Need for Speed: Stolen Base Options to Stream (4/5-4/11)

Adam Howe sheds light on deep stolen base bets based on matchups.

Welcome back. It feels good to start scouring the wire for stolen base possibilities again. The 2020 season was a different beast on many fronts and made making up ground in various counting categories even more attainable than ever with the shortened season.

Now, with a 162 game schedule before us, we have to work that much harder to claw and scrape our way in each category throughout the six-month schedule. If you work at it as diligently in April as you may in September you can put yourself in a good spot to not sweat the final few weeks.

Throughout draft season you hear it from every angle – “you have to prioritize stolen bases early.” Easier said than done though right? I’m here to tell you there’s still hope. You either have too much speed or not enough. This series will be focused on the latter.

If there’s a category to make up ground in, it’ll typically be stolen bases. Each week I’ll be providing a couple of options that may be sitting on your wire that have a good shot at getting you at least one more bag. I’m going for the deep cuts and focusing only on players owned in less than 20% of leagues, per Yahoo!, which typically focus on leagues with 12 teams.

This list will change week to week, but you’ll continue to see a general theme. The picks will be focused not just on the speedsters that are generally undrafted, but mostly on sneaky pickups that can take advantage of their matchups, may it be with an offense-first catcher or a starting pitcher with a history of focusing solely at what’s in front of them and ignoring the baserunners.

In 2020 I was pretty proud of the results of my selections. Of course, not everyone was a game-changer, but when you’re streaming anything you run that risk regularly, but focusing on matchups did lead to an overall positive return.

My main picks from each week netted a total of 25 stolen bases across 10 weeks, whereas my honorable mentions threw in an additional 13 bags on the season. They weren’t all perfect however, as 24 of the 38 main recommendations failed to record a stolen base in the period I selected them, leaving the other 14 to account for the 25 bags.

Of the 24 honorable mentions listed, 9 of them accounted for the extra 13 stolen bases, stranding the other 13. I’ll continue to fine-tune my process and look for the best possible options each week, and hopefully, a majority of them work out and help you move up your standings on your way to winning your league this year.

One other thing to consider here is that these matchups are always subject to change, as most things are, and most of these suggestions are best served in a league with daily moves. Weekly adds can still be considered in a pretty deep league, but know that this is only focused on the possibility of stealing bases, even at the expense of other categories. So, after that disclaimer, let’s see who’s poised to run over the next week who may be available in your league:


Manuel Margot, Tampa Bay Rays:


Margot looked to be positioning himself toward the top of the Rays’ lineup toward the end of Spring Training, boding well for his stolen base opportunities throughout the season. However, to start the season Margot was relegated to pinch-hitting duties in the season opener and did his best with the seven-hole in Tampa’s second game of the season. With that being said, Margot will find himself in a good situation as they host the Red Sox to start the week and then travel to New York to take on the Yankees.

Boston allowed 33 SB on 46 attempts throughout 2020 ranking tenth in the league, while the Yankees allowed 21 on 31 attempts. Though Christian Vazquez has historically been above average in catching would-be runners, Margot has shown to have the speed to make up for a catcher with a decent arm.

In 2020, Margot averaged 4.28 seconds from home plate to first base, right in line with the likes of Trevor Story, Starling Marte, and Raimel Tapia, and has sat in at least the 89th percentile in spring speed every season of his career thus far.

As long as Margot gets the playing time with the Rays he should be a threat on the base paths and shouldn’t hurt you in other categories the way a true rabbit might. He’s currently rostered in 18% of Yahoo! leagues and that may start climbing soon if he starts the season hot, so it’s worth pulling the trigger now while you still can.


Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles


Mullins looks to have won both the centerfield job in the Baltimore outfield and leadoff duties in the lineup. This bodes well for his stolen base and run-scoring potential, especially in home games. The Orioles have the opposite schedule as the aforementioned Rays as they travel to New York to face the Yankees to start the week and then host the Red Sox to finish it off.

Mullins’ calling card has been his speed, averaging 4.08 seconds from home plate to first base in 2019, ranking him 20th overall right behind Garrett Hampson and a few spots ahead of Adalberto Mondesi.

Mullins showed aggressiveness on the base paths once called back up to the major league squad in 2020, attempting 9 stolen bases in 67 opportunities through his 48 games and only being caught twice. Mullins is only rostered in 2% of Yahoo! leagues (for now) and travels to Seattle for four games to start the following week, who allowed the 3rd most stolen bases in 2020 with the lowest caught-stealing rate in the league.


Kyle Isbel, Kansas City Royals:


Isbel fought his way onto the Royals’ opening day roster by way of a powerful spring training performance where he finished with a .333/.420/.548 slash line to go along with 2 stolen bases on 2 attempts and 2 home runs across 50 plate appearances.

Known for a power/speed combo, Isbel joins a Kansas City team that hasn’t been afraid to run (even with Mike Matheny calling the shots), as they showed in 2020, leading the league in total attempts and being 3rd in the league in 2019, 5th in the league in 2018.

Full disclosure, Isbel does face off against Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox next week, two of the stronger teams from last season at preventing stolen bases, but does have the luxury of hosting the Angels the following week.

It’s notable that Max Stassi and Kurt Suzuki ranked 1st and 3rd respectively in most stolen bases allowed through the 2020 season. That matchup may be worth reaching on Isbel now, while he clears waivers to start the season as he may be a hot commodity in your league as the new shiny toy. He’s currently rostered on just 3% of Yahoo! leagues.


Honorable Mentions


Andrelton Simmons (SS, MIN) vs Wilson Ramos (C, DET)
Roman Quinn (OF, PHI) vs Travis d”Arnaud (C, ATL)
Adam Eaton, Billy Hamilton (OF, CWS) vs Justin Dunn (P, SEA)


Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)

Adam Howe

Adam resides in Indianapolis after spending the better part of a decade in Oakland, CA and growing up in Massachusetts. He co-hosts the On The Wire podcast with Kevin Hasting, analyzing your weekly FAAB options before your bid deadlines every Sunday.

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