# Collette Calls: One Last Look at Spring

It must finally be spring given that I had to turn on my air conditioning at my house in the Charlotte area for the first time in five or six months. I hear the birds chirping, the trees blooming, and the spring rain storms have been aplenty here in the Central Piedmont area these past few days. Teams have already left their camps on their way to their regular-season homes, but I wanted to take one final look at steals as well as throw out a few one-liner predictions for this season.

## The Steals

Play began on Sunday with the league having attempted 950 steals this spring (2.3 attempts per game) at a 79 percent success rate. If you were still on the fence about how much the league will run this season, it is time to get off the fence. We will see more than 4,000 stolen bases attempted and we will see the league successfully convert those attempts at least 75 percent of the time. That math brings us to at least 3,000 stolen bases for the season, and that's a conservative estimate. I've run the numbers and believe we'll see anywhere from 3,073 to 3,367 stolen bases this season, which is anywhere from 24 percent to 35 percent more than we saw last season:

It must finally be spring given that I had to turn on my air conditioning at my house in the Charlotte area for the first time in five or six months. I hear the birds chirping, the trees blooming, and the spring rain storms have been aplenty here in the Central Piedmont area these past few days. Teams have already left their camps on their way to their regular-season homes, but I wanted to take one final look at steals as well as throw out a few one-liner predictions for this season.

## The Steals

Play began on Sunday with the league having attempted 950 steals this spring (2.3 attempts per game) at a 79 percent success rate. If you were still on the fence about how much the league will run this season, it is time to get off the fence. We will see more than 4,000 stolen bases attempted and we will see the league successfully convert those attempts at least 75 percent of the time. That math brings us to at least 3,000 stolen bases for the season, and that's a conservative estimate. I've run the numbers and believe we'll see anywhere from 3,073 to 3,367 stolen bases this season, which is anywhere from 24 percent to 35 percent more than we saw last season:

Now, the burning question is where those steals will come from. I don't believe the changes will impact the top end stars such as Trea Turner as much as they'll impact that next tier of players, who have had neither the opportunity nor success rate to run at volume in the past but now that teams see a potential edge, we are already seeing some surprising roster decisions as final cuts come in. Let's start by looking at some names at the top of the stolen base leaderboard this spring and what their future could look like.

Well, hello there! Johnson came to camp as a non-roster invitee but hit .310/.423/.405 with great defense in center, which the club sorely needs. Johnson's play drew this praise from GM Farhad Zaidi as well as manager Gabe Kapler:

Johnson isn't merely on the roster as an extreme role player. He's "making a push to be a significant part of the roster," Zaidi said.

"Talent … doesn't predict performance, necessarily," Kapler said. "But the talent is undeniable."

I do not believe Johnson is mixed-league viable just yet, but he should be on the radar for those with NL-Only drafts in the coming days, as Johnson is just one Mike Yastrzemski slump from cracking the lineup and getting the chance to show off his speed.

Siri stole 14 bases in 301 at bats in the 2022 regular season and swiped 10 this spring in 37 at-bats, including a straight steal of home earlier this week:

Siri reached first base eight times this spring when second base was unoccupied, only to quickly fill that void on the bases each time by swiping second successfully. Siri has his flaws at the plate, but much like how the club used Kevin Kiermaier, they will deal with Siri's flaws and hit him ninth in the lineup because they value his defense in center field that much. Siri has a license to run this season at the bottom of a lineup that often struggles to produce runs. I'll have a follow-up note on him later in this article.

Veen is young and has upside, so of course he didn't make the Opening Day roster for the Rockies. In all seriousness, Veen has a future in Colorado, but we know how they handle young players with upside and defer to aging and/or overpaid vets to tread water below mediocrity in Denver. Veen was 50 of 54 on the bases last season in High-A and 5-for-5 in Double-A despite some hitting issues there. Scouts talk about how his swing leaves him susceptible to velocity, so there is a legitimate reason for not rushing him to the majors just yet, but keep Veen on your watch list because his speed is disruptive.

Benson has made the roster with Nick Senzel (toe) beginning the season on the IL. Benson was 16-for-20 on the basepaths in Triple-A for Cleveland last season with a .426 OBP in 401 plate appearances. He has athleticism to spare and could earn a regular spot in the lineup if he performs well while Senzel is out. His versatility helps make him valuable given that the Cincy bench is all right-handed and lacks a true reserve outfielder.

Davis was a non-roster invitee to camp and wasn't able to make the club, as he struck out in 15 of his 50 plate appearances with one extra-base hit. Davis has never hit enough to be a regular player and hasn't seen a full season of play at any level since 2019. Don't get sucked in here, even with the questionable outfield depth chart in Detroit.

Dean had an excellent camp at the plate hitting .375/.524/438 while walking more than he struck out. Dean is 116 for 147 (79 percent) in his stolen base attempts over four seasons in the minor leagues and was 34-for-40 as a collegian at Lenoir-Rhyne University. A lot would have to go wrong in Atlanta for Dean to crack the depth chart, but keep an eye on him should he be dealt during the season in a package deal. Dean could turn out to be another Cristian Pache as he has shown little ability to hit with power, but the speed could get him a chance with a second-division club.

Locastro made the Mets' roster when the club designated Darin Ruf for assignment. Locastro has long been one of the fastest players in baseball, but has only once seen 250 plate appearances in a season. That is not likely to chance in 2023, but Buck Showalter could easily get back at Daniel Vogelbach for that ridiculous commercial by pinch running for him with Locastro any time the big guy reaches base in the late innings. Locastro is a modern-day Herb Washington; it's just too bad that Showalter is no Billy Martin with the running game.

This should be the odds-on favorite to win the AL steals crown because Oakland should give Ruiz every chance to fail and then some. Ruiz raked in the Cactus League to a .326/.411/.522 line and hit .332/.447/.526 over two levels last year for San Diego and Milwaukee. Ruiz could be a modern day Alex Cole, and that 1990 season was fun even if Cole only played in half of it as he stole 40 bases. I've already seen some speculate Ruiz could steal 60 at the big-league level this year, and while I'm all for that, it does feel a bit greedy for someone who has but 36 plate appearances in the majors. Then again, I don't believe anyone steals over 50 bases this season. If someone does, Ruiz has the tools and opportunity to pull it off.

Capel made the roster once the club cut ties with Cristian Pache. Capel was 21-of-30 last season in Triple-A — the highest total of his career — with a .364 OBP. We're all on Ramon Laureano watch as he is likely determined to bust his rear to play his way onto a contender and get out of purgatory, so something could open up for Capel later on in the season. For now, he's simply a watch list guy in deep mono leagues.

## The Predictions

Here are my predictions for the season. I went with players not projected in the top ten of their position or category because I find going chalk boring. There are no explainers with any of these picks, just one name reactions to each award.

## A Final Word

Ladies and Gentlemen, we've made it. Opening Day is here tomorrow and our long winter of discontent is behind us. Hope springs eternal, and we're all excited about our real teams and/or our fantasy teams until that first head-to-head loss or that first blown save changes our outlook. I've long opined that Opening Day should be a national holiday, and since Congress hasn't listened to me, I have taken matters into my own hands. I've taken Thursday and Friday off and will be attending Opening Day at Yankee Stadium and then auctioneering the Moneyball League for an eighth time with 13 great teams and people in midtown on Friday, only to fly home first thing Saturday morning for my final draft of the season in my home AL-Only league.

If you cannot take the day off or get to a game, find a way to enjoy Opening Day and reward yourself for an offseason of work and research. Don't rest too long as the first FAAB in many leagues rolls this weekend. You have a 24-48 hour leave pass from the grind of fantasy research — go enjoy it!

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