The Futures Game was yesterday, and while I’m writing this post prior to the game actually being played, here’s about what I’d expect the broadcast booth banter to sound like – “Player X has a lot of loud tools. He has a bright future in the bigs. This kid is going to be a perennial All-Star. Comps, hyperbole, etc.” Sounds cynical, but unfortunately there are no crystal balls. It’s fun to dream on these guys, though, and really that’s what the Futures Game is all about to me – showcasing the best young talent in the game at the moment. Be sure to check out the Futures Game edition of the Minor Accomplishments series from Chris yesterday. On this short week let’s see if there are any players in the minors we should have our eye on from a steals perspective. Players like George Springer, Gregory Polanco, Mookie Betts, and most recently Arismendy Alcantara have already come up this year. They all have the ability to make an impact in the stolen base department. So let’s see who’s next. Whether they are close to the bigs or a ways away, these players should make an impact when their time comes.
Billy Burns, OF (OAK): AA, 43 SB
They’re not saying boo. They’re saying Boo-urns. Burns is currently third in all of minor league baseball with 43 steals. He’s only been caught three times as well. Last season he was 74-81 in stolen base attempts. While there is no place for the 24-year-old in the current outfield with both Crisp and Gentry on the roster, Crisp is nicked up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Burns with the big club in some capacity in the second half. He won’t be mixed league relevant, but deep leagues and AL-only players may benefit from his speed even if he’s only a fourth outfielder. He’s the essence of SAGNOF in the same mold as a player like Jarrod Dyson.
Joc Pederson, OF (LAD): AAA, 20 SB
Pederson should be well known at this point. There isn’t much left for him to prove in the minors, but there isn’t anywhere for him to play with the Dodgers at the moment either. He’s worth a stash in shallower keeper leagues and even redraft league players may want to keep an eye on him at this year’s trade deadline. He’s much more than just speed. He has 17 home runs to go along with his 20 steals. The 22-year-old is not quite the caliber prospect of a Polanco, but his power/speed combination will be very valuable in fantasy.
Micah Johnson, 2B (CWS): AAA, 16 SB
Johnson’s numbers from this season are a little discouraging as he’s only mustered 16 steals in 27 attempts (59% SB%). He makes this list though because the raw speed is still there despite the caught stealing percentage. He was clocked to first in yesterday’s Futures Game at 3.71. That’s fast. That’s an elite time even for a lefty bat like Johnson’s. In 2013, he swiped 84 bags at a much better SB rate of 77%. Johnson’s role with the White Sox is unclear at the moment since Gordon Beckham is holding his own with the big club, but the 23-year-old should be tucked away in the minds of fantasy players for when that 84-steal speed show itself in the bigs.
Francisco Lindor, SS (CLE): AA, 24 SB
Lindor is a top ten prospect on most rankings, and he could see time in the bigs before the end of the year as well. He’s a switch hitter with speed and he’ll stick at shortstop. The 20-year-old stole at least 25 bags in each of the last two seasons and already has 24 this year with Double-A Akron. Akron is where I catch minor league games, and Lindor is a lot of fun to watch. He should be manning short in Cleveland soon enough and he’ll have fantasy value right out of the gate thanks to his wheels.
Alen Hanson, SS (PIT): AA, 18 SB
I don’t think he gets enough love, so I’m throwing him out there. Hanson has ten home runs to go along with his 18 steals this season as one of the younger players in the Eastern League. That’s after stealing 35+ in each of the two previous seasons. Maybe Jordy Mercer is going to get the job done all year for the Pirates, but Hanson is going to factor into the equation at some point, even if it’s not until 2015. The 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic has pop and speed that should play in fantasy and the Pirates have been on the mark with their DR prospects before.
Manuel Margot, OF (BOS): A, 29 SB
Want to go deeper? Want to look a little farther into the future? Margot isn’t even in the CBS database yet, but he should be on your radar anyway if you play in a deep league or dynasty format. The 19-year-old outfielder has gone 29-for-35 in stolen base attempts this season to go along with his eight homers. I’d be watching him like a cyclops with a monocle in dynasty formats.