It seems like speed has been much harder to find this year than in the past. Last year there were 14 players that eclipsed the 30-steal plateau, and five of them stole more than 40. As we stand today, only nine players are on pace for 30 or more steals. With speed on the decline, fantasy owners need to search a little harder to find speed on the waiver wire. The below 10 speedsters are either sitting on your waiver wire or can probably be had for a fair price via trade.
If power is what you seek, then check out last week’s top-10 list.
10. Jacoby Ellsbury (OF – NYY)
He’s not nearly as valuable as he used to be in fantasy, but Ellsbury still has some solid wheels. He has eight steals through 163 plate appearances so far this season. A lot of fantasy owners jumped ship on him when he hit the disabled list last month with a concussion.
Now is the perfect time to grab Ellsbury if you need a speed boost. He’s still on a 30+ steal pace and can help you out in other areas, too. Don’t forget he’s going to be hitting in front of Aaron Judge most nights. The runs should be bountiful for New York’s 153 million dollar man.
9. Tommy Pham (OF – STL)
You might be thinking to yourself that Pham is an odd name to be on this list. “Is he really that fast?” Yes, yes he is. He’s played only 47 games this season, but if you extrapolate his current numbers out over a full season, this would be a 30-30 player. Yes, you read that right. Little-known Pham is on a 30-30 pace.
Unless he turns into Mike Trout, he won’t reach that mark due to the games he missed already, but that just goes to show what kind of impact he can make for fantasy teams. His playing time is becoming steady, and he’s been hitting near the top of the order over the past few weeks. That should only benefit Pham going forward. He’s currently available in around 90% of leagues, so give him a look.
8. Delino DeShields (OF – TEX)
After his father stole 463 bases in his 13-year major league career, Delino Jr. is proving he’s just as fast as his old man. However, his fantasy contributions basically start and end with stolen bases. He’s not a player I’d recommend for any other reason other than if you need a few extra steals. However, his average has been tolerable this year at .278, and he can even score a few runs per week.
His inclusion on this list just goes to show how hard it is to find speed this year. All the top options are already rostered in a vast majority of leagues. There’s a pretty good chance DeShields is sitting on your waiver wire waiting to be added by a speed-needy team. If that team happens to be you, he’s there for the taking.
7. Jarrod Dyson (OF – SEA)
You will never get anything out of Dyson other than lots of speed, some runs, and a batting average you can usually stomach. He probably couldn’t even win a little league home run derby, so eliminate home runs and RBI from your brain when looking at potentially adding him to your roster. However, we’re talking about speed here, and Dyson has plenty of it.
As we near the season’s halfway mark, he currently has the fifth most stolen bases in the majors. Three of the four players above him are universally owned players, and the other (Cameron Maybin) is owned in roughly two-thirds of leagues. Dyson, on the other hand, is available in over 75% of leagues. Remember, this is strictly a speed-only addition, but Dyson will give your team a shot in the arm in the stolen base department.
6. Byron Buxton (OF – MIN)
Over the last few months, Buxton has been a popular topic of mine in my dynasty articles here on Fantrax. Usually, it hasn’t been positive writeups about him, either. Buxton might be vastly underperforming expectations thus far in his career, but the one area he’s helping fantasy owners in is speed. He’s managed to steal 13 bases in just 14 attempts so far this season while getting on base at only a .268 clip.
Byron Buxton puts on the JETS to make another incredible catch!
— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) June 11, 2017
Adding a player like Buxton would be a major risk, but one that could pay big dividends in the end. The tools are all there; he just needs to figure out how to use them. I definitely wouldn’t advise adding him now while he’s hitting .196, but keep his name in the back of your mind. He recently worked on changing his swing mechanics, and if he starts to hit better, he could be a valuable speed asset down the stretch.
