Zoilo Almonte: This Almonte has picked up his running game over the past two seasons, averaging 15 stolen bases per year after stealing just ten combined bases in his previous three seasons. He still has to pick his spots better and become more aggressive overall, however. Should he do that and keep getting on base at a nice clip, he should eclipse the 20 stolen base plateau annually.
Daniel Brewer: Brewer finished in the top five in the farm system in stolen bases for the second straight year last season, tallying 29 thefts for the Trenton Thunder in 2010. He isn't exactly a natural burner though, getting by more on his aggressive style of play than his solid speed. His cloudy big league projection with the Yankees, however, keeps him out of the top ten.
Cito Culver: Last year's first round pick swiped seven stolen bases in his debut season and has better overall speed than his stolen base numbers suggest. He has solid middle infield speed and enough wheels to be a perennial 20-30 stolen base threat once he gets comfortable offensively, but he is a little buried by the depth of quality speedsters in the organization right now. He should eventually crack the top ten as he matures.
Ramon Flores: His aggressive approach at the plate hasn't translated in the same fashion on the base paths despite having above average speed overall. Like Zoilo Almonte, Flores could become a solid base stealer in due time once he finds his true comfort zone offensively and matures as a player. That could start happening real soon.
Ben Gamel: Last year's tenth round pick out of high school is extremely athletic and has plus speed overall, so much so that it seems like a given that he will eventually land in the top ten in the speed department someday. However, it's not a given that he will get reps at centerfield and that does cloud his big league potential somewhat until he can prove he has the power to stick in the corners. He's a sleeper though in this group.
Austin Krum: Krum has averaged 17 stolen bases the last two years despite batting barely over .230 during that time. He is a walk machine, however, and knows how to get on base. Should his bat develop a little further, with his great intensity and aggressive approach, swiping twenty bags shouldn't be a problem at all.
Ray Kruml: Based on pure speed alone, Kruml is clearly a top ten guy right now. He stole a farm system-leading 42 bases a year ago and he can flat-out fly. Like Brewer, however, his overall limited ceiling in a system now boasting some high-potential players who can run clouds his eventual future in Pinstripes. Just know that if he could ever grab a starting outfield job or even a fourth outfielder spot, he instantly heads towards the top of these rankings.
Erickson Leonora: Like some of the other names in the Honorable Mention category, Leonora has the natural speed to be a top ten guy right now but the other aspects of his game are a little too raw at the current time in comparison to the projections of others. He has 29 stolen bases in his first 129 professional games and he will crack the top ten again once his entire game rounds into form more.
Daniel Lopez: With 19 stolen bases in his first 88 professional games and able to run the 60-yard dash in 6.3 seconds, he is an elite natural runner which should put him into the top ten category. Like Kruml, however, the rest of his game lags behind. He is still just 19 years old though and has some room to grow. For now he is on the outside looking in until his power and/or on-base abilities catches up to his speed game and gives him more big league potential.
Eladio Moronta: Like Lopez, Moronta is a world-class speedster who can reportedly run the 60-yard dash in 6.3 seconds. And like Lopez, the other parts of his game aren't exactly givens at this point. The 22-year old stole 14 bases in just 54 games last year, showcasing that incredible speed, but he's going to have to break out somewhat to overtake the projections of his competition to grab a top ten spot.
Wilmer Romero: Signed in November for his reportedly great set of tools, including plus speed, the word is Romero enters the professional ranks as a Mesa clone when it comes to speed. That kind of reputation makes him an eventual top ten selection in his category in due time, but he'll need to prove it on the base paths first.
Top Ten Speed Prospects
10) Jose Pirela: He's not nearly as toolsy as some and not as speedy as others in this ranking, and his standing in the top ten is tenuous given the depth of quality speed in the organization, but Pirela gets the job done and his projection, while not nearly as high, is also one of the safer ones. He's more solid than speedy in the running game, but his ultra-aggressive style of play and ability to remain a middle infielder gives him a very good combination.
9) Melky Mesa: We said a year ago that "if he could ever figure out how to get his on-base percentage to the .350 range and crank up the aggressiveness, he could really put up some special stolen base numbers." Well, his on-base percentage spiked up to a career-high .338 last year and he responded with a career-high 31 stolen bases. A little more maturation offensively and he'll get in the 40-50 stolen base range. He's electric on the bases and he continues to get better.
8) Claudio Custodio: Imagine a toolsier version of Jose Pirela and that's what you have in Custodio. The more powerful and speedier version not only has a higher ceiling, he employs the same aggressive style of play. He stole 14 bases [caught just three times] in the Dominican Summer League last year in his debut season and he hasn't come lose to finding his comfort zone yet. He's a big-time sleeper in this category.
|THE NUMBERS LIE: Feliz is a better runner than his totals suggest. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
6) Anderson Feliz: For years we warned folks to not overlook Melky Mesa's speed based on his rather pedestrian stolen base numbers at the lower minor league levels and we're issuing the same caveat with Feliz. Sure he has 20 stolen bases in his first 97 professional games, but that hasn't come close to a representative showing of his plus speed. He's starting to get more comfortable offensively and his stolen base totals should sky-rocket once he gets a lot more aggressive in the running game.
5) Eduardo Sosa: Perhaps it's because he was signed at such a young age or maybe it was because he drew the serious attention of scouts in his debut season two years ago, but for whatever reason Sosa has gone from possibly overrated at one point to seriously underrated now. Keep in mind the soon-to-be 20-year old has already swiped 56 bases in his first 156 professional games [a little more than a full minor league season] and, naturally shy and a bit timid, he hasn't really even started coming out of his shell. Should that happen we could start seeing Brett Gardner-like stolen base totals.
|IT'S COMING: Williams is already an electrifying base runner. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
3) Mason Williams: He has just one stolen base to his credit thus far in limited action but already he has the exceptional speed and athleticism to rank right up there with the organization's elite base stealers. Not only is he a plus runner with an aggressive approach running the bases, but he has innate baseball intelligence and a refined running game for a player his age. Should he learn to get on base via the walk as he matures, watch out! He could have some special stolen base totals on his way to the big leagues.
2) Abraham Almonte: Almonte is the poster child for those who try to mistakenly judge a prospect's running ability based on short-season league stats alone. Actually getting caught more  than successful  in his Gulf Coast League days, Almonte stole 36 bases at an 88 percent success rate in his last full season and did so while still a bit raw offensively. With his confidence sky-high and his game rounding into shape, he should be among the better base stealers at the minor league level for the next year or two.
1) Slade Heathcott: Nobody is more erratic than Heathcott in the running game right now, especially when considering he was caught stealing ten times in his twenty-five attempts in his debut season last year. And quite frankly, he might have been more erratic than the numbers even show. However, he is a plus-plus runner all the way and he hasn't come close to tapping a fraction of his stolen base capabilities. With his speed and aggressiveness, if/when he learns the nuances of the running game, his stolen base totals could make Brett Gardner's numbers look quite bleak. He has that kind of special upside running the bases.