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Uncommon Thievery: Finding Unexpected Speed

Updated: June 27, 2007, 3:46 PM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com
When catcher Russell Martin stole a base in two consecutive games this past week, it got me thinking, finding speed in unexpected places can be a major advantage. Then I went searching for speed in unexpected places (first base, catcher and third base), and I came away more disappointed than I thought I would. The simple fact is that a majority of the league's stolen bases can be found in the middle infield and the three outfield positions. Everywhere else is a virtual dead zone, making players like Martin that much more valuable in the fantasy games. Finding speed at catcher, first base or third base is a little like finding a second baseman with power; it's rare, and provides a huge comparative advantage.

First Basemen

There are really only a few first basemen who have decent speed potential, and that's Derrek Lee, and the injured Darin Erstad. Howie Kendrick and Alex Gordon also might qualify at the position, but I have a hard time believing that you'll be using either of them at first base when you can use them at second and third, respectively. Due to his nine starts at first base last season, Gary Sheffield also might qualify, and he makes for another decent candidate for speed at the position. Lance Berkman has racked up four steals in seven attempts this year, but he's never reached double digits and I don't think he'll start now, not with his career 61-percent success rate. The only real solid option here is Lee (Erstad will do in AL-only formats when healthy, but is waiver wire fodder in mixed leagues), who has posted double-digit steals four times during his career. So far, he's been a major disappointment on the bases with just three steals in seven attempts, a 43-percent success rate. Lou Pinella likes to run, however, so we can expect him to knock on the double-digit door once again this season. Lee is nice trade target right now because even though he's hitting a beefed up .346 on the year, he still hasn't hit many home runs or stolen many bases. The fact that he plays for a running manager in Lou Pinella bodes well for his stolen base prospects, and the home runs should start to pick up pretty soon. Lee has registered just six round trippers, but has connected for 26 doubles, leading me to believe that some of those doubles eventually will turn into home runs as the season progresses.

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