Move over sex, speed sells too. Whether it's Jimmie Johnson, Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, people have always been fascinated with the astonishingly swift. Baseball is no different. In recent years, fantasy owners were struck with the difficult task of deciding how to spend their precious early picks: horde power or corner the market on speed. For a long time, sluggers didn't run and speedsters didn't hit for power. Now, fantasy owners can have their cake and eat it, too. Why you ask? The game has transitioned to a level where the one-dimensional players are being weeded out. The term "five-tool player" may be overused, but it's obvious that a combination of power and speed is the quickest ticket to the big leagues.
The result is a new breed of fantasy player who will net you double-digit steals and homers. With long-term contracts spiraling out of control, teams are less willing to let their star players run freely. This makes the player who will go 30/30 rare (Ian Kinsler was the lone achiever in 2009), but 14 players went 20/20 last season, up from nine in 2008. There were also 25 15/15 players in '09, compared to 21 in 2008.
So, where does that leave us? When the time comes, is it necessary to load up on speed? Let's get out our TI-82's and take a look at simple numbers. The results are in: a home run is far more prevalent than a stolen base. The following are the steals and homers that MLB teams have averaged over the past four years.
2009Home runs: 168Steals: 99
2008Home Runs: 163Steals: 93
2007Home Runs: 165Steals: 97
2006Home Runs: 180Steals: 92
The consensus? Both home runs and steals are on the rise, but making sure you get in on the stolen base derby may be the wise choice. As mentioned above, it may not have to be one or two guys who will steal you 30-plus bases, but power guys will always be around for you to draft who can contribute in the stolen base department.
Let's take a look at some different speedsters and a way you can categorize them, (with my favorite lines from Keanu Reeves' best movie, Speed).
Jacoby Ellsbury -- Led the majors with 70 steals last season. At 26, he's the premier base stealer in the game.
Michael Bourn -- Caught only four times in 33 second-half steal attempts. With a starting job assured, Bourn will challenge Ellsbury for the steals crown in '10.
Carl Crawford -- Concerning that he only stole 16 bases in the second half after stealing 44 in the first, but Crawford is in a contract year and he won't disappoint. He has 46 or more stolen bases in six of the last seven seasons.
Jose Reyes -- Obviously a risky pick, considering he is expected to miss the first month of the season. If healthy when he returns, however, he's one of the game's best bag swipers.
Nyjer Morgan -- Was thrown out 17 times in '09, but his growth as a hitter means he will be on base more. Morgan should approach his 42 steals from last year.
B.J. Upton -- While the rest of his game declines, Upton is still a menace on the basepaths. He topped 40 stolen bases for the second straight season.
Rajai Davis -- Despite playing only 125 games, Davis stole 41 bases for the A's. Do the math and it comes out to about 53 steals over a 162-game season.
Elvis Andrus -- Not a bad audition for Andrus, who ran more in the second half of 2009, and was only tossed out six times in 39 attempts. A real threat for 40 steals if he exercises more patience at the plate.
Dexter Fowler -- Opened eyes with a five-steal game on April 27, but he had only seven steals in the second half. A good bet to have the universal green light this season.
Andrew McCutchen -- One of the game's brightest prospects. McCutchen is tough to gun down and will almost definitely reach 30 steals in a full season of play.
Justin Upton -- Is this the league's next big 30/30 star?
Juan Pierre -- Failed to hit 40 stolen bases for the first time in '09. Mostly a product of playing time, Pierre will run aplenty on the Southside of Chicago.
Chone Figgins -- Ran less in the second half, but he still managed to top 40 steals for the fourth time in his career. If healthy, you know what you are getting.
Matt Kemp -- As he becomes a star, he should run less. That said, still a threat for 35 steals.
Ian Kinsler -- Hit the 30-steal mark for the first time in his career. While not blazingly fast, he's incredibly efficient. He has been gunned down only 13 times in 104 attempts.
Jimmy Rollins -- Has at least 30 steals in eight of last nine seasons. Incredibly consistent, with 161 career steals before the break, 165 after.
Derek Jeter -- Stole 30 in '09, after combining for 26 the previous two seasons. As long as he bats at the top of the lineup, he should continue to run.
Scott Podsednik -- Runs don't grow on trees in Kansas City, so Scotty Pods will have to manufacture them with his feet.
Brian Roberts -- His steals have steadily declined over the past three seasons: 50-40-30. Expect him to settle around 30 for the next few years.
David Wright -- For a third baseman, owners can't complain about the 25-plus steals he will contribute.
Brandon Philips -- A lock for 25-30 steals.
Shane Victorino -- Saw a rather steep drop off in '09 from the 30-plus expected, but don't think it's a trend. The Flying Hawaiian should return to 30-steal territory.
Grady Sizemore -- Should bounce back to 30-steal form.
Alex Rios -- A younger White Sox team should allow Rios to approach 25-30 stolen bases.
Jason Bartlett -- Always had the speed, but he was never released until '09. At 30-years old, Bartlett is probably not a threat to improve go above 30 steals.
Mark Reynolds -- More than doubled his previous career high in 2009, but should settle in as a premier slugger and run less to avoid injury. Anything over 15 would be a surprise.
Josh Anderson -- Stole 25 bases last year for the Tigers/Royals, but he isn't in position to see any more than backup duty in Cincinnati.
Emilio Bonifacio -- Waiver wire darling stole three bases on Opening Day, followed by 18 the rest of the season. Leave him on the wire.
Troy Tulowitzki -- Shattered his career high of seven, but tossed out 11 times. Eventually his poor success rate will give him a stern talking to.
Bobby Abreu -- Stole at least 30 bases for first time since '05, but he will be 36 in March. Abreu will resort back to the 15-20 range this year.
Willie Bloomquist -- Only nine steals after the break, and at 32-years-old, he won't approach his 25 from last season.
Everth Cabrera -- Stole 25 bases in slightly over half a season after being called up. Should challenge Andrus as the top steals man among shortstops.
Brett Gardner -- With Melky Cabrera gone, Gardner currently has no one to stop him from gobbling up 30 steals.
Julio Borbon -- This dude is a real burner. He stole 19 bases in 46 games. Notably, that comes out to about 66 base swipes in a full season.
Eric Young Jr. -- One of the minors top speed demons (87 stolen bases in 2006), he should see regular playing time in '10.
Chris Getz -- If a starting gig presents itself, Getz is a threat for 30 steals.
Hanley Ramirez -- Steals have declined for three straight seasons as various ailments have kept him off the bases. Odds are the Marlins will restrict his running to keep him fresh.
Willy Taveras -- Fast Willy went from 68 steals in '08 to 25 last year. Currently unemployed, the downfall will continue.
Ichiro Suzuki -- 200-hit king stole a career low 26 stolen bases last season, including only seven in the second half. I mean, he is 36-years old.
Curtis Granderson -- Rumors are the Yanks will keep Granderson spry by limiting his steals attempts. He's only averaging 19 steals over the past three years.
Chase Utley -- Getting up there in age, 20 steals isn't a likely scenario for Utley this year.