For better, for worse: Steals often emerge outside of expectations
Every year, particularly in rotisserie leagues, many fantasy owners feel compelled to mortgage their drafts on baseball's speed demons, players that make significant contributions to a team's overall stolen base total. Speed is a valuable commodity, and stolen bases are an inseparable part of the fantasy game. However, overpaying for stolen bases can place a fantasy team directly in harm's way, making them vulnerable to a game that is increasingly reliant on power.
Stolen bases are far less common than home runs; 41 percent less common, to be exact. Of the 2,970 total stolen bases in the majors in 2009, more than 15 percent were concentrated among the top 10 contributors. Further, only 17 players had 30 or more steals in 2009, clearly illustrating that there are very few difference-makers burning up the fantasy base paths -- a fact which forced many a fantasy owner to invest heavily (and early) in speed.
Here again, the reality of fantasy baseball often differs greatly from perception. A number of baseball's stolen base threats were overlooked commodities during 2010 fantasy drafts, and some continue to go largely unnoticed more than a week into the season. To a certain degree, draft day pulled back the covers on which speedsters were bargain buys, and which were overpriced. In addition, the early part of the season has already helped to reveal a bit more.
We'll list the underappreciated base thieves as being For Better; overrated or overpriced swipers will be put under the For Worse banner.