Taylor Holiday: Drafted in the 19th round last season, the Cal-Irvine product led the Staten Island Yankees with 16 stolen bases in just 66 games after swiping 19 bases earlier in the year for the Anteaters in his final year of school. He could reach the 35-40 stolen base plateau if he's able to grab a starting role with one of the long-season leagues this coming season.
Austin Krum: Krum finished second on the Staten Island club with 11 thefts last season, which was quite the feat considering he struggled at the plate with just a .238 average, limiting his opportunities on the base paths. The former Dallas Baptist University stolen 19 bases in his last year of school and he could be quite the sleeper for the Yankees going forward.
Jose Pirela: One of the Yankees' top International signings in the summer of 2006, Pirela had a solid professional debut season with DSL Yankees1 last season. He finished second on the team with 15 stolen bases and most scouts believe that he has a lot more in the tank. A bit too tentative at times, his stolen base totals are sure to go up as gains more confidence.
|Justin Snyder could have a significant impact on the bases if he let loose and took more chances. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Justin Snyder: There weren't many disappointing facets in Snyder's game last season with the Staten Island Yankees. If there was one negative, however, it was his reluctance to run more often. He stole just ten bases in the NY-Penn League but, considering his ability to get on base so consistently, that number should have been much higher. He has the speed to be more of a factor.
Eduardo Sosa: The Yankees' top International signing out of Venezuela last summer, and ready to make his professional debut this coming season, the diminutive outfielder has an impressive set of wheels. While he might not have the natural speed in comparison to the names atop our rankings, he is a very aggressive runner to could compile some impressive stolen base totals.
Damon Sublett: Like Snyder, Sublett stole ten bases with the Staten Island Yankees last season. And just like Snyder, that number was a bit disappointing considering his ability to get on base so frequently. He has a bit more speed than he has shown thus far and he could afford to turn up his aggressiveness in that department.
Jose Tabata: The developing slugger, one who projects to hit in the heart of the order, has seen his speed game become less of a factor. He still has averaged better than 17 stolen bases per year in his first three professional seasons and he has worked himself into arguably the best shape of his career as of late, giving him an opportunity to possibly improve those totals as he continues to climb through the minor leagues.
Top Ten Speed Prospects
10) Mitch Hilligoss: We mentioned a year ago in this very article that Hilligoss could have a significant impact on the base paths and that's exactly what he did last season, stealing a team-high 35 bases for the Charleston Riverdogs. He doesn't have the natural speed of the people ranked ahead of him, but his aggressive style of play and all-out hustle in the field makes him a game-changer on the bases.
|Eduardo Nunez should steal more bases as he gets more consistent at the plate. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
8) Seth Fortenberry: Fortenberry actually stole ten less bases than teammate Mitch Hilligoss last season despite having much more natural speed. In fact, how Fortenberry didn't steal a minimum of 40 bases for the Charleston Riverdogs last season is one of the more puzzling questions. He has an incredibly quick first step and is one of the fastest players in the organization overall. His rather low stolen base total from last season is very misleading - expect those numbers to go up.
7) Reegie Corona: Corona has been very consistent on the base paths the last two seasons. After stealing 28 bases in two minor league stops in 2006, he stole 29 bases in two stops last season. Approaching nearly 79 percent in his success rate, however, he just needs to take more chances. He has the speed and base running intelligence to be a much bigger factor on the bases if he would make it a stronger emphasis in his game.
6) Austin Jackson: 'Action' has averaged 35 stolen bases per year in his first two professional seasons, thanks in large part to his incredible athletic ability. The truly scary part for opposing pitchers, however, is he has a lot more room to improve. He is a much better runner once he's in motion. If he could improve on his first step a bit more, and learn to read pitchers' moves better, he has the natural speed to get into that 40-50 stolen base plateau each year.
|Tim Battle is still the fastest player in the organization in time trials. (Photo: Mark LoMoglio/PinstripesPlus.com)|
4) Tim Battle: Put him in a race against any other player in the organization and Battle is sure to win. Stealing 40 bases for the Charleston Riverdogs back in 2005, he saw his total drop to 30 in 2006 and just 20 a year ago. His inability to get on base consistently is the only thing preventing this speedster from being one of the best stolen base threats in minor league baseball. If he can improve his batting average - watch out!
3) Abraham Almonte: He went from swiping 36 bases in his professional debut season with DSL Yankees1 in 2006 to stealing just eight bases with the GCL Yankees last season. Enduring a position change and a bit exhausted after a draining Extended Spring Training last year limited his effectiveness on the base paths. There aren't many as naturally fast and his 2007 performance on the bases was more of an aberration. He has the speed to lead the organization in stolen bases in any given year. Expect a return to his 2006 level - and probably even higher - this coming season.
2) Brett Gardner: A strong argument could be made to make Gardner the top choice in this category but loses the number one spot by mere percentage points. Boasting an incredible 84 percent success rate in his career, he saw his stolen base totals fall from 58 in 2006 to 39 a year ago - mostly because he battled a couple of different injuries. Armed with arguably the quickest first step in all of baseball, he has the ability to reach the 70+ plateau if he continues to get more aggressive on the bases. The sky is the limit for his impact in the base running game.
1) Justin Christian: Like Gardner, injuries in 2007 had a negative impact on Christian's stolen base totals. He stole just 35 bases at two minor league levels last season after stealing a Trenton record 68 bases in 2006. His nearly 86 percent success rate is unbelievable and he is arguably the best at reading pitchers. He has the ability to approach triple-digits in stolen bases if things broke right for him - securing a starting role, batting leadoff, and remaining healthy for an entire season - he is that much of a game-changer with his legs.