Kevin Thompson: Thompson stole just 19 bases in 2006 after averaging 48 stolen bases per year in his previous three seasons. He still has great speed and could be an impact on the bases, but it is appearing more likely however that he won't have a significant impact with the Yankees.
Walter Ibarra: He stole just three bases in his debut season with the Gulf Coast League Yankees but he was playing hurt. He has some wheels and he should start displaying a little more speed in 2007 and beyond after showcasing his speed during the Dominican Instructional League, including a game in which he stole three bases.
Carlos Urena: Urena has natural quickness and agility, enough to be an impact runner in the organization. Without playing an official minor league game however, it remains to be seen just how aggressive he will be stealing bases. He does however have the innate speed to rank higher in this category in future rankings.
|Jose Pirela could have a significant impact on the bases in the Gulf Coast League this coming season. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Wilmer Pino: Pino led the Staten Island Yankees with 18 stolen bases in 2006, giving him 30 stolen bases in his two short-season leagues. And at 84 percent with his success rate, he can more than hold his own against some of the best base stealers in the farm system. But until he proves he can man a full-time position at second base, especially since he isn't a real threat to become a utility player either, his impact on the bases doesn't project to be as high as players in the Top Ten.
Mitch Hilligoss: Hilligoss finished tied for second in Staten Island with twelve stolen bases last year, a credit to his aggressive style of play. But he's also a lot quicker than people realize and he could have a significant impact on the bases if he so chooses. He'll be one to keep an eye on in the coming years.
Eduardo Nunez: Nunez stole 22 bases in two minor league stops last season and has posted a solid 75 percent success rate in his career thus far. But his impact on the bases has been a bit erratic thus far, going from six stolen bases in 2005 to 22 in 2006. He has the potential to be an impact runner in the farm system, the question is, which Nunez will show up on the bases each year?
Josue Calzado: Calzado has played the equivalency of nearly two full minor league seasons and has 48 stolen bases (a 24 stolen base per year average) and a solid 74 percent success rate to his credit. His is as gifted an athlete as there is in the farm system and he could start showing more of an impact on the bases in 2007 and beyond.
Melky Mesa: How this kid has just six stolen bases in 97 professional games is one of the more befuddling points in the organization. Mesa has incredible speed, the kind of natural ability to be an elite base stealer if he just took some more chances and learned pitcher's moves better. He'll be 20 years old this coming season and the Yankees are going to have to find a way to start using his legs more because he is just too fast not to send.
Top Ten Speed Prospects
10) Alvaro Ramirez: His inclusion in this ranking might come as bit of a shock, especially considering he was just 12-21 in stolen base attempts in his debut in the Dominican Summer League last season. While it's apparent he has some work to do in polishing his game, the fact is the kid can flat-out fly, posting running times that even rival the likes of Battle and Gardner. His natural blazing speed forces him to be ranked among the system's elite.
|Seth Fortenberry had the quickest time in the 30-yard dash during time trials at Instructs. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
8) Seth Fortenberry: Fortenberry stole a dozen bases with the Staten Island Yankees in his professional debut last season. But he also got caught five times, not a good percentage for a player with as much natural speed as he possesses. He more than held his own against some of the speedier players in the farm system during the Instructional League last season, indicating he has the raw ability to be a very good base stealer in the organization. He just needs to refine his game a bit and learn pitcher's moves better to tap his true base stealing potential.
7) Reegie Corona: The physical maturation of Corona has not only helped become a better power hitter thus far, but a better base stealer as well. He stole 28 bases in two minor league stops last year despite not landing a permanent position in the field. His nearly 79 percent success rate stealing bases suggests that if he could secure a starting role at some point, his stolen base totals would rise accordingly. He has a lot of potential on the bases, he just needs the opportunity to shine more.
6) Mario Holmann: Holmann never got comfortable at the plate last season, hitting just .213 for the Charleston Riverdogs, but still managed to steal 27 bases in 2006. He has the ability to steal 40+ bases in any given season and his better than 78 percent success rate in his career is an indication of his abilities on the base paths. He needs to improve his hitting however to make better use of his speed game.
|Austin Jackson should top his 2006 stolen base total after putting on nearly ten pounds in the offseason. (Photo: Mark LoMoglio/PinstripesPlus.com)|
4) Tim Battle: Battle has as much natural speed in the organization as anybody, routinely winning foot races against the elite base stealers the farm system has to offer. But with a career success rate hovering around 71 percent, Battle isn't as polished reading opposing pitcher's moves. While he is extremely fast, he doesn't get the quick first step others get and his speed is more of the catch-up variety. He stole only 30 bases in 2006 and part of the problem has been getting on base too inconsistently to make better use of his world-class speed.
3) Abraham Almonte: To say Almonte had a successful professional debut in the Dominican Summer League last season, especially on the base paths, would be quite the understatement. A plus-plus runner who could wind up ranking higher on this list in future years, he swiped 36 bases in just 63 games last season, which was quite the feat considering he had 22 extra-base hits and collected nearly 42 percent of his hits for extra-bases. He profiles as a Jose Reyes type of player who could bring similar energy on the bases.
2) Justin Christian: Ranked second here, Christian is really more like '1-A'. A throwback player of many sorts, Christian is clearly the most aggressive base runner in the farm system and led the organization with 68 stolen bases in 2006. He is extremely fast, and while he might just be a tick slower than Gardner, he is very accomplished at reading pitcher's moves. And while his great stolen base total last year was very impressive, the fact is he could have stolen more had he not been hitting further down in the Trenton lineup or had he run in non-running situations. The sportsman in him doesn't allow him to pick up stolen bases when the situation doesn't call for it, but he still sports a mind-boggling 86 percent success rate in the pros.
1) Brett Gardner: Taking the top honors for the second year in a row, Gardner made huge strides in his base running game last season, thanks in large part to getting over his fear of getting caught. Showing more faith in his natural speed and abilities, the speedy Gardner used his incredibly quick first step to swipe a combined 58 bases between Tampa and Trenton. Owning a career success rate of nearly 84 percent thus far, Gardner has really just scratched the surface of his base stealing abilities. Batting atop the order, and with his ability to get on base, he could steal even more bases now that he has found his comfort zone.