Top steals prospects for fantasy

Johnson, Polanco could contribute now; Buxton among top future speedsters

Updated: May 8, 2014, 2:04 PM ET
By Christopher Crawford | ESPN Insider

Micah JohnsonRon Vesely/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesMicah Johnson's speed would be welcome in Chicago sooner than later.

The stolen base has seen somewhat of a revival over the first part of this decade, and, while the overall numbers have dropped each season since 2010, they are still well above what they were when they reached a low point in 2003-2005. Young stars such as Mike Trout, Jean Segura and Starling Marte all put up big stolen base totals over the past few seasons, and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton represents baseball's best chance to have a 100-stolen base season since Vince Coleman did it in 1987.

"The stolen base can be a very valuable tool," an AL East executive said. "Anytime you can have a guy who can steal bases at the top of the lineup and put themselves into scoring position without having to give up an out, it's obviously a positive thing. You don't want to have guys running yourself out of innings, but, depending on the situation, I think the risk outweighs the reward most of the time.

"The fact that so many of these kids also get that their speed doesn't mean a thing unless they're able to get on base is also a positive development. There's no Rickey Hendersons, but I can't remember a time where there were this many good hitters who were capable of stealing 30-40 bases."

On top of the young, quality base stealers in the majors now, there's a plethora of prospects who will have a chance to be among the league leaders in the category when they make their respective debuts. Keeping in mind that you can't steal first -- so this is just as much based on the opportunity to steal bases as it is on their speed -- here's a look at five players who have a chance to help your fantasy team in 2014 and five more to keep an eye on for 2015 and beyond.

For those unfamiliar with the 20-80 scouting grade system, here's a primer.


1. Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox
Current level: Double-A Birmingham
Speed grade: 75
Analysis: Johnson is a prototypical leadoff hitter: a guy who works counts into his favor, gets on base and is a threat to steal a base (or two) every single time he gets on. With the White Sox getting no offense out of their current second basemen and Johnson putting up gaudy numbers at Birmingham, it wouldn't be a surprise if we saw Johnson in Chicago around the All-Star break, and he can be a difference-maker in the stolen base category.