Fantasy baseball: Boston awaits the next serious stolen base assetESPN PLUS $ MATERIAL
Stolen bases are all the rage in this new, more exciting baseball season and four rookie-eligible players have already reached double-digits in the category. Arizona Diamondbacks OF Corbin Carroll and New York Yankees SS Anthony Volpe were supposed to be great, and Oakland Athletics OF Esteury Ruiz and Pittsburgh Pirates 2B/OF Ji Hwan Bae are certainly helpful. Fantasy baseball managers tend to be more starved for stolen bases in roto category leagues, and they should keep an eye on the next wave of runners soon to debut.
Boston Red Sox 2B David Hamilton is clearly someone to watch, as the 25-year-old stole 71 bases last season at Double-A Portland, and he has swiped 14 bases in 17 attempts over his first 23 games at Triple-A Worcester this season. Hamilton, once a Milwaukee Brewers prospect acquired in the Hunter Renfroe trade, bats left-handed, makes strong contact, plays both middle infield positions and he is slugging .578. The big league team lacks middle-infield production, so Hamilton is in play for promotion soon.
Fantasy managers checking the stolen base leaderboards in the minor leagues should bypass older, journeyman types such as outfielders Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer and focus on younger players with perhaps untapped upside. Ruiz is a great example of a solid prospect who just needed a chance, and two organizations (Padres, Brewers) moved on, but Oakland plays him regularly. Many overlooked Pittsburgh's Bae as well, but he's worthy of playing. They likely were free agent pickups in your league, and each might steal 50 bases.
Los Angeles Dodgers OF James Outman and Brewers OF Joey Wiemer and 2B Brice Turang are other rookies stealing bases and seeing regular playing time. Little is guaranteed when it comes to young players and stolen base upside, though. Speedy Washington Nationals SS CJ Abrams exhausted his rookie eligibility last season, and we still wait for him to pile on the steals and runs. Be patient. We know Red Sox OF Jarren Duran can run, too, but he has to hit in order to play. Sometimes, it just takes time.
Here are some other players currently in the minor leagues to watch for stolen bases this season.
Dynasty options to watch: Jordan Lawlar, SS, Diamondbacks; Jonatan Clase, OF, Seattle Mariners; Johan Rojas, OF, Philadelphia Phillies; Kahlil Watson and Jordan McCants, SS, Miami Marlins.
Notable pitching debutsBig league teams do not seem to be scared of promoting their starting pitching prospects this season, with quite a few fastball-throwing, right-handers making their debuts in recent weeks. The Baltimore Orioles started the trend with Grayson Rodriguez, who may be their top rotation option soon/already, and the Tampa Bay Rays followed with Taj Bradley, who, despite winning each of his three starts, earned a trip back to Triple-A Durham for more (hopefully temporary) seasoning.
Earlier this week, the Mariners jumped Bryce Miller from Double-A to the majors, where he fanned 10 hitters with nary a walk while facing off with Oakland's Mason Miller, who didn't allow any hits in his second big league start. Talk about Miller time! The Guardians gave Tanner Bibee a shot just days after lefty Logan Allen got his chance and then, on Wednesday, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers promoted Brandon Pfaadt and Gavin Stone, respectively, though neither fared so well. Still, this is incredible. So many excellent pitching prospects debuting in just a few weeks!
Who's next? Well, the Dodgers should give RHP Bobby Miller his chance soon, and Cleveland has RHP Gavin Williams ready to go. Fantasy managers should not worry about whether their favorite pitching prospects are in Double-A or Triple-A. Organizations with Pacific Coast League entries are showing they have no issues with their top arms skipping that level due to the high-altitude ballparks. Young lefties Eury Perez of the Marlins and Ricky Tiedemann of the Toronto Blue Jays could skip Triple-A as well.
Just be careful here, fantasy managers. There is no telling which pitchers will initially succeed and which will not and, as the Bradley situation showed, even if an organization preaches confidence and security, they can change their collective minds. In ESPN's shallow leagues, take a chance on upside but be wary the pitchers you part with. For example, reliable veterans such as Arizona's Merrill Kelly, the Cubs' Marcus Stroman and Tigers lefty Eduardo Rodriguez might be better options.