Zoilo Almonte: Almonte isn't exactly known for his great set of tools, including his speed. He is more of an average to slightly above average runner overall, but he picked up the aggressiveness in 2009. He'll need to prove last year's speed increase wasn't a fluke.
Carmen Angelini: What has arguably been most disappointing about Angelini's career .218 average to date is the negative impact it has had on his running game. He is an above average runner who hasn't been on-base enough to pile up the stolen base totals he is capable of posting. Should the bat come around at some point, don't be surprised if those stolen base totals become eye-popping.
Daniel Brewer: Despite having average speed, Brewer actually finished fourth overall in the farm system last year with 22 stolen bases. He employs an aggressive approach in the running game, and with his ability to hit, the totals should remain that high. He would move up the rankings should his big league projection change as he continues to prove himself.
Ramon Flores: He stole just seven bases with the Gulf Coast League Yankees in his debut season last year, but he has some pretty good wheels. Like Angelini, his inconsistency getting on-base hurt his totals but could easily rise quickly once the bat matures. He's one to keep an eye on.
Judd Golsan: Like Flores, Golsan never really got to showcase his speed in his debut season last year because he was struggling getting on-base. The fact is he can really move and once he gets his offensive groove going, he could start turning some heads in the speed department.
Austin Krum: Krum, who stole 18 bases last year, is very much Brewer-like in that he overcomes his average speed with great intensity, an aggressive approach, and overall hustle. Of course it doesn't hurt that he can get on-base in a variety of ways.
Daniel Lopez: The Dominican native was signed during the summer last year and swiped just two bases in limited duty in the Dominican Summer League. However, the fact is he reportedly runs the 60-yard dash in 6.3 seconds and that puts him in elite company speed-wise. Once he becomes a better hitter overall and learns the nuances of stealing bases, he could lead these rankings someday.
Jose Pirela: Pirela doesn't possess great speed. In fact, he is more on the average side but, like Brewer and Krum, it's his overall intensity and all-out hustle that makes him an impact runner. He too can get on-base many different ways.
Top Ten Speed Prospects
10) Ray Kruml: Kruml finished tied for third in the farm system last year with 23 stolen bases and he did it while coming off of the Charleston bench most of the time. He has elite natural speed but both his offensive approach and lack of consistent contact hitting have limited his impact on the bases. He should rank higher on this list but the other areas of his game are holding him back.
9) Melky Mesa: Mesa is very much Kruml-like in the running game in that his superb speed doesn't match up with his rather modest stolen base totals, thanks in large part to his inconsistencies getting on-base. 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.
|A FLUKE: Corona is quicker than his '09 totals suggest. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
7) Eduardo Nunez: Like with most aspects of his game, Nunez can be quite erratic in the running game. His career stolen base success ratio is only 72 percent, which is quite bad for a player with his kind of speed. He is an above average runner overall, perhaps even a borderline plus runner speed-wise, and his athleticism is second to none. He still needs to learn to pick his spots better and get on-base more consistently to get the most out of his running game.
6) Erickson Leonora: Leonora is a much younger version of Nunez in some regards, most notably in his elite athletic ability and quick first step. He too has to learn to read pitchers' moves better, however, and be a bit more wise picking his spots to take the extra base. Where he has a leg up on Nunez is in his ability to draw walks and perhaps get on-base more frequently. He is a big-time sleeper in the speed deparment.
5) Kelvin Duran: We accurately predicted a year ago that Duran would be a name to know in the speed game in the coming years and he promptly went out and stole a team-high 28 bases for DSL Yankees2 last season. The scary part is he is still raw learning the nuances of stealing bases, and with his ability to get on-base, he has some special stolen base seasons coming his way.
|IT'S COMING: Heathcott could post some special stolen base totals real soon. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
3) Slade Heathcott: It's a dangerous combination when you combine great intensity, unrivaled hustle, and tremendous speed, and that's exactly what Heathcott brings to the table. Like most young players in the early stages of their professional careers, he'll need to prove he has the ability to get on-base consistently. Should he do that though, he will be very special stealing bases.
2) Jimmy Paredes: Paredes is a great athlete who runs like the wind. He stole 23 bases a year ago, which tied him for third in the farm system, and he did it in the short-season leagues. The downright scary part though is he did it while still being incredibly raw in the running game and not being able to post a good on-base percentage [.336]. Should he get those two aspects of his game in order, he could easily approach the 40-50 stolen base plateau annually.
1) Abraham Almonte: The minor leagues are all about progress. So while there's a lot to like about Almonte leading the farm system with 36 stolen bases with the Charleston Riverdogs last year, it's the fact that his success ratios have gone up each year over the last three seasons that is perhaps the best news. He stole successfully 47 percent of the time in 2007, 74 percent of the time in 2008, and he boosted that up to 88 percent last year. And now that his offense is becoming consistent, watch out!