5. Manuel Margot (OF – SD)
At every level in the minors, Margot was a force to be reckoned with on the base paths. From 2012 through 2016, he swiped 162 bags in 2,040 plate appearances. Most major league leadoff hitters accumulate between 650 and 700 plate appearances each year. If you break down Margot’s numbers to that range of plate appearances, you’d have yourself a 50+ steals fantasy player.
In addition to his plus speed, Margot has been a pretty good hitter as well. He had a .287 average in the minors to go along with a solid .349 OBP. He wasn’t running much before his strained calf injury landed him on the disabled list in late-May, but he swiped two bases in just his second game back. That’s pretty encouraging. Margot’s spot near the top of the order plus his minor league pedigree make me a believer in his rest-of-season outlook.
4. Adam Engel (OF – CHW)
Here’s the sleeper pick of this list. Engel is a flat-out burner. Over the past two minor league seasons, he has run wild to the tune of 109 total steals. He strikes out more than you’d like to see out of a leadoff-type player, but he’s still been able to get on base at a .341 clip in the minors. The White Sox called him up a couple of weeks ago and have mostly been slotting him ninth in the order. That’s not ideal for his fantasy value, but Engel should still be able to provide a nice speed boost regardless of where he hits in the lineup. The big thing is that he’s in the order at all.
After not showing much pop in past seasons, Engel had eight home runs before his call-up. If he continues to receive at-bats, he could hit a handful of home runs the rest of the season to go along with 15+ steals.
3. Michael Taylor (OF – WAS)
If there’s any silver lining in the season-ending Adam Eaton injury for the Washington Nationals, it’s that they had a worthy replacement ready to step right in and produce. That’s exactly what Taylor has done so far. In 222 at-bats, Taylor is hitting .275 with 11 home runs and nine steals. He didn’t do too much running as a part-time player but has started running much more as an everyday lineup stalwart. Five of his nine steals have come in the last two weeks.
For most of the season, Taylor has been trapped in the bottom third of the order. However, with Trea Turner breaking his wrist, that’s soon going to change. He’s the logical choice to step into Turner’s leadoff spot, but Dusty Baker has always been less than conventional. I mean, his lackluster bullpen basically killed a man last month. Well, not exactly, but it was bad enough to be mentioned in an obituary. If Baker does insert Taylor in the leadoff spot, expect the steals to become more and more frequent.
2. Bradley Zimmer (OF – CLE)
It still baffles me how Zimmer is available in over 75% of fantasy leagues. In 107 at-bats since his promotion, he’s hit .289 with four home runs, seven steals, and 22 RBI. He was a universal top-25 prospect across industry rankings and has done nothing to disclaim that so far with Cleveland. What more does the kid have to do for fantasy owners to notice him? Is Zimmer the smelly kid in class or something?
If you project out his current pace over a full season, you get a player with close to 40 stolen bases. That alone can help fantasy teams, but what’s great about Zimmer is that he helps across the board statistically. His propensity to strike out will tame his batting average, but Zimmer can still strongly help out in other areas, especially speed.
1. Mallex Smith (OF – TB)
If you have a need for speed, then Smith is your guy. Whether in Triple-A Durham or Tampa Bay, all Smith has done is run. Through 243 combined plate appearances, he racked up 25 stolen bases. For some reason, a vast majority of the fantasy world hasn’t caught on to him. That’s surprising, though, as major league catchers have had a difficult time catching him too.
Smith has been hitting out of the leadoff spot for the Rays and should lock that spot down if he continues to perform this well. Don’t count on him for home runs or RBI, but Smith can be a strong three-category contributor down the stretch. He was a .297 career minor league hitter and is hitting over .300 since his call up. If Smith continues to hit well and steal a ton of bases, the Rays have enough decent hitters hitting behind him to drive him in. It wouldn’t surprise me if Smith led the majors in steals the rest of the season.
Thank you for reading another edition of the Fantrax Weekly Top-10. Check back next Saturday as we analyze 10 affordable pitching additions. Got a question about a player not covered here? Feel free to comment below or ask on Twitter @EricCross04.