Zoilo Almonte: The Dominican native is not particularly fast and yet he has stolen at least 15 bases in each of the past four seasons. More of a slugging type, he catches teams off-guard by getting aggressive in the running game and gunning for second base in more obvious offspeed counts. He should remain a double-digit stolen base threat for the foreseeable future.
Austin Aune: Last year's second round pick has some great overall athleticism but he's hardly a burner. Grading out more as average speed-wise, he could have an Almonte-like impact in the running game in due time after he learns the nuances of picking his spots better and reaching pitchers' moves. He should be a solid double-digit stolen base threat in the coming years.
Abiatal Avelino: The Dominican native is more of an above average runner speed-wise but is one whose impact in the running game could play a notch higher into the plus range because of his tremendous makeup and high baseball acumen. He stole 20 of 22 bases in the Dominican Summer League last season and he just oozes confidence on the base paths.
Jake Cave: Often compared to Slade Heathcott because of his great in-game intensity and hustle, the fact of the matter is Cave is not nearly as fast. His aggressive nature should allow him to be an impact runner but after missing the first two years of his career with a knee injury and subsequent surgery, it remains to be seen if his speed will still grade out as above average.
Ramon Flores: The Venezuelan native is very much like Zoilo Almonte when it comes to most tools, including natural speed which is more average than anything. Like Almonte he's a heady base runner who knows how to pick his spots in certain counts and he has a sizeable impact in the running game over the course of a full season just because he's on base so much. He should be a 15-20 stolen base guy each year.
Daniel Lopez: When it comes to pure speed this Dominican native is easily one of the fastest players in the entire farm system. Able to run the 60-yard dash in 6.3 seconds, he has elite speed. However, his lack of consistency getting on base and inability to read pitchers' moves better has limited what really should be a great impact in the run game. Should he ever develop those latter skills, watch out!
Jorge Mateo: His modest four stolen bases in the Dominican Summer League might make his inclusion here questionable to some but the fact is the 17-year old Dominican native can flat-out fly. He's a plus runner with a great eye at the plate. If he can get on base as much as the Yankees believe he can, he could have some special stolen base seasons once he comes States-side.
Rob Refsnyder: Last year's College World Series MVP is a lot of fun to watch on the base paths. A true throwback player, one who uses guile, hustle, and intelligence in the running game more than his slightly above average speed, he can really create trouble for opposing teams running-wise. He won't have huge stolen base totals but he could wind up swiping 20 or so of the most important bags over the course of a season.
Top Ten Speed Prospects
10) Tyler Austin: Even the fastest of runners have a hard time getting their stolen base success rate over 90 percent and here's Austin, a true slugger, boasting a 95 percent success ratio in his career thus far. There are better pure runners but few can match his wits and aggressiveness. He's starting to have the look of a Kevin McReynolds type impact in the running game.
9) Cito Culver: Like Austin, the 2010 first round pick is more of an average runner overall but has shown he can still have an impact in the running game. He really picked up his aggressiveness on the base paths last year and that helped him swipe 22 bags with the Charleston RiverDogs. He got caught a bit too much last year, a season after not getting caught at all. He is still a heady base stealer whose stolen base totals could begin to rise a bit more should he bump up the batting average in the coming years.
8) Ben Gamel: Gamel is not a plus runner but he sure can look like one at times because of the combination of above average speed, incredible intensity and hustle, and innate baseball smarts. He stole 19 bases with the Charleston RiverDogs last year [in 29 attempts] and he really should be stealing even more given his propensity to get on base consistently. He just needs a little more confidence going forward and the running totals [and success rate] should increase.
|A LITTLE MORE TIME: Santana needs a little more time to fully heal from the ankle injury. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
6) Melky Mesa: Another 70-runner, the ultra-toolsy outfielder can run with the best of them. He had another 20-plus stolen base season last year and the only reason why he doesn't rank higher on the list is his limited running opportunities; his bat is too inconsistent and because of his great power, when he does connect it is usually for extra bases and thus limits his stolen base opportunities. Still, he's a great base runner.
5) Anderson Feliz: The Dominican native has been and continues to be one of the more frustrating runners in the entire farm system. He gets a pass last year because he dealt with some hamstring issues among other injuries, but even when he's healthy he has been a plus runner who just doesn't do enough in the running game. His career-high in stolen bases is 16 [two years ago] and with his speed he should be in the 30-plus range. Naturally shy, he really needs to pick up his aggressiveness and make better use of his great speed.
|ULTRA-AGGRESSIVE Gumbs is the poster child for taking it to the other team. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
3) Slade Heathcott: When it comes to pure speed, the former 2009 first round pick really should fit atop the rankings here. However, a little Feliz-like, he can get gun shy in the running game and it's because he still has learn to read pitchers' moves better. Just like Brett Gardner, when he gets gunned down a couple of times he'll almost take himself out of the running game rather than keep up the aggressiveness. He has gotten better lately and that's good news because he really should be a 40-plus stolen base guy each year.
2) Claudio Custodio: Here's a plus runner with an advanced ability to read pitchers' moves and it shows in his 90 percent career stolen base success rate. He has 53 stolen bases in his first 162 professional games [the exact length of a big league season] and the scary part is he can do so much better. Like Feliz, Custodio is naturally shy and he has not yet unleashed his aggressiveness on the base paths. He could be a huge factor in the running game once the confidence begins to blossom.
1) Mason Williams: Williams has it all; plus speed, high baseball intellect, natural aggressiveness, and supreme confidence in his abilities. Just like most minor leaguers, however, he is still learning. His confidence can work against him at times and cause him to choose unwisely picking his spots to run, and that led to getting caught stealing 13 times a year ago. However, that should not be a long-term issue in his game. He still has true impact potential in the running game.