- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Ah, if only I owned Rajai Davis.
In one of my fantasy baseball leagues, we don't sign free agents the way it's done in ESPN leagues, which involves going to a list, finding a name and clicking on it, dumping a player and then enjoying ensuing MVP production from the new guy. Rather, in this one deep league of mine, we post to a message board; it's first-come, first-serve, and by the following Monday, the commish places players on rosters. One ordinary Friday night in May, I saw Toronto Blue Jays speedster Davis was surprisingly available in this league and he was a potential fit for my speed-starved team, so I decided to get him. I posted on the board ... about 45 seconds too late.
Davis' pair of stolen bases Tuesday night gives him 35 on the season, two off the big league lead held by some unknown Los Angeles Angels rookie. Davis had six stolen bases on the season the night I missed on him by less than a minute. It was the perfect time to add him, and after running wild in the past week, he now has 35, and I still need steals. It's all about the timing, isn't it? Instead, in this 16-team league, I chose Andres Torres. He's no longer on my squad, but I appreciate the handful of times he actually reached base for my team.
Davis remains available in more than half of ESPN's standard leagues, which seems awfully odd because he might end up leading the majors in the category. I realize not everyone needs stolen bases and Davis isn't a particularly valuable option for any other statistic, but I cannot recall the big league stolen base leader actually being available in half of ESPN leagues after about May 1 any season. Davis really should be owned in all leagues. Plus, he made arguably the catch of the year in Sunday's game against the New York Yankees, robbing Casey McGehee of a home run. Who wouldn't want to own a guy like that?
Incredibly, only 20 players enter Wednesday's games having stolen 21 or more bases, which seems frustratingly low, but of that group, only six players are 100 percent owned, and seven are readily available, such as Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Juan Pierre, again a regular with Nate Schierholtz on the DL, and Kansas City Royals speedster Jarrod Dyson, on the mend from a sprained ankle and still potentially relevant. However, here are five fellows with speed even more available, and each is performing at a nice level so far in August.
Eric Young Jr., OF, Colorado Rockies: The team's recently installed leadoff hitter leads the National League in hits this month and is batting .447 with two home runs, six RBIs and 10 runs scored. Oh, and he can run, too, though he has only two steals in August. He's going to play and he's going to run more. Get him now, because a double-digit steals month is possible. Honestly, I can say I've been waiting for this from Young for about three years. Run, EY Jr., run!
Anthony Gose, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: I talked to him one-on-one at the Futures Game in Kansas City last month, and we joked about how he hadn't yet reached 30 stolen bases while Cincinnati Reds phenom Billy Hamilton, who SweetSpot blogger Dave Schoenfield and I discussed in a recent video, had already reached 100. Gose is one of the top speedsters in the majors, though he hasn't hit much for the Jays. He does have four steals in the past five days. He's fast. He just needs to translate his minor league walk rate. By the way, I don't expect Hamilton to be recalled by the Reds anytime soon.
Darin Mastroianni, OF, Minnesota Twins: He's past prospect status and doesn't have much power, but he delivered the ol' combo fantasy meal Monday with a home run and stolen base, and it's possible the Twins will want to take a considerably longer look at him the final six weeks. Mastroianni is hitting .370 this month in 27 at-bats, with three steals, and who among us can forget his three-steal performance on July 5?
Will Venable, OF, San Diego Padres: Now 29 and still unable to hit left-handed pitching, Venable is a platoon guy who strikes out a lot and probably plays more than he should. He hit only .180 in July, but he resurfaced again with a home run and three stolen bases in the past week, and he did swipe 55 bases combined in 2010 and 2011. Daily-leaguers can spot-start Venable against right-handers and hope he has another 10 steals in him.
Alberto Callaspo, 3B, Angels: Finally, a non-outfielder. You know, it hasn't escaped my notice that of the top 20 base stealers this season, only five are infield-eligible, and two of those guys are on the DL (Dee Gordon, Emilio Bonifacio). Callaspo has three stolen bases in his past seven games, accounting for his entire season total, despite the fact he's on pace for 134 games. He isn't even hitting well of late, but he has drawn 10 walks over his past 10 games. Callaspo seems unlikely to attain his first double-digit steals season at age 29, but perhaps he's suddenly inclined to alter his game. Honestly, the list of available infielders who have stolen three or more bases so far in August is Callaspo and Jeff Baker. That's it.
Eric Karabell looks at Rajai Davis' fantasy value and suggests a handful of sleeper steals options, including Eric Young Jr. and Anthony Gose.