Draft Day Strategy: Stolen Bases: What Is The Winning Formula?

by Ray Kuhn

Stolen bases are just as important of a fantasy category as any. They count the same as any of the other four hitting categories, which carry equal weight as the five pitching categories. They are worth ten percent of your final total and whether or not you are successful in your pursuit of fantasy glory.

For some reason it seems like stolen bases carry more importance. If that seems weird to you, then you are forgiven. It is because it is true and necessary and there is a good reason for it.

Of all the counting stats stolen bases come in the smallest frequency, though that by itself is not the issue. The greater problem is that success in stolen bases often comes at the expense of other areas of your team. When building your squad the focus has to be on balance and none of the categories can be ignored.

The other four categories all tie together at some point and work in conjunction. A power hitter gets credit towards their batting average while also scoring a run and driving in at least one run. When a runner steals a base, there is the possibility that is where their fantasy value begins and ends. Base stealers often are one dimensional, and in a lot of cases do not contribute in more than one or two other categories.

Not only do you need to evaluate individual players, your projections for them and their value on the draft board, but you have to know what you are up against. I took a look back to 2013 and how the standings shook out. To develop a baseline for how many stolen bases to target, I took an average of the season ending standings for four of my leagues.

On average to “win” the category, you would need 180 stolen bases. That would be followed by, on average, the following totals for second through fifth: 174, 165, 150 and 144.

So now that you know your target, it is time to set out to meet that benchmark. I only listed the top five totals because if you going for a league title, you don’t want to try and overcome less than eight points in a category. Of course it is possible to win with less, but the key here is to try and build the most balanced team possible.

Yes that is easier said than done, but when it comes to stolen bases the task is a little more daunting. That is even with what seems to be targets that are on the low side.

Let’s take a look at what you need to finish in third place based on 2013 average that I noted about; 165 stolen bases. In a standard league, that total is spread across 16 batters, which would be an average of 10.3 steals per player.

However, we all know that stolen bases for catchers are essentially non-existent. Per the Top-300 in the Rotoprofessor 2014 Draft Guide, Jonathan Lucroy is projected to lead the position in steals with seven. Of the 19 catchers that make an appearance on the list, the average stolen bases total for them is 1.73. So to be conservative, if you eliminate the catching position and don’t project any stolen bases from them, we are down to 14 players and an average of 11.8.

Off the top of my head before really looking at last year’s stats, I surmised that your “top” base stealing threat could be counted on for 40 stolen bases. That would bring the target needed down to 125 with an average per player of 9.6. However that is a little ambitious. Last season only eight players reached that plateau with Jacoby Ellsbury leading the league at 52. Per the Draft Guide, there are only four players that are projected to reach that total this season with top prospect Billy Hamilton slated for 69 stolen bases.

If you have a player like Hamilton on your team, then stolen bases require a lot less of your attention. That is not going to be the case for eleven of twelve teams, so a plan is needed. Even if Hamilton meets that projection, you still need 100 stolen bases from the rest of your team.

Another member of the 40+ club is Everth Cabrera. Again that is good production to have on your team, but you will not get much else from the San Diego shortstop as there is not much power to his game.

The key, is to build a balanced team. Of course finding a power and speed combination is easier said than done, but that is the ticket to success. There are 78 players projected to steal more than 10 bases this season, and their average stolen base total is 22.32. Looking at the entire 172 batter population of the Top 300, there is a total of 2,037 stolen bases. That comes out to an average of 11.84 per player.

In no way am I advocating to draft based solely on that average, but it is a good benchmark to use. Obviously there are players that need to be drafted who don’t steal any bases, but then you just need to compensate with your other selections. Balance is the key when building a team and awareness of statistical targets is important.

In a perfect world, that balance is key in building a more well-rounded team. You are going to need at least two players that will finish with a minimum of 25 to 30 stolen bases. From there you can build that very important balance, but it also accounts for a power hitting first baseman who will not steal any bases.

This is just one out of five hitting categories, but it also highlights the importance of planning out your roster construction.

*** Make sure to order Rotoprofessor’s 2014 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide and be entered to win an autographed David Price mini bat!  The guide comes complete with projections of over 575 players, expended rankings, sleepers, Top 50 prospects and so much more (including constant updates up until opening day).  For just $6 you will get everything you need to dominate your fantasy league!  For more information and to place your order, click here. ***

Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings:


  1. Darin says:

    You said….”In a standard league, that total is spread across 16 batters, which would be an average of 10.3 steals per player.” I think most standard leagues use 14 hitters-(c,c,1B,3B,CI,2B,SS,MI,five OF, UT) not 16. That would bump the average to almost 14 steals per batter if you don’t count the catchers.

    • Capoeira says:

      No you are wrong.

      The average depends on the size of the league he took the measurement in.

      If you play in a bigger or smaller league with different amount of hitters does not matter when the general priciple is simple.

      Look back at league history or similar league to figure out what the third highest score is and divide this by your hitters without catcher. This number you should aim to achieve.

      The article forgot to account for having a couple multi position speedsters on the bench to plug in when ur regulars take the night off

  2. Jmax says:

    Either way it was quiet informative and although leagues will differ, they will not differ that drastically

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *