Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Speed isn't necessarily hard to come by these days, even if there aren't any Ricky Hendersons or Vince Colemans walking through the door.
However, many fantasy owners are reluctant to pluck speedy players off the free agent list because they have a tendency to become black holes in other categories.
Take Maicer Izturis, for example. The Los Angeles Angel is eligible at second base, third base and shortstop, three positions that can be difficult to fill in deeper leagues, and he has 10 steals to boot. However, he virtually can't be owned due to his .219 batting average, .560 OPS and complete lack of production in other categories (0 HR, 6 RBI, 15 R).
Even Jordan Schafer, who has stolen 14 bags in 18 attempts and has two homers, 15 RBIs and 29 runs, isn't someone who you want to be trotting out there every day. The Houston Astros outfielder has just a .241 average and a .633 OPS, and that will likely decline further due to his June swoon (2-for-23 this month).
But there are some short-term alternatives while you await the return of the stolen base king, Emilio Bonifacio, who up until a few games ago still led baseball in steals despite not playing a game since May 18. Check the waiver wire for these players and cherry pick depending on specific needs by position or category (all statistics are as of Thursday):
Michael Brantley, OF, Cleveland Indians (.285, 1 HR, 29 RBI, 29 R, 9 SB) - Brantley is owned in just 33 percent of Yahoo! leagues despite his current 21- game hitting streak, longest in the majors this season. Brantley has picked up 28 hits in 82 at-bats during the streak, a .341 average. He has nine steals this season, and though he hasn't swiped a bag this month, he had six in the final nine games of May, so he's capable of picking them up in bunches.
Ben Revere, OF, Minnesota Twins (.339, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 19 R, 10 SB) - Revere hit .311 in May and has a .385 average and six steals in June, but he's still only 15 percent owned.
Tony Campana, OF, Chicago Cubs (.276, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 16 R, 21 SB) - Campana is a one-trick pony, but he performs that one trick so well that he deserves to be owned in more than 11 percent of leagues. Campana has 21 steals in 44 games this season. He stole three Tuesday against Detroit and two earlier this month in a game against San Francisco.
Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres (.264, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R, 9 SB) - When Cabrera was called up in mid-May, he looked like he would soon be getting right back on the bus, going 0-for-17 in his first five games. Since then, he's hitting .328 (23-for-70) with two homers, eight RBI and nine steals, including a .360 batting average, five RBI and five stolen bases in his last seven.
Scott Podsednik, OF, Boston Red Sox (.373, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R, 4 SB) - Podsednik seemingly has nine lives, having been a fantasy star from 2003-06, worthless in 2007-08 and useful again in 2009-10 before not playing in 2011. After he was shipped to Triple-A Lehigh by Philadelphia in spring training, Podsednik's fantasy value looked to be permanently cooked. However, Boston's outfield collectively entered the injury ward and the Red Sox came calling for Podsednik. While he won't have a starting spot much longer as players begin to return, Podsednik is worth a short-term add.
Danny Espinosa, 2B, Washington Nationals (.235, 6 HR, 18 RBI, 32 R, 9 SB) - Espinosa had 21 homers, 66 RBI and 17 steals last season, but he hit just .205 with two RBI in April, causing fantasy owners to quickly tire of him. However, he's attempting to get back in our good graces. In the past 30 days, Espinosa is hitting .271 with three homers, 11 RBI and six stolen bases. He's owned in 31 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics (.186, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 10 R, 9 SB) - True, Crisp is barely hitting his weight, but he's been showing signs of breaking out lately after an inner ear infection cost him most of May. Since June 7, Crisp is batting .308 with a double, a triple, one home run, six RBI, three walks and two stolen bases. He hasn't been caught in nine attempts this year after swiping 81 bags in 93 attempts over the last two years.
Gregor Blanco, OF, San Francisco Giants (.274, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 34 R, 8 SB) - By now, Blanco is a household name -- provided that household pays attention to baseball happenings -- due to his chase-down diving catch that saved Matt Cain's perfect game Wednesday night. But Blanco also has been providing value with his bat since May. He hit .315 with one homer and five steals in 26 May games, and this month he has three homers and two steals in 12 games. Blanco led all of baseball with 13 steals in spring training as well.
Norichika Aoki, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (.298, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 23 R, 5 SB) - The 30- year-old Japanese rookie won three Central League batting titles with the Yakult Swallows. This season, he's done a little bit of everything for Milwaukee. Aoki has been consistent, batting .304 in April, .301 in May and .289 this month. The lefty batter has a .340 average in 50 at-bats against southpaws and a .275 average in 91 at-bats against right-handers, so he's proven he's no platoon player.
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