Stolen bases are always a huge part of fantasy baseball and can be one of the tougher stats to find in your fantasy baseball draft. However, we do have a few rule changes coming this season, which should give us a slight increase in steals. I will give you a brief rundown on those rule changes and give you a breakdown of some possible targets in your fantasy baseball drafts, but first, let’s take a look at last year’s steals leaders and the projected steals leaders for this upcoming season. 


2022 Steals Leaders

2023 Projected Steals Leaders (Using ATC projections)


Rule Changes

There have been three rules changed: A pitch timer, defensive shift limits, and bigger bases are all coming to Major League Baseball in 2023, which means they will all be factors for Fantasy Baseball in 2023 as well. 

The MLB has tirelessly looked for ways to improve the pace of play and make the game more exciting and they think these rule changes will help with that. There will be a 30-second timer between batters. Between pitches, there will be a 15-second timer with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base. The pitch timer has reduced the average time of the game in the minor leagues by about 26 minutes. This rule, which includes limits on throws to first base, has also increased stolen-base attempts. With this rule in place in the Minors this past season; steal attempts per game increased from 2.23 in 2019, at a 68% success rate, to 2.83 in 2022, at a 77% success rate. A 9% increase in success rate cannot be ignored and will really help players who were caught too often (more on that in a bit). 

The bases, which have been 15 inches square, will instead be 18 inches square. Though this will only have a very slight impact on the stolen-base success rate, it will play a factor nonetheless. This could lead to slightly bigger leads being taken and will create a 4 1/2-inch reduction in the distance between first and second base (as well as between second base and third), which encourages the players to attempt more steals. The bigger bases could also have the effect of reducing the number of times a player slides past the base in which a player loses contact with the bag while sliding through it. We have seen on numerous occasions where this happens and turns a successful steal into a caught stealing. 

All of this is especially worth noting for players who were caught stealing at a high rate because it should help them reduce that rate and turn those failed attempts into successful ones. Randy Arozarena, Ronald Acuna, Cedric Mullins, Starling Marte, Jorge Mateo, Shohei Ohtani, Bo Bichette, and Marcus Semien were all caught at least 8 times last season. This makes them some predictable players to see a slight increase in their steals totals. 

Stolen Base Targets Based on ADP

Tier 1 (ADP 1-20)

Trea Turner, José Ramírez, Ronald Acuña Jr. , Julio Rodríguez, Kyle Tucker, Bobby Witt Jr., and Fernando Tatis Jr.

All of these guys are obvious targets and there’s a reason they will all cost you a first-round pick. They fill up the stat sheet in every possible way, including stealing plenty of bags. They all stole at least 20 bases last season (except for Tatis, who barely played) and they are pretty safe bets to do it again this season (or at least get close for guys like Tucker and Ramirez). Tatis is very intriguing to me as he is a first pick OVERALL talent, but being drafted in the second round due to the fact that he will miss the first 20 games because of suspension. Despite that, he could still finish as a top-5 player with relative ease if he produces at the level we have seen in the past. 

Tier 2 (ADP 21-40)

Michael Harris II, Francisco Lindor, Marcus Semien, Daulton Varsho, and Randy Arozarena.

This group is very interesting. Harris was an electric rookie, but the cost is high for someone with a limited history. He has a higher range of outcomes than the others. Lindor, Semien, Varsho, and Arozarena are all players who were caught stealing a good bit last season and could really benefit from the rule changes. 

Tier 3 (ADP 41-100)

Jazz Chisholm Jr., Cedric Mullins, Starling Marte, Andrés Giménez, and Wander Franco

Chisholm is probably the most interesting player from this group as he can be electric and missed a good bit of time last season. Mullins and Marte were caught stealing a bit too much and could benefit from the rule changes. Gimenez is someone that I would like to see be more aggressive on the base paths as he was strong last season, stealing 20 times on just 23 attempts. He finished 6th in the AL MVP voting and is someone that I think is a fantastic target at his current price. Lastly, we have Franco, who had all the hype in the world before last year. He was a perfect 8-8 on steals in 83 games and is someone that could help you across the board of categories. 

Tier 4 (ADP 101-150)

Tyler O’Neill, Steven Kwan, and Jake McCarthy

O’Neill had 14 steals in 96 games last season while supplying some pop. Over the last two years, he has had 48 home runs and 29 steals. Kwan had 19 steals while hitting .298 as a rookie last year. He doesn’t supply a lot of power or RBI-wise, so build accordingly if wanting Kwan. McCarthy was very impressive last year with 8 home runs, 23 steals, and a .283 average across just 99 games. Playing time is the only reason he is this cheap, but if he continues to play this well, it won’t be a factor. 

Tier 5 (ASP 151-200)

Harrison Bader, Javier Báez, Jonathan India, and Whit Merrifield

This group mostly consists of players who were hurt or had down years and I think there is a ton of value here. Bader had 17 steals with five home runs in just 86 games. Baez was awful in his first year under the new contract, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t bounce back to at least being a 15-15 guy. India dealt with injuries and struggled last season, but he did have 12 swipes as a rookie in 2021. Lastly, we have Merrifield, who was very consistent before falling off a cliff last season production-wise, but he could easily give us 25+ steals once again (easy to forget he led the AL in steals with 40 in 2021 and has already led the AL three times in his career). 

Tier 6 (201-300)

Adalberto Mondesi, Christopher Morel, Kolten Wong, and Esteury Ruiz

Mondesi’s talent is intriguing but his health is always an issue, not a bad shot at this price though. Morel was 10/17 on steal attempts and the aggression is good with the rule changes. Wong had 17 swipes last year and joins a Seattle team that loves to run. Ruiz is expected to be a starter for the A’s and he had 85 steals in the minors last year. 

Dart Throws (300+)

Garrett Mitchell, Jarred Kelenic, Bubba Thompson

Mitchell is expected to start for the Brewers and he was very impressive last year, going a perfect 8-8 on steals while hitting .312 across 28 games. Kelenic is someone I just can’t fully quit and he has 11 steals in 147 career games despite hitting .168 in that span. If he could finally get on base at any kind of rate, he could be big for steals. Thompson is no lock for playing time, but he should get enough. He had a ridiculous amount of steals (18) at the MLB for the number of games he played (55) last season while hitting a decent .255. On top of that, he stole 49 bags in the minors last year too. 

Good luck this fantasy baseball season and let’s take home some championship trophies! 


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