Evan Tierce: Tierce is a very good base stealer, which is perhaps why he was kept in favor of the likes of Yosvany Almario-Cabrera as a reserve outfielder in the farm system. Actually, his 75% success rate in stolen bases might be a tad disappointing considering his speed, which is really a testament to his ability. The fact that his reserve status limits his opportunities is the only reason from preventing him from cracking the top ten.
Kevin Reese: The soon-to-be 28-year old outfielder still has some speed to his game, but his days of swiping 30+ bags appear to be over. He has just 33 combined stolen bases in the last two seasons, but the threat of him stealing still weighs on opposing pitchers' minds.
Marcos Vechionacci: Vechionacci may have had the quietest 16 stolen bases in 2005. In fact, it is difficult to believe that he boasts a career success rate of 80.6% considering speed is arguably his weakest tool. He doesn't project to be a big-time base stealer down the road, but he's athletic enough and intelligent enough to pick his spots and be a factor on the base paths.
Matt Carson: Joining Vechionacci among the surprises in the speed category is Matt Carson. After stealing 21 bases with the Battle Creek Yankees in 2004, Carson struggled to steal 12 bags in stops between Tampa and Trenton in 2005, which was probably more of a result of a lower on-base percentage than anything else. He's successfully stolen nearly 73% of his attempts in his career and like Evan Tierce, his stolen base numbers would rise dramatically if he's playing in a full-time capacity.
Reegie Corona: Corona's natural speed is one of his better tools. In fact, many believe he'll steal 20+ bases annually once he begins playing in the long-season leagues. However, his inability to make consistent contact limits his chances on the base paths, much in the same manner as Estee Harris. If he can bump his average up to .270 or so, while maintaining the same walk ratio, Corona has the potential to be a big impact in the stolen base department and slide into the top ten.
Top Ten Speed Prospects
10) Estee Harris: Harris' presence in this ranking may come as somewhat of a shock. Since being drafted in the second round of the 2003 MLB Draft out Central Islip High School, he's only stolen 38 bases in two plus seasons. With a success rate close to 78% in his minor league career, Harris' biggest problem has been getting on base consistently enough to bring up his stolen base totals. If he could improve his .303 on-base percentage, he is certainly fast enough to steal 30-40 bases in any given year.
9) Wilmer Pino: Overlooked on a stacked Gulf Coast League Yankees' team in 2005, Pino's speed should not be forgotten. He has successfully stolen over 82% (51 for 62) of his attempts since signing back with the Yankees back in 2003. He'll be one to watch for on the base paths in the coming years.
8) Austin Jackson: Growing up a two-sport star in high school, Jackson hasn't been able to focus solely on one sport until he signed with the Yankees in June. While he's got the potential to rank higher on this list - in fact, the top eight are very close to one another - his base stealing ability is still very raw. Jackson has incredible speed and once he learns the nuances of learning pitchers' moves, his stolen base totals should continue to grow.
7) Jose Tabata: Built more like a fire hydrant, Tabata's legs are incredibly strong. Playing a good portion of the year as a 16-year old, he led the entire Gulf Coast League in stolen bases in 2005, mostly on just pure speed. Like Jackson, he still has a ways to go in refining his speed game. His lack of height 5'11 and rather strong build lead many scouts to believe he'll become more of a power hitter than a speedy base runner down the road.
6) C.J. Henry: While teammate Jose Tabata wound up with more stolen bases this past season, Henry is actually the better base stealer. Even at just 19-years old, Henry's approach on the base paths and base running intelligence is mature beyond his years. Like his good friend Austin Jackson, Henry grew up playing basketball and is very agile. He's mentioned stealing 50+ bases in 2006 as one of his goals. Henry certainly has the speed to do so.
|DID YOU KNOW? Kevin Thompson has averaged 48 stolen bases per year over the last three seasons. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
4) Mario Holmann: The remaining four slots in this ranking are more like a four-way tie than anything. Mario Holmann finished the 2005 season with the quietest 40 stolen bases in recent memory. He tied Battle for the team lead, but it should be pointed out that Holmann began the year in Extended Spring Training and didn't find his way into the Charleston lineup until May 18th! Holmann's speed is incredible and he could annually steal 50+ bases by just showing up and staying healthy.
3) Tim Battle: While Battle is widely known as one of the fastest players in the system, the fact is his 40 stolen bases in 2005 could have been even better. His low on-base percentage, his knack for getting extra-base hits, and frankly, his unrefined base running ability limit his stolen base totals. He got caught stealing a farm system-leading 16 times last year and his success rate is a shade over 64% in his career. Once he learns to best utilize his speed and wisely pick his spots, his stolen base totals will increase significantly.
2) Justin Christian: Simply a treat to watch on the base paths, Christian is a game changer with his base running ability. He led the entire Yankees' organization with 55 stolen bases in 2005. Christian has been caught stealing just 11 times in his time with the Yankees, posting an 86.3% success rate in his short career. His speed is a major reason why, even though he'll be 26-years old once the 2006 season begins, he is considered a special prospect.
1) Brett Gardner: Nobody is faster coming out of the batter's box than Brett Gardner. His incredible first step gives him an advantage over any other base runner and the reason he ranks atop this list. He beat Tim Battle in a 40-yard dash during Instructs and there isn't anybody faster than him in pinstripes. His 19 stolen bases with the Staten Island Yankees were somewhat disappointing however. He despises getting caught on the base paths and it is the only thing holding him back from leading the organization in stolen bases every year. With his ability to get on base and incredible speed, Gardner could steal 60+ bases annually.