For a variety of reasons, many Major League teams are shying away from aggressive base running. They may be trying to limit injuries, which are already a major problem around the league. Also, with a league-wide trend towards low batting averages, managers are more comfortable looking for a multi-run homer than taking an extra base or hoping for singles and doubles. Roughly one-third of MLB teams are on pace for 55 steals or less this season, and just four clubs are heading towards a cumulative 100-steal campaign.
More than ever before, the approach to base stealing by an organization and its manager is going to trickle down to individual players. There are a few players who are so fast that they will steal bases on any club, but there are many players who are too slow to swipe bags no matter who they play for.
In between, however, is a massive middle ground of players who may or may not steal bases, depending on the philosophy of the club.
Here are the teams who have been running the bases aggressively this year. Fantasy managers can be optimistic about the steals potential of their players, including those who may be called up or traded to these teams this summer.
Teams that steal bases
Padres (68 total steals): Fernando Tatis Jr. has paced the club with 13 steals, while Tommy Pham has rebounded from a slow start to the season to swipe 11 bags. The club has six more players with at least four swipes, led by Jurickson Profar with nine. More than any other team, this is a group that fantasy managers can trust to run the bases aggressively. On the trade market, reasonable offers for Pham, Trent Grisham, and Manny Machado could result in getting a productive hitter who also contributes steals. On the lower end, Eric Hosmer (four steals) could be grabbed in a small deal or Profar could be added from waivers in deep-mixed leagues.
Royals (50 steals): The Royals would likely top this list if speedster Adalberto Mondesi had been healthy this season. The club already includes league-leading base stealer Whit Merrifield (20 steals) and a healthy Mondesi would likely be several swipes ahead of his teammate. The Royals' other primary source of swipes has been Andrew Benintendi (seven steals), who is unfortunately on the IL with a rib injury. Nicky Lopez and Jarrod Dyson are the other Royals with more than five steals, but they are one-category contributors.
Rangers (48 steals): Texas has been a sneaky source of steals, as their lineup is not full of coveted studs. Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been one of baseball’s most surprising steals sources, placing second in the Majors with 15 swipes. Kiner-Falefa is even more valuable in Yahoo! leagues than other formats, as he has catcher eligibility at this site. In fact, the Rangers infielder has been the most valuable backstop in Yahoo! leagues to this point of the season.
My guess is that he can still be obtained in leagues for a smaller trade return than more famous catchers such as J.T. Realmuto or Salvador Perez. Elsewhere in Texas, April waiver-wire gem Adolis Garcia has collected seven steals and Joey Gallo has added six swipes to his strong power numbers. Nick Solak has stolen just three bags but could improve his steals total if his bat (.233 average) comes around.
Rays (47 steals): Randy Arozarena has been the five-category stud that fantasy managers were hoping for, producing 10 homers and a team-leading 11 steals. But beyond Arozarena, the Rays constant lineup shuffles makes this team a source of fantasy frustration. Brett Phillips (nine steals) and Kevin Kiermaier (five steals) have been of little use outside of the steals category. However, Manuel Margot (7 HR, 6 SB, 39 RBI) and Joey Wendle (7 HR, 5 SB, 40 R) have been underrated multi-category contributors who can be added from waivers in some leagues and small trades in others.
Marlins (46 steals): Miami rounds out our list of five clubs with at least 45 steals. The club would surely rank in the top three on this list if their two best base stealers (Jazz Chisholm, Starling Marte) didn’t both miss time with injuries. Beyond those two speedsters, Miami has a handful of contributors who could reach double digits by the end of the season. This group includes deep-mixed league options such as Adam Duvall, Miguel Rojas, and Jon Berti. Also, Jorge Alfaro (4 steals) is among the speediest catchers.
On the other end of the spectrum, here are the clubs that have tallied fewer than 20 swipes so far.
Teams not willing to run
Yankees (15 steals): No one on this team has five steals, and Gleyber Torres (four steals) may be the only Yankee who is meeting steals expectations. Clint Frazier was expected to swipe a few bags, but he is struggling to get on base and his club seems to have little interest in letting him run.
Reds (17 steals): The Reds don’t have high-end speed in their lineup, but they have been disinterested in using the bit of steals potential that they do have. Jonathan India (.371 OBP, 4 SB) has been often hitting leadoff of late, but the club’s lack of aggressiveness overall makes me believe that we will see India finish with no more than 10 swipes.
D-backs (17 steals): Just one Arizona player has more than three steals, and that man (Tim Locastro) has five RBIs and 11 runs scored. And there are just two other players (Nick Ahmed, Josh Rojas) with more than one swipe. If Locastro continues to regularly ride the bench, I could see the D-backs finishing the season with zero double-digit steals totals.