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Cheap Speed for Fantasy Baseball: Late Round Targets for Steals

Two seemingly incompatible things about steals in 2022 can be true at the same time. First, they are becoming increasingly rare so it is important to secure them at the earliest opportunity. Second, they are becoming increasingly rare so you don’t need as many of them to be competitive in the category. Unless you double-tap Trea Turner and Ozzie Albies in your draft, chances are you are going to be looking for cheap speed at some point in the end game of your draft.

On the first point above, the top nine players in projected steals all are drafted within the top 80 picks in early 2022 drafts. Similarly, 13 out of the top 14 in projected steals are drafted within the top 100 picks. Steals disappear in a hurry but you don’t need a 40-steal player to be competitive anymore. There will be options up and down the draft to help solidify your team speed. You just have to manage the other categories early in the draft so you can build up speed late.

This list will help guide you to players going after pick number 150 that can assist you in bolstering your stolen base totals with cheap speed if you miss out on the stud base-stealers early in your draft. (Projected steals are taken from the 2022 BAT X projections).

Things look bleak now but there will be baseball in 2022! Why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!

2022 Cheap Speed Targets

Garrett Hampson, 2B/OF (19 projected steals, ADP 306.8)

We start with a couple of Colorado Rockies speedsters who both have a real shot at swiping 20 bags this year. Hampson, who split time between second base, outfield, and shortstop last year, has two years of 15+ steals in his last three campaigns. In his 2020 season, he stole six bags, which is an 18-steal pace over 162 games.

Entering his age-27 season, Hampson may bat at eighth or ninth in the order, but he stole nine of his 17 bases last season batting in the 6th-9th slot. Among primary center fielders, Hampson possesses the seventh fastest sprint speed at 29.9 feet per second, according to Baseball Savant.

But the best thing about Hampson is that he has elite steal seasons in his professional background already. He has seasons of 36 and 51 steals in the minors, albeit when his OBP was up around .400 in the lower levels. If he can figure a way to get his OBP back up around .330-.340, this could easily be a 20-steal season from a player after pick 300.

Raimel Tapia, OF (18 projected steals, ADP 268)

While Hampson might run into quantity concerns with playing time or plate appearances, Tapia should not have to worry about that. Projection systems peg Tapia for around 500-600 plate appearances and he led off for the Rockies in almost 75% of his games in 2021. That was good enough for 20 steals in 2021 after a 25-steal pace across 2020.

Fortunately for fantasy managers, Tapia received plenty of green lights last year when he reached base. He attempted 26 steals, so when Tapia reaches, the Rockies aren’t just sitting back and waiting for the big innings.

You’re going to pay a premium of about 40-spots compared to Hampson for those extra plate appearances. But with an outfield job locked down and projected for about a .330 OBP, Tapia does enough to not hurt you in any category.

Andres Gimenez, 2B (15 projected steals, ADP 311.8)

Traded to Cleveland as part of the Francisco Lindor deal, Gimenez debuted with the team and had a miserable time in the batter’s box but tremendous success on the basepaths. In just 68 games, Gimenez stole 11 bases, or a 26 steal pace over 162. But the best part is he was never caught in his 11 attempts.

This success rate was nothing like his time in the minor leagues, when he had some seasons that only produced a 66% success rate. But he is now successful 19 out of 20 times in his major league career. Perhaps Cleveland just knew how to pick their spots with him.

Gimenez owns the 10th-best sprint speed among shortstops. But he has the inside track on the second base job or at least will be the strong side of a platoon with Owen Miller. At just 23 years old, we could see Gimenez take another leap forward. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see him put up 18 steals this  year.

Robbie Grossman, OF (14 projected steals, ADP 158)

Robbie Grossman is not going to surprise anyone this year, especially in OBP leagues. His on base percentage has steadily maintained a level around .350. Projected to bat second behind Akil Baddoo, Grossman should have ample opportunity to fire it up on the basepaths like he did in 2021.

Grossman’s 20 steals last year did represent a career-high at age 31, but he also played the most games in his career by almost 20. Detroit accumulated the seventh-most steals in the majors last season so it’s clear they want to be aggressive in that part of the game.

Assuming health, Grossman is a player who is likely to get you 15 steals, 15 homeruns, about 80-90 runs, 65 RBI, and a .345 OBP. That seems like a steal after pick 150. Batting average leagues will feel the sting of the projections around .240, but the league-wide batting average was .244 last season. A couple extra hits here and there and Grossman is right in line with that number.

Kolten Wong, 2B (14 projected steals, ADP 210.7)

After a persistent calf issue that plagued Wong in his first year in Milwaukee, many fantasy managers forget how prolific Wong can be on the bases. In just 116 games last season (and just a .335 OBP) Wong stole 12 bases. In his last full season in 2019, he amassed 24 and was only caught four times.

Now fully healthy, Wong should bat leadoff again for the Brewers and he will have some potent bats behind him. Most projection systems put Wong at a 15/15 player this year, but none of them have him at more than 136 games played. If he could somehow reach 140-145, there is a real shot at 18-20 steals again.

A player of that caliber is a steal after pick 200, and others are starting to take notice. In NFBC drafts, Wong’s ADP was around pick 191 in December. In January, that number was 188 and it is still climbing.

Vidal Brujan, 2B (13 projected steals, ADP 292.2)

Brujan’s 10-game debut in 2021 was an absolute disaster offensively. In his 26 plate appearances, Brujan slashed .077/.077/.077 with a 0% walk rate and a 30% strikeout rate. Certainly, we can expect some growing pains from a young rookie, but I wouldn’t get discouraged by this small sample.

Projections are all over the place in terms of how many games Brujan plays this year. And truthfully, we have no idea what the Rays plan to do. But no projection system, no matter how pessimistic, puts him at less than 10 steals this year. ZIPS is the most optimistic, looking for Brujan to steal 38 bases in 114 games.

Brujan already has two seasons with 40+ steals in the minors and three others with 20+. The batting average and OBP are likely to look pretty bad for a while, but that risk is baked into the draft price. As the 20th second baseman off the board in Fantrax drafts, there is very little opportunity cost to picking up Brujan and throwing him in your MI spot. If he falls on his face and gets sent down, the next 10 guys you can draft all interchangeable.

But one thing is certain: none of them have Brujan’s speed profile and potential.

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