Loading scores...
By The Numbers

Need For Speed: Chasing Stolen Bases

by Matt Williams
Updated On: August 10, 2021, 9:23 am ET

The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

The fantasy baseball season is entering the home stretch and it is time to make some tough roster decisions in roto leagues in regards to category standings. This week’s “By The Numbers” is going to focus on one specific category and how fantasy managers can look to advance in the standings: stolen bases.

Speed is a tricky category to catch up in this time of year due to its volatility. Most of the balanced hitters who offer several categories, in addition to speed, are superstars. They are drafted early and often in fantasy drafts, and those who slipped through the cracks are often picked up quickly off the waiver wire. 

So what is a fantasy manager to do? You need to make up ground in steals without sacrificing other categories in order to do so, but that is easier said than done. There are a couple of different avenues to travel down in order to achieve this goal and some of it depends on the type of league you are in. In weekly roster move leagues, you may need to take more of a long view and consider the rest of season outlook for a player in order to roster someone with a favorable chance of posting stolen bases. In daily transaction formats, you can afford to take a step back and be more meticulous. This means being able to “hunt” vulnerable starting pitchers and catchers while making constant roster moves to grind out as many stolen bags as possible.

We are going to take a look at both methods this week by first taking a look at the teams with the most favorable schedules for stolen base production and then end by investigating which pitchers may be worth stalking the waiver wire for. Let’s get started.


Off To The Races

If you want to take a broad approach to find stolen base value, the easiest method is to simply find out which teams are allowing the most stolen bases. This has a lot to do with starting pitching and the catcher’s ability to prevent or allow free bags, but rather than get into specifics (which we will soon), let’s take a look at the leaderboard for teams make for good targets:


sb allowed


Here are the teams that face the most “premium matchups” down the stretch and the players you should target, if available in your league.


St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have a league-leading 33 premium matchups for stolen bases on the schedule for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, the team does not run a great deal as a whole, with only five players recording a stolen base in August (no one with more than one). Tommy Edman is certainly your best bet as far as players that are likely rostered, but be sure to get him in your lineups. Harrison Bader is available in 69 percent of Yahoo leagues and ranks as the 17th fastest player in baseball according to Statcast. Since the beginning of July, Bader is batting .312 with five home runs and four stolen base attempts, so he looks to be a prime target that could be available to pick up. Tyler O’Neil is another solid option that is available in 39 percent of Yahoo leagues.  


San Francisco Giants

The National League West seems to be a prime target to play against for those looking for stolen bases down the stretch, but not due to the Giants themselves. Instead, San Francisco takes on the Dodgers, Padres, and Diamondbacks during the last two months in addition to making stops to play the Cubs and Brewers. Overall they see 27 premium matchups and are worth speculating on in your search for speed. Since July 1 the best option of the team has been Brandon Crawford, who is available in just 20 percent of leagues, but may be worth pushing into your lineup. Unfortunately for those in weekly leagues, this is a difficult team to deal with given their affinity for platoons. Options such as Austin Slater and Steven Duggar could work for daily formats, but for weekly this becomes problematic. 


Pittsburgh Pirates

The next team on the list with 24 premium matchups is the Pirates. This is not the greatest news as Pittsburgh ranks as the 26th team in baseball in stolen bases, but Gregory Polanco is a player to key in on. Available in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues, Polanco has 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases this season and has swiped six bags in his last 30 games. The batting average may be a bit ugly, but if you can take the hit this 29-year-old can provide some speed and pop for your fantasy team.


Houston Astros

The Astros find themselves with 22 premium matchups thanks to a heavy dose of the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners. Houston’s best stolen base option was unfortunately traded to the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline (Myles Straw), but we will make do with what we have. Chas McCormick has been the beneficiary of Straw being shipped out of town and has seen plenty of at-bats near the top of the Houston lineup in recent days. Try not to get too excited, as the 26-year-old only has three stolen bases on the year, but if you are looking to add a few papercuts down the stretch, McCormick is batting .294 over his last 30 games and is the man (other than Kyle Tucker) who is most likely to swipe a bag in the final months. The Houston outfielder is available in 98 percent of Yahoo leagues.


Texas Rangers

Things start to get a bit weird as we turn to the Texas Rangers, who are tied with Houston with 22 premium matchups. Brock Holt is the leading candidate for stolen bases. There, I said it. The veteran infielder is batting just .128 over his past 15 contests but has been able to swipe three bags as part of the strong side of a platoon with Charlie Culberson, who is second on the team in stolen bases since July 1. Desperate times call for desperate measures. 27-year-old Eli White is actually the fastest player on the team with a sprint speed of 30.5 feet per second but is currently on the injured list with a right elbow strain.


Oakland Athletics

These three teams are tied with 19 premium matchups are have quite a few options for fantasy managers, starting with the Athletics. Starling Marte is a no-brainer as one of the best stolen base options in the major leagues, but he is rostered everywhere and is likely in your starting lineup. Newly acquired Josh Harrison makes for an interesting deep league target who is available in 69 percent of leagues while Mark Canha is always an underrated fantasy option that you should be placing in your lineups down the stretch.


Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore has newly acquired Jorge Mateo, who may be one of the very best options we are going to talk about. The former top-100 prospect has been all but forgotten in the fantasy community, but after being claimed on waivers on August 5, Mateo has been in the Orioles lineup every day. The 26-year-old carries the fastest sprint speed in major league baseball and could easily push for double-digit stolen bases down the stretch if given the opportunity. Mateo is 3-for-11 with two extra-base hits and two stolen bases since being waived by the Padres.



Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are typically an underrated team when it comes to fantasy production and they are slated to see 19 premium matchups for steals the rest of the way. Robbie Grossman and Akil Baddoo are higher rostered options that should be under consideration for your starting lineup, but there is another player that you should focus on: Derek Hill. The 25-year-old is playing every day for Detroit and has six stolen bases this season over 73 at-bats after batting .321 with four stolen bases in the minor leagues. Hill is the fastest player on the team with a 29.9 feet per second spring speed and is batting out of the double leadoff position (nine) for the Tigers. If you are looking for cheap speed, this could be an option for you.

Editor’s Note: Drafting is only half the battle! Get an edge on your competition with our MLB Season Tools - available in our EDGE+ Roto tier for $3.99/mo. (annually) or $9.99/mo. (monthly) - that are packed with rankings, projections, a trade evaluator, start/sit tools and much more. And don't forget to use promo code SAVE10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!


Other Options: Rafael Ortega, Adam Engel, Greg Allen, Miguel Rojas, Lorenzo Cain, Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Anthony Alford, Edward Olivares, Jarren Duran.


Starting Pitchers to Target

If you have the luxury of making daily transactions here is a leaderboard of starting pitchers who have allowed the most stolen bases:


sp to target for sb