaded lineup doesn’t hurt either.
2018 Cheap Sources of Speed No. 3: “I’m smarter than you, Jack! I’m smarter! I’m smarter! Yeah? Well, I’m TALLER!”
Delino DeShields, Jr. OF, Texas Rangers
You can never go wrong with decapitation humor. Like seeing the villain meet their fate in an action movie, writing about Delino DeShields, Jr. makes me contemplate my own mortality. I remember his father (463 career SBs) as a prospect with the Montreal Expos. Remember them? Somewhere along the way, I got old. It’s ok; I’ll cry later.
Delino DeShields, Jr. was drafted 8th overall by the Houston Astros in 2010. His calling card was the mythical plus-plus speed. In 2014, he was selected by the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 draft. He made the Rangers’ opening day roster in 2015 and was named AL Rookie of the Month for that May.
To say 2016 did not go well for Delino DeShields, Jr. is like saying The Force Awakens didn’t go so well for Han Solo. After starting 2016 as the Rangers’ starting CF, he was demoted and barely finished the season above the Mendoza Line. He was given another shot in 2017, and the results were encouraging.
He led off in 80 games and produced a .350 OBP with 22 SBs (29 total) and 63 Rs in those games. His 10% BB rate offset a 71% contact rate, which means he’ll get on base for SB opportunities. Just be prepared for an AVG that won’t set the world on fire.
Delino DeShields, Jr. is currently set to be the Rangers’ leadoff hitter in 2018. Although the Rangers’ pitching leaves much to be desired, the offense should be productive. Delino DeShields, Jr. should give you support with Rs, and he has a good chance to win this year’s “AL Player Who Finishes Second to Dee Gordon in SBs” award.
With SBs at a premium, Delino DeShields, Jr. merits consideration as an OF on your roster. A power surge isn’t happening, and he won’t help with RBI. With the abundance of power in MLB, however, you can balance it out.
Like the Borg, you have to adapt in Fantasy Baseball. Just don’t try to assimilate the universe. No one will like you. Because SBs are becoming as rare as sane people on reality shows, finding players later in drafts who can provide them is critical to a successful draft. Kevin Kiermaier, Orlando Arcia, and Delino DeShields, Jr. are not only good for SBs, but they should help in other categories as well. Finding SBs is going to be a challenge this year, and these players fit the bill. Good luck to everyone in their drafts.
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