The Hitchhiker's Guide to winning a category

Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

As it gets late in your draft, don't go for guys who give you middling production in several categories. Grab a guy who will win you one.

If I were ever on Jeopardy!, it'd be a bit of a coin flip whether I'd be competitive. The categories would definitely have to play to my strengths. If, for example, the categories were all a load of things to do with the Bible, poet laureates, and ancient birds, I would just duck low and hope Alex didn't notice me.

But then! It's Double Jeopardy, and one of the categories is Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! I'm saved! I know that series as well as anyone, surely, and I'm virtually guaranteed to sweep that one. It might not win the whole game for me, but it'll get me further than my occasional $200/$400 answer.

In fantasy, there are precious few guys who will single-handedly let you win a category. Certainly nothing in the ratio categories - batting average, ERA, WHIP, etc. There is simply too great a denominator for a single guy to win it for you, even if you pick a guy who somehow bats .450. Wins and saves? Too luck- and opportunity-dependent. Same, frankly, with runs and RBI. If you're lucky, you can get the guy who hits 45 homers, but even then, there are six guys who hit 38-40, so that one guy isn't locking anything down. Strikeouts, maybe, but the numbers just climb so high that you can't be sure, even if you have vintage Kerry Wood or Randy Johnson.

And then there are stolen bases.

Stolen bases can be your very own Hitchhiker's Guide. There are guys out there who, while they might not guarantee a win every week or across the season (depending on your format), they are at least going to guarantee you contend. You might get a Mike Trout, Jose Reyes, or Michael Bourn early. But if you miss on those guys, you are left with only a couple choices - you can punt on stolen bases (a strategy Anthony Calanni covered in detail recently on this site), or you can grab one of the lower-level guys who will get you those stolen bases. They might not get you the batting average of Reyes, the runs of Bourn, the holy-cow-this-guy-is-awesomeness of Trout, but there are guys who will get you steals.

The question, then, becomes who to toss a pick toward? Rajai Davis, Ben Revere, and Coco Crisp will all get you a heck of a lot of steals, sure, but they are all outfielders. Surely you can get a quasi-slugger instead.

So, instead of an outfielder, check out a shortstop for those low-cost steals to win an entire category. Check out Everth Cabrera and his wheels of amazingness.

In 115 games last year, about 70% of a season, Cabrera led the NL in steals with 44. Yet in the Fake Teams consensus shortstop rankings, he somehow falls after Zack Cozart, Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie.

Listen, those guys are fine ballplayers. Lowrie, if he stays healthy, will get you some power at a not-power position, but "if Lowrie stays healthy" is about as big a wild card as "if the Astros win 85 games." Scutaro will probably get you some batting average, though not much else. And, living in the Reds metro area, I don't remotely understand the Cozart love from everybody in the world.

No, Cabrera isn't going to give you much of anything in run production. He plays for the Padres, and that's the surest way in the world to not score any points in anything with the word "runs" in it. His batting average is mediocre (though he gets on base enough, so he won't lose playing time, another point in his favor). He is, I readily admit, a one-trick pony. But damned if he doesn't have that trick down pat.

I don't understand why you'd waste a pick on a Cozart or a Lowrie late in a draft when there's a Cabrera out there. It's hard to envision a scenario when either of the first two guys make the difference between losing a category and winning one. And in fantasy, that's all you care about. You aren't seeking a strong #7 hitter who can hit one through the right side and advance a runner. You're trying to win categories. If you have Cabrera at shortstop, you can mark stolen bases as a win 19 weeks out of every 20.

The only black mark against Cabrera is the specter of a possible PED suspension hanging over his head for his alleged role in the Biogenesis scandal. I'll just say this: unless and until there is something saying he will be suspended, I don't for a second believe it is even a possibility. The MLB Players Union - one of the strongest unions out there - will sit back and let some of their members be suspended based on mere conjecture and names written on paper? No way. Ain't happening.

So think strategically when you get late in your draft. You don't want a guy who will keep you from being embarrassed when you lose. You want a guy who will help you win.

You want your Hitchhiker's Guide. You want Everth Cabrera.

Follow me on Twitter @danieltkelley

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