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Eric Young Jr. and the Power of Speed

The top ten power hitters of recent years are all widely owned in fantasy. We can't say the same for the base-stealers. Should that change?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Someone is going to have to explain some things to me.

I mean, I guess that isn't new information. I spent most of my time opining on silly sports stuff and TV commercials. There is so much I don't know about. Like, I know a little about two-stroke engines, sure, but does it work like razors? Are there five-stroke engines that work even better?

See, a lot I need explained.

But today, what I need explained is our fascination with home-run hitters in fantasy at the expense of speed guys. Is it just a "Chicks dig the long ball" thing?

I brought this debate up with my debut Equivalent Fantasy Average piece back in January - before it was even called that - while Zack Smith ran with it in his stat-ful Power vs. Speed piece shortly thereafter. But it persists.

I was checking on some things. The following chart shows the MLB home-run and stolen-base leaders from 2011 to now, along with their current ownership percentages in Yahoo!:

Player HRs Own % Player SBs Own %
Miguel Cabrera 122 99 Rajai Davis 137 64
Jose Bautista 107 99 Michael Bourn 128 46
Giancarlo Stanton 105 99 Coco Crisp 116 84
Mark Trumbo 102 91 Jacoby Ellsbury 115 99
Adrian Beltre 100 98 Elvis Andrus 110 94
Edwin Encarnacion 99 98 Emilio Bonifacio 109 81
Jay Bruce 99 94 Ben Revere 106 63
Alfonso Soriano 97 81 Eric Young Jr. 99 30
Prince Fielder 95 98 Carlos Gomez 97 99
Albert Pujols 94 99 Jose Reyes 96 96

The top ten in homers average 95.6 percent ownership in Yahoo! leagues right now; the stolen-base guys average 75.6 percent.

I mean, to a point, I get it. A home run automatically means a run, an RBI; a stolen base could lead to a run while definitely not creating an RBI. The guys who hit home runs have averaged 578.5 R+RBI apiece, while the fast guys totaled 361.9. That's a big enough difference to account for some of the difference, sure. But in that same time span, the power hitters have hit for a .2795 average; the base-stealers have hit .2757; that's negligible. And the power hitters have stolen 17.4 bases compared to 24.1 homers for the speedsters.

I'm not saying Jose Bautista and Emilio Bonifacio need to be owned in equal percentages. But we skip around, looking for anyone who might get 30 homers, and snapping up every last guy. Meanwhile, Rajai Davis, who has stolen nine more bases than anyone in the last four years, who has 15 more steals than Miguel Cabrera has homers, who bats right before Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter, and Cabrera, isn't even owned in two-thirds of leagues. And that's weird.

Even weirder? Eric Young Jr.

When Juan Lagares and Chris Young were hurt, Eric Young played every day (thanks for having two guys with the same last name, Mets, you jerks). With those outfielders back, he's been relegated to backup status. He's not going to hit you home runs or hit for any significantly high batting average, but Young led the National League in steals last year with 46. Even with his relatively limited playing time this year, he's had 118 plate appearances and stolen 12 bases.

Meanwhile, Chris Young is a particularly heavy sneeze away from being hurt again. Juan Lagares has hit fine so far, but everyone knows he's a player whose value is mostly on defense. They just hope he hits enough to make his glove worth it; if he doesn't, he might not be around very long. And free-agent acquisition Curtis Granderson is hitting .175/.280/.289, which is pretty bleedin' sad.

Basically, Eric Young Jr. has stolen 99 bases in the last four years. And he's owned in only 30 percent of leagues. He's not going to play full-time, but in the deeper leagues, whenever Chris Young or Granderson or whoever misses some time, Young will steal bases at enough of a rate to make him worth owning.