Organizational Top Baserunners Analysis

If there was one thing Randy Smith valued in a prospect – it was speed. That's why over the past few seasons the Tigers have had a number of speedsters in their system, a few of which have gotten a shot for the big league club. Inside, we take a look at some of the top speedsters on the basepaths in the organization.

Any list dealing with basestealing has to start with OF Nook Logan. Logan, the last of the speedsters from the Randy Smith era, is arguably the best basestealer of any member of the entire organization, as he has maintained his success rate in steals throughout every step of the organization. Logan has swiped over 200 bases in his minor league career, and sports a success rate of nearly 80%. Logan continued his success on the basepaths in his Detroit call-up, swiping 8 bases in 10 attempts. A number of his other skills may be questioned, but what can certainly not be questioned is Logan's ability to get around the bases.

There weren't any pure basestealers on the Erie squad in 2004 – however both David Espinosa and Curtis Granderson were able to reach double digit steals. Neither are exceptionally fast (especially Espinosa), but both are smart on the basepaths, and can take advantage of a pitcher not paying them the proper respect, much like current Tiger Outfielder Bobby Higginson.

Shortstop Anderson Hernandez is another one to watch on the basepaths. He's reduced since he swiped 34 in just 216 at bats for the GCL Tigers back in 2000, but Hernandez will still run, and was successful again in 2004, at a better than 80% rate of success. Hernandez isn't as naturally fast as Logan, but his natural athletic ability allows him to be a threat.

The only significant base-swipers at high-A Lakeland were a pair of middle infielders; Tony Giarratano and Gilberto Meija. However, neither did so all that often, and both had limited success (both being under 70% for the year). Giarratano, between 2 levels, did steal 25 bases, however, he's never been considered a huge base stealing threat, and those numbers will probably decrease as he moves up in competition. Meija was excellent for the GCL in '03, but struggled largely due to stiffer competition. His prospect level isn't that high, and his speed certainly won't be something that can carry him (speed like which Nook Logan has).

The best basestealer at West Michigan didn't even emerge as such until Giarratano was elevated to high-A Lakeland, and in turn Juan Francia took over as the everyday starting Shortstop. Francia started running every chance he got, stealing 37 bases for the Whitecaps. Unfortunately, he was also caught 19 times, limiting his success rate to just over 66% (better than Alex Sanchez, still not great). Francia, much like Hernandez, is quick and can make things happen, he just needs to work on being more selective on when to steal.

CF Vincent Blue was another that liked to run; unfortunately he too struggled with his success rate, stealing at just a 63% clip. Blue is an excellent natural athlete, but, much like Francia, needs to become more skilled in the actual art of stealing bases as opposed to just relying on his speed to make things happen.

Oneonta also wasn't loaded with basestealers, although the team did have 5 players to reach double digits in steals. The best of the group were Francisco Castro and Bo Flowers, but like many others, still need to learn how to steal as opposed to just using their god given talent to steal. This is especially true for Flowers, who is arguably one of the best athletes in the entire organization. In 2004, Flowers finally saw some of his power develop; now he'll have to work on the mental aspects of the game – including being more disciplined at the plate. If he can learn to pick his spots and run smart, he could become one of the rare breeds that can hit for power and be a threat on the basepaths.

It's relatively easy to steal bases at the GCL level, largely due to the inexperience behind the plate, as team's sport 18 and 19 year old backstops, most of who were throwing out high school runners just months earlier. Jeramy Laster still struggled with his bat, improving his batting average by just 2 points from 2003, but he continued his success on the basepaths, swiping 10 bases in 11 tries.

Recent draftee 2B Stephen Young also had some success, stealing 9 bases in 12 attempts. Young doesn't have the natural ability of some others, but catches some by surprise to get his steals – unfortunately, that advantage will probably be limited as he moves up in competition, and teams become more aware of what their opponents can do.

One final notable from the GCL is Leonardo Grullon. Grullon was another 2004 draftee – selected largely due to his incredible speed and raw tools, despite the fact he never actually played college baseball (played Fall Ball at the University of South Florida, but never made the roster in the spring). He has a long ways to go as far as his prospect status is concerned, but his speed cannot be questioned.

All in all, this isn't Randy Smith's farm system anymore. Nook Logan is a great basestealer, and Juan Francia has plenty of speed who just needs to learn the finer aspects of the trade (much like Alex Sanchez), but beyond them, there isn't much (with the exception of Grullon, only he has a LONG ways to go in terms of every other aspect of the game).

So enjoy Nook Logan, because the organization won't be producing many more like him anytime soon.


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