5 Waiver Wire Options for Fantasy Baseball Owners Needing Steals

Here are five players fantasy owners can turn to if their lineup is lacking speed.

Maybe you were someone who didn’t use an early pick on Billy Hamilton, and perhaps the Dee Gordons and Ben Reveres of the world slipped through your fingers on draft day, leaving your lineup in dire need for steals.

Fear not. There are plenty of speed demons still available on the waiver wire. Here are five players owned in less than half of all Yahoo leagues, listed in order of projected steals according to our algorithms.

Steal totals as projected by FanGraphs (whose projections incorporate Steamer and ZiPS) and Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA are also included, as are last year’s steal total and FanGraph’s career speed score (which factors in stolen base percentage, frequency of stolen base attempts, and runs scored and triples percentages).

Jarrod Dyson, Kansas City Royals

Available in 95% of Yahoo leagues

Player2014 StealsnF StealsFG StealsPECOTA StealsCareer Spd
Jarrod Dyson363234238.9

Dyson made the most of his limited opportunities on the basepaths in 2014, finishing sixth in baseball in steals despite only 290 plate appearances (fewest among the top 10 base stealers; Rajai Davis, who had the next fewest, had over 200 more plate appearances). This season, we project only five players to steal more bases, even though Dyson is not even a full-time starter.

The 30-year-old was caught only seven times in 2014 and was fourth in speed score (among players with at least 100 plate appearances). Combine his base stealing prowess with his defense, and Dyson was worth 3.1 fWAR in 2014, providing tremendous value for Kansas City, especially given his limited playing time.

That’s great for the Royals, but unless you’re in some intense analytics-savvy league that rewards fantasy points for UZR, Dyson is much less valuable for fantasy owners, who are left with a prolific base stealer with a light bat.

Dyson hit .269 with 24 RBI and 33 runs scored last year, and we project more of the same in 2015. Our projections have him hitting .242 with a .310 on-base percentage, while driving in 19 runs and scoring 32 in 289 plate appearances.

Clearly, there is a reason he is so readily available, but, maybe you’re in a head-to-head league with a big lead in RBI and home runs and just need some steals to seal a win. Or perhaps your lineup is stacked in every other offensive category and stolen bases are the only area you’re lacking. If this is the case, Dyson is certainly your guy.

Rajai Davis, Detroit Tigers

Available in 52% of Yahoo leagues

Player2014 StealsnF StealsFG StealsPECOTA StealsCareer Spd
Rajai Davis363029357.8

Davis is probably the only person on this list who can also provide solid fantasy value off the basepaths, and this is why he has by far the lowest availability among these five players.

The right-handed hitter will presumably share center field with Anthony Gose, and get the starts against lefties given his extreme platoon shifts. In 2,099 plate appearances against righties, Davis has hit .254/.296/.348 (which translates to a 74 wRC+ or 26% below the Major League average).

In 1,039 plate appearances with the platoon advantage, he has a .304/.358/.446 slash line, good for a 120 wRC+. With this in mind, if you have an open roster spot and can afford to bench Davis when Detroit faces a righty, he could be a decent option even for owners not lacking in the stolen base department.

And if you are someone just looking for a platoon advantage, the steals are a nice cherry on top. Davis has stolen 305 bases in his career and has been caught 79 times, and his 79.4% success rate is 22nd among the 79 players to steal at least 300 bases since 1951 (the earliest year Baseball-Reference has stolen base attempts recorded).

Anthony Gose, Detroit Tigers

Available in 91% of Yahoo leagues

Player2014 StealsnF StealsFG StealsPECOTA StealsCareer Spd
Anthony Gose152423347.8

If you are in one of the leagues in which Davis is already owned, but you still want a speedy, Tigers outfielder with a significant platoon split, you’ll probably have better luck targeting Gose.

The 24-year-old lefty, who stole 15 bases on 20 attempts with the Blue Jays last year, had only 274 plate appearances in 2014. He is expected to get more playing time this year, so his stolen base total should certainly go up.

His 44 wRC+ against lefties will leave Davis with plenty of opportunities to see the field, but unlike his counterpart, Gose’s split with the platoon advantage is not enough for owners to play him for his bat alone. In 488 career plate appearances against southpaws, Gose has a slash line of .243/.317/.355 (87 wRC+).

Still, his base running credentials are undeniable, as only five players have a better speed score than Gose since he entered the league in 2012 (minimum 600 plate appearances).

For the first time in his career, he’ll get the playing time necessary to translate his speed into a high volume of steals. PECOTA even projects that he’ll steal as many bases in 2015 as he did in his previous three big league seasons combined.

Jordan Schafer, Minnesota Twins

Available in 99% of Yahoo leagues

Player2014 StealsnF StealsFG StealsPECOTA StealsCareer Spd
Jordan Schafer302222377.1

Thankfully it’s not 2011, or else I would probably make some forced, topical Occupy Wall Street joke, about the 99% and their struggle against the 1% who control all of America’s light-hitting Twins center fielders.

In reality, the common fantasy owner is right for passing on Schafer, considering his hitting simply isn’t there. In 1,403 career plate appearances, he has a .230/.311/.311 slash line, and we project him to hit .226/.304/.306 with 31 runs and 16 RBI in 267 plate appearances this year.

To his credit, his 10.1% walk rate is superb, and coupled with a 79% career stolen base success rate, he is able to post solid stolen base totals despite limited playing time and a low average.

The Minnesota center field job is his for now, so it’s conceivable he exceeds his playing time projections, but like Dyson, he is only relevant for fantasy purposes if you are desperate for steals.

Craig Gentry, Oakland A’s

Available in 99% of Yahoo leagues

Player2014 StealsnF StealsFG StealsPECOTA StealsCareer Spd
Craig Gentry202124237.7

We finally venture out of the American League Central for this list’s final entry.

Gentry is an ultra-efficient base stealer with 76 career steals on 88 attempts, giving him the eighth-best success rate (86.4%) ever among those with at least 50 attempts (since 1951).

It’s a great rate, but he probably isn’t getting you the volume to compensate for his below-average offense (we have him projected for a .249/.312/.310 season).

For what it’s worth, though, there’s a solid chance he exceeds those numbers, given he should get the bulk of his plate appearances with the platoon advantage this season. Oakland was among the Major League leaders in percentage of plate appearances with the platoon advantage last year, and Gentry has a lifetime .281 average and .364 on-base percentage in 523 plate appearances against lefties.

It probably still won’t be enough in all but the deepest leagues, and if you do feel compelled to target Gentry anyway (maybe your league is ultra deep?), check to see if the others on this list (Davis and Dyson, in particular) are available first.