Below is a list of players available in a large percentage of ESPN and/or Yahoo! leagues that could help you stay competitive in the Stolen Bases category early in the season:
- OF Sam Fuld, TB leads the American League in stolen bases with six in just nine games played. He wasn't fantasy-relevant until Manny Ramirez retired and looks to get the majority of playing time in left field while batting leadoff. His overall line of .313/5/1/4/6 could easily help you out in three categories. He's still only 18% owned in ESPN leagues and 26% in Yahoo! leagues. And for some good laughs, check out the #LegendofSamFuld hashtag on Twitter.
- 3B/SS/OF Willie Bloomquist, ARI benefited from Stephen Drew starting the season with an injury and has made the most of his opportunities. He's started nine of the D'Backs eleven games and has a hit in all nine while racking up six stolen bases and accumulating quite the fantasy baseball line of .349/9/1/5/6. He's only OF eligibility in ESPN leagues but could turn into a super-utility type much like what we saw from Omar Infante in 2010. Now may be the time to commit to picking him up as his ownership numbers continue to rise (54.1% E; 72% Y!).
- 2B Orlando Hudson, SD is settling in quite nicely near the top of the order with his new team and showing there's still life left in his legs. Hudson has never stolen more than 10 bases in a season, so the four he has now could be an anomaly but if you are lacking at 2B or MI in a deeper league he may be worth the look. He's putting up overall numbers (.324/5/0/2/4) that make him ownable while he's widely available (3.7% E; 7% Y!).
- OF Coco Crisp, OAK has averaged 31 stolen bases per 162 games in his career but his problem has been staying healthy. He already has four steals this season but is now dealing with a lower back injury. If you have the roster space to spot start him when he's healthy, you could pick up some cheap steals without much risk. His ownership numbers are currently dropping (56.9% E; 41% Y!), so you probably have some time to make a decision here.
- OF Johnny Damon, TB somehow has managed three steals already and currently riding a five-game hitting streak. He'll run a lot more with the Rays than he did with the Tigers, so double-digit steals should be a reality for him again this season. I wouldn't be surprised to see him reach 15/15 in 2011. His ownership numbers are very low (25.5% E; 10% Y!) and so is his batting average but he's providing value in 4-out-of-5 standard scoring categories (.220/4/2/7/3).
- C Russell Martin, NYY looks healthy and playing with passion again for the Yankees. Why his ownership numbers aren't higher is beyond me (68.2% E; 72% Y!)? A catcher with the potential to go 20/20 should be owned in 100% of all formats (minus the NL-only lovers). Martin is currently the highest-ranked catcher on both ESPN and Yahoo! with his .300/5/3/8/2 line.
- OF David Murphy, TEX will be in the mix for the majority of starts with Josh Hamilton hitting the DL yesterday. Murphy stole 14 bases in 138 games in 2010 and couple provide a nice mix of power and speed over the next couple of months. He's come out of the gate hot (.313/4/1/3/2) and should see a major spike in his ownership numbers (5.1% E; 34% Y!).
I hope you find this list as useful as I have while doing the research. People always talk about how fantasy baseball leagues aren't won by the players they draft in the early rounds but by how well they did with late-round picks and how active they are in the early part of the season with waiver wire pickups. Don't be someone that sits around too long waiting for that "sleeper" to start producing or wasting a roster spot on a potential keeper for next season. I play to win now and will deal with managing potential keepers when September rolls around.