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Is My Fantasy Man-Crush on Michael Bourn Wrong?

The text came in on January 1, 2013 at 12:01 AM.

“Happy New Year! Michael Bourn in the 4th round? Dubious.”

Happy New Year! Last of the true burners. Still a good value in roto-based leagues,” I responded.

Juan Pierre in Round 20,” was what followed.

Now considering who this text came from — a good friend of mine and four-time champion of our 15-team, 5×5, mixed keeper home league who in 2012 wrapped up his third consecutive title — it gave me pause. Did I reach too high in the Rotographs mock draft when I took Bourn with the 41st pick? Am I putting too much stock in him and his stolen bases? Was he being serious or was he just trying to get into my head while my mind was….well…somewhat off-kilter? While it certainly didn’t ruin my night, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t spend the next 10 or 15 minutes running through some of the names drafted between my fourth and fifth picks as Bobby, Phil and the boys jammed on Sugar Magnolia.

But as the jam moved into a crowd-pleasing Help>Slip>Franklin’s, I thankfully snapped out of it. Did I reach? Maybe a little. But there was no way to be sure that he was going to be available to me by the time it was my next pick, I thought. Would Wiers have taken him over Austin Jackson? Would Swydan have taken him instead of his third starting pitcher? Maybe. Maybe not. But considering the fact that his current ADP sits right around 40 and in two industry mocks that I saw prior to this one, Bourn went in the early third round of one and in the early fourth of the other, I thought that, given my strategy, the time was right.

You see…I love drafting speed in roto leagues. While everyone will tell you that you can find plenty of stolen bases much later on in the draft, I’m a firm believer in picking up a few well-proven stolen base commodities to give myself an extra edge as the year goes on. You lock them in, jump out to a decent lead in the category for the first half of the season and when the time is right, trade a couple of them away for help in those categories where you may be lagging. It seems like every year, as the trade deadline approaches, owners are constantly looking for added stolen bases because the category is consistently so movable. The addition of just one burner could potentially move a team up enough to be the difference between finishing in the money and languishing in the middle of the pack.

And Bourn is such a great guy to do this with. He’s a proven commodity. He’s led the National League in stolen bases for three of the last four years and the only reason Everth Cabrera was able to edge him out last year was because he [Bourn] ended up in Atlanta where Fredi Gonzalez is apparently allergic to the green light. In fact, since 2009, he is the only player who ranks in the top five for stolen bases each and every year. Sure, I could use later picks to grab a guy like Pierre or Rajai Davis or Ben Revere, but these guys are constantly dealing with playing time issues and are usually lacking in runs scored, batting average or both. When you’re looking to make a big move at your deadline, who would you rather own — a guy who’s averaged 644 plate appearances and 51 stolen bases over the last five years or a guy who’s sitting in a platoon and just a trade from turning into some team’s fifth outfielder and pinch runner? Which player is going to bring you the better return value in a trade? Guaranteed playing time and batting leadoff seems like the no-brainer choice to me.

Is there a concern that at the age of 30, Bourn might be slowing down? Sure. But since 2000, there have been 15 players who have stolen 40 or more bases at age 30 or older and four of them have done it more than once. So while age might be a bit of a concern, the fact that he hasn’t had any leg injuries (knock on wood) or anything that would send up a red flag, the concern is not really that significant right now. Whether you hold him for yourself all year or you trade him away at the deadline, you’re going to get a solid return value from him even as a fourth round pick.