- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Fantasy owners love the hitters that not only hit for power but also steal bases, because it essentially takes care of multiple needs in one shot. Of course, we still must own the likes of Adam Dunn and Dee Gordon, even if they do not contribute across those multiple counting categories, but isn't it just simpler to have one player doing the statistical job of two or three? Alas, it's not easy to acquire these fellows or to be sure their prowess will continue, but oh are they valuable, and this season more than normal.
Last season at the All-Star break there were 19 players who had already reached double digits in home runs and stolen bases, led on the Player Rater by statistical monsters Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson, and certainly some of the others were not at all expected (Ryan Roberts, Jeff Francoeur, Danny Espinosa).
Entering Thursday's action, and with roughly 10 games to go for most teams before this year's All-Star break, a mere eight players have achieved this noteworthy designation (well, noteworthy to me). I can't call any of them as surprising as what we saw in 2011 -- let's just say a few of those surprises are barely worth owning at this point -- but this brings more proof that not only power is down this year, but steals are as well, and there are fewer top options doing both.
Here are the eight players who have hit 10 or more home runs so far while also accruing 10 or more stolen bases. We applaud this smaller crew -- six of them are outfielders, incidentally, and all are among the top 50 hitters on our Player Rater -- and hope they keep on carrying fantasy rosters! Will they?
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies (2nd among hitters to Josh Hamilton on the Player Rater, and just barely): The first thing that jumps to mind with this talent is the home/road splits and to that I say, so what? It's not going to change! Plus, CarGo isn't unplayable on the road (.806 OPS, five home runs), compared to Dexter Fowler. Spend what it takes for a top-10 fantasy option and, as with Hamilton (6 steals), pray for health.
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (3rd): Funny but we don't see his detractors saying a whole lot these days. Good for Braun and watch him reach 30/30 again. He was my No. 1 player in the mid-May rankings and should be there again in mid-July.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (4th): Man, he is fun to watch. There's nobody on base for him and nobody after him in the order is doing a thing, but McCutchen is breaking out with his best season. This is a top-10 guy in 2013 drafts.
Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles (7th): He still isn't walking, so it's not surprising his batting average has declined each month. Certainly he's more of a sell-high choice than the first three fellows mentioned, as his career batting average of .278 seems far more likely than a .330 mark, and he's never stolen more than 13 bases before in a season, including the minor leagues. He shouldn't completely fall apart, but if he finishes at .275 with 30 homers and 16 steals, you shouldn't be trading the farm to acquire him this week.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians (14th): The top fantasy second baseman will soon be caught by Robinson Cano and probably Ian Kinsler, but the 20-home run power is real, and so is the potential for, at this point, 30 steals. Even while struggling in June (.701 OPS), Kipnis has three home runs and seven steals. You shouldn't trade someone like McCutchen for Kipnis, as the latter is trending the other way, but he is an elite middle infielder.
Alex Rios, OF, Chicago White Sox (21st): Surprise! Rios has homered the past two days to join this exclusive club and now is on pace for 22 home runs and 24 stolen bases. His current OPS hasn't finished this strong since 2007. Is this legit? Absolutely it is. We're just pleased Rios decided to play well this season and we caution anyone thinking of making him a keeper that his terrible 2011 campaign could easily occur again.
Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves (28th): An interesting case study, Heyward has an 1.183 OPS in June with a .395 batting average (.407 BABIP) and six home runs. However, it's worth noting that after swiping eight bases in April, Heyward has two steals in 49 games since. In other words, don't deal for him assuming he'll steal 25 bases. He might not steal 15, and he's already at 10. The power is legit, but I wouldn't call him safe in batting average at all. He slumped mightily in May, going days at a time from what I saw with terrible at-bats, and he hit .200 for the month with 30 strikeouts. This month his K rate has been cut in half. What happens in July? He'll be in between, but I think he finishes at .270 (at best) with 25 home runs and 14 steals. Still a nice season, and it should get better in future years, but beware. This month is not really his breakout to stardom.
Hanley Ramirez, SS/3B, Miami Marlins (43rd): The No. 4 shortstop and No. 8 third baseman on the Player Rater so far, Ramirez has nice counting numbers, but he's not playing like the top-three fantasy pick that used to post an OPS well over .900. He's hitting for power and running due to sheer talent, basically, but like many of his underachieving teammates, showing no level of consistency. Ramirez hit .207 in April, .322 in May and .225 so far in June. This doesn't necessarily imply July will be awesome. Doesn't work that way. Ramirez can go 20/20 if he wants to, but I'm actually a bit disappointed in his season so far and would be wary of gauging him as a top-20 player. Deal for him hoping he returns to be a top-50 player. He's currently 66th on the Player Rater, including pitchers.
Eric Karabell looks at the players currently in double digits in homers and steals, and what their fantasy values are the rest of the season.