This week, the stolen base category. This one’s always a little trickier because you not only have to judge a prospect’s speed and ability to read pitchers, but the ability to get on base to actually attempt steals is pretty important, as well.
Here’s a look at some prospects that can help you in the stolen base category in 2020 and the future.
Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox -- Look, it may be obvious, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Robert, 22 until August, has exceptional speed, and it helped him steal 36 bases in 122 minor league games in 2019. The only question marks here are whether or not he’s going to get on base enough to run, and if the White Sox are going to allow him to attempt steals as often as he has at the lower levels. The latter question can’t be answered just yet, but everything we’ve seen from Robert as a professional suggests that the former won’t be an issue. Even if it’s only 20-to-25 steals, that’s very valuable -- especially when you combine it with his power.
Nick Madrigal, 2B, Chicago White Sox -- Everything written about Robert applies; well, except for that whole power thing. Madrigal makes loads of contact to all parts of the field, and the speedy second baseman gets good reads and is more than willing to run. Again, there’s a chance that Madrigal doesn’t get as many opportunities based on the White Sox recent history -- and he’s likely going to begin the year in the minors -- but it’s just tough to imagine Madrigal not stealing 25-to-30 bases if he gets a chance to be an everyday player.
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Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta Braves -- Waters “only” stole 16 bases last year, but he stole 20 the year before, and there’s certainly the potential for more in the 21-year-old outfielder. He’s an easy plus runner, and assuming he gets a chance to play for the Braves before the end of the season, he should make enough hard contact to allow him to get on and run. The strikeouts are concerning, but as long as they can be kept to a dull roar, he should be able to help in the steals category.
Sam Hilliard, OF, Colorado Rockies -- We -- specifically me -- haven’t talked enough about Hilliard. While he hasn’t had a great Cactus League so far (.663 OPS), there’s a lot to like here -- particularly from a fantasy angle. He more than held his own in his 27 games with the Rockies last year with a .273/.356/.649, and he put up monster numbers in the Pacific Coast League that included 22 steals in 27 attempts with the Isotopes. There are some questions as to how much Hilliard is going to play and if he’ll be on the original 26-man roster, but if he gets the opportunity, he should be able to give you some thefts.
Jorge Mateo, 2B, Oakland Athletics -- Mateo is an interesting case. He’s a former consensus Top 50 prospect who came over to the A’s in the deal that shipped Sonny Gray to The Bronx, and he’s lost a lot of luster since the move thanks to inconsistent results. One thing Mateo can still do, however, is run, and since he’s out of options, the Athletics are giving him a chance to win a spot on the roster. He’s also coming off a year where he hit .289/.330/.504 at Triple-A Las Vegas with 24 steals. Again, playing time is a question here, but if the A’s give Mateo enough opportunities, the steals should come. It’d be an upset if they didn’t, in that scenario.
CJ Abrams, SS, San Diego Padres -- The Padres took Abrams with the sixth pick of last June’s draft, and they immediately picked up a potential steals leader when they did. Not only does Abrams have top-of-the-scales speed, he has a smooth stroke from both sides of the plate that is conducive to hitting line drives all over the park. There’s also some power potential here, but the reason that Abrams is such an intriguing fantasy product is the ability to provide 40-plus steals someday. He’s a must-have in dynasty formats.
Khalil Lee, OF, Kansas City Royals -- Lee was a two-way prospect in high school, but the Royals moved him to the outfield, and it appears to be the right choice. The 21-year-old stole 53 bases for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, and while there are faster outfielders out there, there aren’t many who are more aggressive and who are quicker with their first step. There’s also power coming from Lee -- and he drew 65 walks last year, so he should get on at a good clip -- so this is a very underrated fantasy prospect who has a chance to help you in several categories, including stolen bases.
Vidal Brujan, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays -- The Rays have a ton of prospects who have a chance to provide steals -- one of those names is listed below -- but the best of these is Brujan. The switch-hitting second baseman was able to steal 48 bases in 2019; 24 in High-A Charlotte, and 24 more for Double-A Montgomery after the promotion. He’s an assertive hitter who makes a lot of contact, and he draws enough walks to project a solid on-base percentage at the highest level. Brujan could make his debut in 2020 for the Rays, but he more than likely is stealing bases in 2021 for Tampa Bay and fantasy players.
Daulton Varsho, C, Arizona Diamondbacks -- Positional value matters, folks. Does Varsho have elite speed? Absolutely not, but he’s a well above-average runner, and he stole 21 bases while hitting .301 with 18 homers for Double-A Jacksonville. That’s a solid number of swiped bags regardless, but when you consider that Varsho is doing it while playing competent defense behind the plate? It escalates things. We could see Varsho get some time with the Diamondbacks in 2020, but more than likely, he’s taking over behind the plate in 2021. Even if he moves off catcher, his ability to run can help.
Royce Lewis, SS/OF, Minnesota Twins -- To put it bluntly, Lewis was a disappointment in the 2019 season, even if you don’t consider the lofty expectations that go with being a former No. 1 overall pick. It’s easier said than done, but ignore the fact that the 20-year-old hit just .236 in 127 games; this is still one of the best prospects in baseball. On top of a chance to hit for average -- in spite of that number just listed -- Lewis has plus-plus speed, and he was still able to steal 22 bases despite his struggles last summer. Whether it’s as a shortstop or an outfielder, the right-handed hitting prospect should steal 25-plus bases as long as he gets on enough to do so. Since he’s on this list, you can probably guess the thinking here.
Others: Xavier Edwards, INF, Tampa Bay Rays; Ji-Hwan Bae, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates; Corbin Carroll OF, Arizona Diamondbacks; Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Kansas City Royals; Taylor Trammell, OF, San Diego Padres