Zoilo Almonte: He's not very fast and he can be a very inconsistent hitter for long stretches but somehow, someway, Almonte always seems to finish with better than 15 stolen bases each season. He stole a career-high 18 bags in 2011 and that's mostly because of his aggressive style. He has the chance to swipe 20 bases as a result if he could become a more consistent on-base guy over the course of a whole season.
Tyler Austin: It's impossible to be more productive on the base paths than Austin was in his debut season last year, swiping 18 bags without getting caught. As good a season as it was for him stealing bases and even though he projects to be a good runner for a corner guy, he doesn't quite compare with the outfield and middle infield prospects who are blessed with better natural speed. He's good in the running game but he will need to continue to be as productive going forward to crack the Top Ten.
Ramon Flores: The Venezuelan native isn't very fast but he can be an aggressive base runner who can have an impact in the running game because he's on base so frequently. He continues to get smarter picking his spots, stealing at an 86 percent success rate the past two seasons, so if could kick his aggressiveness up another notch he could be an annual 20 plus stolen base threat given his outstanding on-base skills.
Ben Gamel: He stole just seven bases with the Staten Island Yankees in his first season last year but he's a bit quicker than the total would suggest. Throw in his ability to get on base pretty consistently and his overall athleticism, it might not be long before he starts totaling more than 20 stolen bases per year. He's not going to be a Top Ten stolen base threat at any point, but he can have an impact in the running game.
Austin Krum: Like Kruml below, Krum, who swiped a career-high 28 bases last year, is a very good minor league base stealer who better projects long-term as a potential big league reserve outfielder because of his exceptional defense and base running skills. It's because of that limited role that his long-term base running impact won't be quite the same at the highest professional level. Still, he offers some quality base stealing when called upon.
Ray Kruml: On pure speed alone Kruml is a Top Ten guy as evidenced by averaging 41 stolen bases over the past two seasons. There's no question he can be a great minor league base stealer but the bigger question is, can he do that at the major league level? He improved his power production to a sufficient level in 2011 to become a more viable big league reserve outfielder option, but because of that non-starting role he doesn't project to have quite the same long-term base running impact.
Eladio Moronta: Like Kruml, Moronto would rank as a rock-solid Top Ten guy if this was a strict foot race because he's crazy fast. However, like Kruml, the Dominican native has a long way to go in the other areas of his game to project as anything more than a big league reserve type and unlike Kruml, Moronta's speed hasn't translated into actual stolen base production at the minor league level yet. He's fast but he doesn't know how to utilize his plus-plus speed yet.
Jose Rosario: Rosario has 19 stolen bases in his last 85 games, stealing successfully at an 83 percent rate. He isn't a plus runner but he is a slightly above average runner who runs at a higher rate because of his overall aggressive nature. He'll have an impact in the running game but for now, until how he projects role-wise long-term becomes a bit clearer, he's on the outside of the Top Ten looking in.
Eduardo Sosa: Sosa is the proof positive that baseball is more than just a physical game. As gifted a natural runner as there in the farm system, his rather shy demeanor and fear of failure have held him back from developing into the impact player he could really become, and it's no more evident than in the running game. He has 29 stolen bases in his last 126 games and boasted an 88 percent success rate in Charleston last year, but the fact he he could be so much more if he'd just cut loose more. He can be an impact base stealer if he really wanted to be.
Top Ten Speed Prospects
10) Jake Cave: Last year's sixth round pick has yet to technically make his official professional debut after injuring himself in his very first game before getting an at-bat, but he brings a ton of athleticism and top-notch aggressiveness to the table. Often compared to Heathcott for his incredible intensity, while he is going to be quite raw in the running game early on until he learns to read pitchers' moves better, he has the kind of ability to get on base at a high clip and the overall competitive nature to make the best use of his very good speed. The success rate will most likely be low to start his career but the stolen base totals should be there.
9) Cito Culver: The 2010 first round pick is nearly the polar opposite to Cave in that he is quite good at reading pitchers' moves [he didn't get caught in ten attempts in Staten Island last season] but doesn't show the same kind of aggressive running style just yet. He is more of an above average runner than plus, but he gets quick first steps and shows exceptional base running skills. Once he gets more comfortable with his swing he might start to run more as he gets on base more consistently and that could lead to some very good stolen base seasons.
8) Daniel Lopez: Able to run the 60-yard dash in 6.3 seconds, the guy can flat out fly! Possessing world class speed has allowed him to swipe 44 bases in his last 131 games and he is only getting better at picking his spots, as evidenced by his 90 percent success rate last season. The batting potential isn't nearly the same question mark it was a year ago and he shows ever improving plate discipline too, but both areas need to continue to be refined for him to be the elite base stealer he could be. Watch out though, should those areas of his game continue to improve and he could headline these rankings some day.
|GUN SHY: Feliz has great speed but he's not yet comfortable running more often. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
6) Angelo Gumbs: Very much Feliz-like in the running game, Gumbs gets by on exceptional athleticism and very good speed but is still very raw stealing bases in the short-term. A gifted hitter though with a patient approach, as he gets more comfortable offensively and gets on base more consistently he has the overall aggressive nature that could make him an impact base stealer in due time. There are faster runners ranked behind him but few offer his safe projection as a future big leaguer and natural agility to consistently swipe bases as he matures.
5) Ravel Santana: The ultra-toolsy outfielder has 32 stolen bases in his last 104 games played and he has just scratched the surface of his running potential. A true 70 runner on the tradition scout's scale, the biggest thing preventing him from becoming an elite base stealer is his propensity to hit for a great deal of power and collect too many extra-base hits to have very high stolen base totals. It remains to be seen how his ankle injury will affect him in the running game going forward, but if he comes back completely healthy he's the kind of runner who could swipe 30-40 bases with relative ease given his top-notch speed and ability to get on base.
|ERRATIC: Heathcott still gets gunned down too frequently for a guy with his running abilities. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
3) Abraham Almonte: Almonte is a prime example of why folks should not give up on Heathcott in the running game because he too was once very erratic stealing bases when he was younger. A plus runner, Almonte has been able to harness his aggressiveness over the years and turn himself into a very smart base runner. He has averaged over 30 stolen bases in each of his last three seasons and he's done it while putting up some disastrous on-base percentages for a good portion of those seasons. If he can finally be a consistent hitter for an entire season, who knows how much better he could be stealing bases.
2) Claudio Custodio: With 40 stolen bases in his first 100 professional games, few Yankees prospects offer the kind of consistency Custodio does in the running game. Stealing at an 89 percent success rate like he has to start his career is unheard of and the scary part is he has yet to really hit his stride offensively. He is arguably the best at finding the balance between being aggressive and intelligent in his picking his spots, and he has the kind of on-base abilities that should continue to give him his opportunities to be an impact base stealer.
1) Mason Williams: Williams is as electrifying on the base paths as anyone in the organization and that's including big leaguer Brett Gardner. Possessing similar speed to Gardner and still prone to getting thrown out a little too often like Gardner, the difference with Williams is getting gunned down will not cause him to be gun shy for any length of time and that bodes extremely well for his future. Almost possessing a relief pitcher's mindset, he can shrug off getting caught and continue to be the impact runner he can and needs to be.