2023 Fantasy Baseball: Draft these late-round speedsters and take advantage of MLB’s new rules

Every year during spring training, I write an article highlighting the sources of late thefts. Securing swipes has been one of the biggest challenges for managers in recent years, but as Bob Dylan said, “Times are changing.” By making two important rule changes, MLB has given would-be base stealers every reason to be aggressive this year.

First, the league has increased the size of bases from 15 inches to 18 inches, which will improve players’ ability to slide to avoid being tagged, as well as slightly reduce the spacing between bases. And more importantly, any pitcher who makes three mound outs in a single plate appearance without a record out will cause base runners to automatically move one base up. This rule, in effect, encourages fast players to make massive rushes, especially after the pitcher has thrown once or twice.

These rule changes will no doubt lead to more steals across the league, but it remains to be seen how the extra hits will be distributed.

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One of the biggest misconceptions about stolen bases is that players with high steals and amazing success rates are likely to hit even higher heights next year. In fact, the opposite is usually the case. Maintaining an elite base steal rate (over 85%) is difficult year after year, and if the player’s name is Billy Hamilton (remember him?), those who lead the league in steals struggle to repeat this feat next year. For this reason, the best sources of draft steals are players who post solid but unimpressive steal totals and also contribute significantly in other areas. And with the uncertainty of this category approaching 2023, spreading your members seems like the wisest plan.

Here are some of my favorite players that fit this plan and don’t require a pick at the start of the round.

Starling Marte (UF, New York Mets)

There’s no doubt that Marte played with an injury last season on his way to posting his lowest total in steals (18) in an unabbreviated season since his debut in 2012. The 34-year-old underwent core surgery in the off-season and although he took his time in spring training, he expects to be ready for Opening Day. There is a good chance that a healthy Marthe will steal more than 25 bags this year.

Andres Jimenez (2B/SS, Cleveland Guardians)

After teasing fantasy managers for partial two-season stretches in 2020–21, Jimenez became one of last year’s best picks, hitting .297 with 17 homers and 20 steals. He also hit base with an excellent pace (.371 OBP) and his versatile skill set makes him a better option than the incumbent. Amed Rosario rank second in Cleveland’s scoring lineup. At 24, Jimenez could make another significant leap this year.

Jake McCarthy (HF, Arizona Diamondbacks)

McCarthy was one of last summer’s top diamonds and he finished 2022 with 23 interceptions in just 321 at-bats. He also hit .283 with 53 runs batted in, and extrapolating from that statistic shows he could be the player with 35 steals and 85 runs this year. McCarthy requires a decent investment (current Sportzshala: ADP 111), but it’s worth it.

Tyro Estrada (2B/SS/OF, San Francisco Giants)

Estrada stole 21 bases in 488 at-bats last year, and with 14 homers, he was more than a one-dimensional player. He’s only 26 years old, but a multi-position asset is coming into his own as a Major League regular and should hit a 25-interception plateau this season. And the best part is that managers can wait to pick a late-pick Estrada (current Sportzshala rating: 191).

[2023 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP]

Stephen Kwan (F, Cleveland Guardians)

Kwan is a polar player in fantasy circles. Some managers see his amazing 62:60 BB:K ratio compared to last season and suggest that he can repeat his high bidding stats (0.298 BA, 0.373 OBP) in 2023. exit speed (85.1 mph) – indications that he will have a hard time picking up base hits at such a high speed. Overall, I’m inclined to predict that even with a slight drop in OBP, Kwan will be able to rack up 20 interceptions and 90 runs as Cleveland’s leading hitter.

Ramon Laureano (UF, Oakland A)

Laureano received a PED suspension at the start of the 2022 season and failed to find his best form (.663 OPS) in the 94 games he played. However, he remains someone with an intriguing mix of power and speed (27 HR, 23 SB in 182 games in 2021-2022) and is a strong candidate for a trade to a rival team this summer. And best of all, Sportzshala Laureano’s current ADP is very reasonable (pick 245).

T.J. Friedl (HF, Cincinnati Reds)

The rebounding Reds should give opportunities to a lot of untested players, with Friedl topping the list. The 27-year-old could drop out of the bonus roster after hitting eight homers and seven steals in 225 at-bats last season, raising hopes he can hit 20 in both categories for the entire campaign. Admittedly, Friedle is far from a safe pick, but he remains undrafted in many Sportzshala leagues and could justify a late-round pick simply because of his success in April.


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