- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Nobody should be terribly surprised that San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera is running wild, because this is what he did last season. Cabrera led the National League -- and all middle infielders -- in stolen bases last season, and all of baseball in the category after the All-Star break, with an impressive 29. He's off to a tremendous start this season as well. Cabrera doesn't do much else to help a fantasy team: His power is next to nil, he won't approach a .300 batting average and on the Padres he likely won't score a ton of runs. But the guy has upped his walk and contact rates, doesn't try to hit fly balls, and when he gets on base, he certainly takes advantage.
It's hardly going out on a limb to project Cabrera to lead the big leagues in stolen bases this season, but I'm doing it anyway. What should I say, Kevin Youkilis wins the crown? Continuing with a week full of predictions after Tuesday's home run blog entry, we deal with the speedsters, and there might be a surprise or two lurking.
1. Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres (54 projected steals): Fantasy owners will certainly take it! Nobody reached 50 steals in 2012, after all. Cabrera has job security and a green light. Can't ask for much more.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox (46): He ran wild in April, and his biggest problem in May has been that he can't steal first base. I'm still buying a big steals and runs season, but the homers stay in single digits.
3. Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics (41): One of the more underrated speedsters out there, Crisp might have another DL stint in him, but his plate discipline has been terrific, and he isn't slowing down.
4. Michael Bourn, OF, Cleveland Indians (40): He's probably fast enough to lead the big leagues in steals, but it's tough to tell whether he wants to. Speed doesn't always age well, and he's 30. Last season he stole only 42 bags. I see the slight downward trend continuing.
6. Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (36): A bit like Marte in that he won't help himself by drawing walks, but he clearly wants to run. Just beware of the other offensive categories falling back some.
10. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians (33): And you thought last year was a fluke! Kipnis had a miserable April, but May has been kind for power and speed purposes.
Best of the rest: There won't be another 30-homer/30-steal season for Brewers stud Ryan Braun. He's trying to steal bases, but it's just not working. I say he ends up with 15. … Miami Marlins leadoff hitter Juan Pierre probably could steal 40 bases if he were to get 500 at-bats, but I don't see that happening anymore with prospects Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick knocking on the promotion door. Pierre might end up as an AL contender's fourth outfielder soon. … He won't end up in Toronto, though. The Jays already have Rajai Davis and Emilio Bonifacio. Davis will flirt with 30 steals once he's healthy. Bonifacio has been healthy and a major disappointment after swiping 30 bases in a mere 64 games in 2012. Move on. … Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth has resurrected his career, but I think he falls a bit short of 30 steals. … What happens to Cincinnati Reds running machine Billy Hamilton? Well, it'd be easier to recommend him if he was thriving at Triple-A Louisville, but he's not. See you in September, and enjoy the nine steals.
Coming up Thursday, we look at the starting pitchers!
Nobody should be terribly surprised that San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera is running wild, because this is what he did last season. Cabrera led the National League -- and all middle infielders -- in stolen bases last season, and all of baseball in the category after the All-Star break, with an impressive 29.