When I look for deep stolen base sleepers, I typically look for a few telltale signs. Obviously, the player has to not be very well-known. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily as obvious as it might seem, as someone like Juan Pierre could very well be a stolen base sleeper.
But we’re looking for deep sleepers. We’re talking possible big league debut types, or guys who play on crummy teams that will run a lot. Guys hitting in front of the pitcher in the National League. Guys you just flat out don’t know much about. Let’s have a look.
Darin Mastroianni – Minnesota Twins
With 21 thefts in under 200 PA in 2012, Mastroianni is firmly in the driver’s seat as one of the best potential SB bargains heading into the 2013 fantasy season. In fact, there’s some worry he’s becoming overvalued in that respect. As an ardent Twins observer, I think there’s a very good chance he’s the starting CF and maybe even leadoff hitter for the Twins on opening day, but the situation will need to be closely monitored because his potential successor Aaron Hicks will also be a name to watch for stolen base potential.
Alexi Casilla – Baltimore Orioles
All that’s preventing Casilla from stealing the second base job in Baltimore is the decaying remains of Brian Roberts and Ryan Flaherty, who hit .216/.258/.359 in an extended audition with the O’s last season. Flaherty has a better pedigree but hasn’t done much above Double-A, so I think it’s reasonable to believe Casilla could vulture a similar number of plate appearances as he did in many seasons with the Twins (~250). Not only was Casilla good at swiping bases in quantity last season, but he was only caught once in about a half-season worth of plate trips.
Starling Marte – Pittsburgh Pirates
Marte’s currently penciled in as the starting left fielder for the Buccos, and he managed to swipe a dozen bags in under 200 plate trips last season in his first cup of coffee. Actually, it was more like a venti as Marte managed nearly 50 games in the bigs. Marte has stolen 20-plus bases in every pro season but one — his 156 PA debut season of 2007 — and that includes many tops of only 200 or so plate appearances.
Eduardo Nunez – New York Yankees
Before you scoff, Nunez is the top backup to three 30-somethings in Kevin Youkilis, Derek Jeter, and most notably, Alex Rodriguez. If he’s pushed into action, Nunez’ 11 steals in just 100 PA in 2012 prorates quite nicely should he see considerable action. Of course, we don’t really think the Yankees would let that happen, do we? It’s still nice to dream.
Jean Segura – Milwaukee Brewers
Acquired in the Zack Greinke deal, Segura is the unquestioned starter at short for the Brewers even if he’s a bit raw. Segura stole seven bases for the Brewers in 163 PA, and boasts a 50 steal campaign in the minors. If Segura’s bat isn’t quite developed, I can see the Brewers A. hitting him eighth, and B. trying to wring additional value out of his times on base by running all the time.
Ezequiel Carrera – Cleveland Indians
MLB.com currently has Carrera penciled in as the Tribe’s left fielder, but with no mention of Nick Swisher on the team’s depth chart, it’s probably safe to say he won’t be much more than a fourth outfielder. Carrera has 18 big league steals in 384 big league plate appearances, so if he can find semi-regular playing time, he could surprise on the steals front. He’s another 25-30 steals guy from in the minors.
Adam Eaton – Arizona Diamondbacks
The acquisition of Cody Ross will keep hitter Adam Eaton from directly replacing hitter Chris Young, but there’s still a chance of a Justin Upton trade which could shift Ross to right. If Eaton cracks the big league club, or sees regular action — Jason Kubel has been injury-prone and at times just not that good — he could be a nice value. Eaton only swiped two bags in ~100 big league plate trips, but those two pushed him to 50 for the entire season across all levels.
Chase D’Arnaud – Pittsburgh Pirates
With Clint Barmes as the incumbent at short in Pittsburgh, it’s not crazy to envision a scenario in which D’Arnaud could steal some playing time in Steeltown. D’Arnaud has shown little with the wheels and even less with the bat in a very small big league sample size, but has stolen 134 bags over five minor league seasons. He could be worth a look.
Digging Even Deeper:
Tony Campana/Brett Jackson – Chicago Cubs – Both will need help to crack the Cubs outfield, but if there’s any indication either will make it due to injury or an Alfonso Soriano trade, one or both of these guys become much better options.
Anthony Gose – Toronto Blue Jays – The Jays OF is pretty stacked — he’s not even listed on the MLB.com depth chart — and there are serious worries about him making contact, but when Gose gets on, he’s as good as gone.
Eric Young Jr. – Colorado Rockies – He certainly has the pedigree, and is penciled in as backup at all three OF spots for the Rockies. The Rockies won’t be very good, but Young could still rack up some late-game steals as a pinch hitter/runner.
Mike Baxter – New York Mets – Baxter hasn’t run much in the minors recently, but he did a bit with the Mets in 2012 (five swipes in ~200 PA). It’s obviously very low-end, but he should start in right field for the Mets this season, so he’ll have some opportunity.
Jimmy Paredes – Houston Astros – It’s hard to say if/where Paredes fits in with the Astros, but he swiped 150 bags across six minor league seasons prior to his big league cups of coffee#. He has no discipline and doesn’t seem to be able to hit, but that could be said about a few other people on this list.
A.J. Pollock – Arizona Diamondbacks – Pollock needs probably an Upton and Kubel trade to have a shot at cracking the DBacks outfield. Pollock has swiped nearly 60 bases over the past two minor league seasons.
Xavier Avery – Baltimore Orioles – Avery will have to stick as a fourth outfielder-plus if he’s going to get enough meaningful time to warrant rostering. With Nolan Reimold and Nate McLouth in front of him, there’s a chance. Avery has three 30-plus steal seasons in the minors, but can’t hit at all.