The last time he did so was in 2009 while facing the Yankees as a member of the Boston Red Sox. In that same season, Ellsbury led Major League Baseball with 70 stolen bases. He did so again, four years later, with 52 steals in 2013.
While Ellsbury is no longer a league leader in stolen bases, he does remain a threat to steal nearly every time he reaches base. He proved that with the steal of home (his fifth stolen base of the young season), putting him on pace to easily top his mark of 21 in 2015.
That’s clearly a far cry from what Dee Gordon and Jose Altuve have done each of the past two seasons — leading their respective leagues in stolen bases. In 2014, Gordon led all base stealers with 64, while Altuve led the American League with 56. Then last season, Gordon again led all players with 58 steals and Altuve again led the AL with 38.
Now three weeks into the 2016 Fantasy Baseball season, the usual suspects sit atop their league’s list of stolen base leaders. Altuve is out to an early lead (nine stolen bases in 10 attempts) while Gordon (6-for-8) is tied with Starling Marte (6-for-6) atop the NL. All three finished in the top seven last season and were in an elite group of players who stole 30 or more bases.
Of the seven, these three are the only players who have been healthy through the first few weeks of this season. Other speedsters, such as Charlie Blackmon (43 steals last season), A.J. Pollock (39), and Ben Revere (31), are either currently on the DL, or, like Billy Hamilton (57 last year), simply missed time due to injury.
With so many of the top base-stealing threats dealing with injuries, many owners are left in search of an answer to their stolen-base problems. That need can be fulfilled with a widely available group of base stealers, who, much like Ellsbury, are on pace to shatter their stolen base production from last season.
Fantasy Relevant Former First Rounder
I mentioned Melvin Upton Jr. in an article last week telling Fantasy owners to wait it out for his younger brother, Justin Upton, to break out, and honestly didn’t think I’d be writing about the elder Upton again any time soon. But Upton has six steals and two homers through his first 20 games and looks more like the Tampa Bay version of himself, rather than the more recent and far worse Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres version.
Following a lost first season in San Diego during which Upton had just nine steals in 87 games, he is more than likely to end up coming closer to the 28 steals he averaged over the previous five seasons, in his second season on the West Coast. Look for Upton to rack up 25 to 30 steals while batting cleanup for the Padres and for the outfielder to retain sneaky power/speed value despite his career .244 batting average.
Former 50-Base Stealer
Rajai Davis is another player I’ve written about previously because I have trouble understanding why he continues to sit on the waiver wire in so many leagues. Owned in just over 10 percent of leagues, Davis already has six stolen bases in nine attempts through 17 games this season. In his first season in Cleveland playing for manager Terry Francona, the speedster has clearly been given the green light when on the base paths.
If Davis can keep up this pace, and matches his average games played over the past three seasons (118), then he would rack up more than 60 steal attempts and 40-plus stolen bases this year. I think he is more likely to end up with closer to 50 steal attempts, but the outfielder has averaged 38 steals per season since 2009. Expect similar results over the remainder of 2016.
Same Face in a New Place
Another player thriving in his new home is Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra. After spending five-plus seasons in Arizona, where he recorded a career high of 15 stolen bases twice (2011 and 2012), Parra already has five steals in just 18 games in Colorado so far in 2016. Last year, while splitting time between Baltimore and Milwaukee, he stole 14 bases, meaning he should surpass that total before the All-Star break.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss has clearly given Parra the go on the base paths, which could lead to lots of extra Fantasy value this season. The outfielder’s new 30-stolen-base potential, along with playing half of his games at Coors Field, make Parra a Top 100 possibility from this point forward (I mean, he is already ranked 56). If Parra is still a free agent in your league (25 percent availability), pick him up and enjoy the returns from the Rockies’ outfielder.
Sneaky Steal Potential
Josh Harrison is finally going to get to play out a season without constantly looking over his shoulder worrying about playing time. And so far this year that has made a world of a difference for the multi-position eligible player (2B, 3B, OF). He’s batting over .300 with four stolen bases, 11 RBIs and 12 runs scored through 20 games.
With a previous career high of 18 steals, Harrison is another player on pace to set a new single-season best. Taking his average games played over the previous two seasons and projecting it over this year, Harrison should steal at least 25 bases.
And looking at the players around him, it’s clear that Pirates manager Clint Hurdle gives his players the green light. Marte led the team with 30 last season, closely followed by fellow outfielder Gregory Polanco with 27. Look for Harrison to join his teammates in the 20 to 30 steal club in 2016.
Ready to Run After Return from DL
Jarrod Dyson isn’t on the stolen base leaderboard right now, but by season’s end he will be. Following an oblique injury, which forced the speedy outfielder to start the season on the DL, Dyson has two steals in three attempts over his first seven games of the season.
The outfielder has stolen between 26 and 36 bases in each of the past four seasons and finally has a guaranteed spot in the Royals’ lineup. He will continue to play right field and bat ninth as long as he is healthy, giving him a real shot to eclipse his already impressive career-high of 36 stolen bases in just 260 at-bats.
Last season, Dyson stole 26 bases in 200 at-bats (90 games) putting him in the Top 10 in steals. We should look at that as his stolen-base floor and expect closer to 40 steals this year.
Go out and grab one of these base-stealing threats, as they should help to fill your Fantasy team’s need for speed over the next few months of the season.