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Fantasy baseball 2018 draft strategy: How to target steals

How the Surge in Power Affects 2018 Draft Strategy

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The surge of power across Major League Baseball in 2017 has lead many experts to put a decreased emphasis on Home Runs and make Stolen Bases a priority. Stolen Base Attempts are at their lowest levels since the 1998 expansion and 2017 broke the record for most Home Runs hit in a season. So how should fantasy managers be valuing Stolen Bases now that they are at an all-time low and Home Runs can be found later down the draft board? This article will make the case for prioritizing Stolen Bases earlier in the draft and targeting fliers at the end of the draft to supplement the category.

Review of 2017 Draft

Let’s start with looking at where you needed to pick in 2017 to secure SBs and HRs. The chart below gives the Preseason ADP rankings (via FantasyPros.com) and the percentage of HRs and SBs that would have still been available at each pick. Actual 2017 results are used to help us predict how last year’s results will be valued for 2018 drafts.

Orange line = SB; Blue line = HR

The easiest way to interpret this chart - at a given ADP value, the value of the blue line represents how many HRs were still available at that pick and the orange line represents how many SBs were still available. If the SB line (orange) is higher than the HR line (blue), HRs will be harder to find for the rest of the draft. My number one takeaway is:

Stolen Bases go off the board quickly in the first two rounds, and aren’t heavily targeted again until the last 3 or 4 rounds.

The first 20 picks took up a larger share of the available SBs compared to HRs. If you didn’t draft a player who could swipe a few bags in the first two rounds, you were already playing from behind. This trend is exacerbated if you exclude specialists Billy Hamilton (ADP #67.5) and Dee Gordon (ADP #59.3). From pick #300 (Round 25) onward, the gap closes quickly between HR and SB, meaning many SB-specialists are being selected in the latter rounds of the draft.

Review of 2017 Waiver Wire

The draft isn’t the only place we can rely on acquiring players. We also must consider what was available on the waiver wire throughout the year. The chart below shows all players that went undrafted according to FantasyPros.com who had over 400 PAs and the number of HRs and SBs produced.

This again shows how scarce SBs are and the importance it needs to be placed on in the draft. 19 players had over 20 HRs off the waiver wire, and only 2 had over 20 SBs. Steals are not easy to acquire mid-season and must be prioritized in the draft.

What To Do With Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon

Declaring a need to prioritize SBs should immediately direct you to Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon. According to FanTrax, Billy Hamilton is being taken at pick 59 and Dee Gordon is at 31. Gordon’s move to the Seattle Mariners is a slight improvement to his stock with the improved lineup around him, but I feel his ADP has been inflated as a result. His new manager is not any more or less inclined to stealing - Scott Servais averaged 104 stolen base attempts as the Mariners manager the past two seasons, while Don Mattingly averaged 110 in his two seasons with the Marlins. Where Gordon scares me is his move to CF and all the distractions that come with learning a brand new position.

I would much rather roll the dice with Hamilton at his 59 ADP price tag. If I can hammer SPs and HRs in the first four rounds and take Hamilton in the fifth, I feel like I’m in a really good place in drafts.

Conclusion

Target steals early in the draft. Grab a flier or two at the end of the draft. Steals will not be available on the waiver wire and must be prioritized. The increase of HRs across the league has made HRs more widely available and something you can catch-up on later in the draft.

Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Paul Goldschmidt, and Mookie Betts are going to be my key early round targets in drafts. If I strike out on all four, I’m likely going to Billy Hamilton in Round 5. It will take a few mock drafts closer to draft season to see how this strategy fully works out. For now I’m approaching my draft prep with the assumption that I need Stolen Bases early, and need to find a few late round fliers with SB upside.

For any questions, or recommendations for improvement please don’t hesitate to reach out via email (bcreagh119@gmail.com) or Twitter