Ramon Laureano is running angry about his 2020 season. After an .853 OPS over his first two seasons with the Athletics with 20 total SBs, Laureano saw his OPS plummet to .704 and accumulated only 2 SBs in 2020. He’s already more than halfway to his season-high 13 SBs. 

Is this for real? Yes, to an extent. He’s projected for 131 SBs if he plays 150 games this season. Thems Rickey numbers! The (current) Athletics organization is notorious for not stealing bases, but Laureano has the speed and while he doesn’t have an elite walk-rate — his 81% contract rate paired with his legs can help him get on base at a decent rate. The only thing that could stop Laureano is an injury. In his young career, he does seem to be slightly injury prone — already dealing with a jammed wrist early this season. 

Below you will find the stolen base leaders so far this season. For each of the players included, I’ve highlighted their sprint speeds and their xwOBA. xwOBA is an indicator of a batter’s skill based on the quality of contact (incorporating exit velocity and launch angle,) the number of times they made contact while excluding the fielding result. There are 22 players who have stolen 2 bases, but I’ve chosen to highlight 7 of the interesting players that popped out to me. 

 

Rank Player ESPN % SBs Sprint Spd (ft/s) Percentile xWOBA
1 Ramon Laureano 93% 7 27.8 80 .403
2 Garrett Hampson 62% 4 29.6 99 .305

 

The speed is for real as you can see by his sprint speed and the fact that he stole 51 bases as recently as 2017 in the minors. The only thing that has held Hampson so far through his big league career has been his on-base skills and the Rockies’ unwillingness to give him a long commitment in their lineup. Is this for real? It’s only been 10 games, but Hampson has cut his strikeout rate from 2020’s 32.6% to 16.7% this year. He’s also raised his walk rate from 7.1% to 14.3%. If these plate discipline gains stick around I don’t see why he couldn’t be at least a 30-40 SB threat. 

 

Rank Player ESPN % SBs Sprint Spd (ft/s) Percentile xwOBA
3 Max Kepler 91% 3 27.7 77 .320
3 Javier Baez 99% 3 26.1 40 .281
3 Ronald Acuna Jr. 100% 3 29.4 98 .489
3 Tommy Edman 95% 3 28.5 93 .323

 

Let’s get the easy one out of the way — by now we’ve all seen Acuna’s beating that routine groundball to short during Monday’s Phillies game. This is all for real. 40 SBs are the floor. 

For Kepler, while he did have 19 SBs in the minors in 2015, he hasn’t stolen over 6 in any major league season. He has above-average speed, but stealing bags just isn’t his bag, baby. Maybe he’ll set his single-season record with 7 this year. 26.1 ft/s is actually slow for Baez who’s 6-season average before this season was 28.5. Baez is just an agent of chaos on the baseball field. With plate appearances, he could reach between 15-20 SBs. If he all of a sudden is a step slower — maybe he settles in at 10-12. 

Edman clearly has the legs to get the stolen bases. He’s ranked in the top 4%, top 5%, and now top 7% of sprint speed in his three seasons with the Cardinals. Edman could join the elite of speed threats if he worked on his patience at the plate. He already has fantastic contact rate finishing among the top-30 in each of his seasons, but his 5.6% BB% is the 21st worst since 2019 among batters with at least 600 plate appearances. One thing working in Edman’s favor (so far) is he’s seemed to up his exit velocity. He’s gone from 86.5 last year to 89.1 this year. It won’t matter though if he doesn’t improve his launch angle of…1.8. 

 

Rank Player ESPN % SBs Sprint Spd (ft/s) Percentile xwOBA
7 22 Players 2
Marwin Gonzalez 6% 2 25.8 31 .316
Robbie Grossman 6% 2 27.2 66 .400
Christian Vazquez 93% 2 24.7 15 .343
Willson Contreras 96% 2 27.2 64 .307
Joey Gallo 96% 2 26.2 43 .373
Tim Locastro 5% 2 30.9 100 .293
Miguel Rojas 12% 2 26.5 46.5 .296

 

Gone are the days of Marwin Gonzalez, multi-positional darling. The sprint speed isn’t there, the on-base skills aren’t there. Both of his stolen bases have come against Pedro Severino of the Orioles who hasn’t thrown anyone out this year and has allowed 3 SBs. Don’t count on stolen bases from Marwin.

While he doesn’t have elite speed, I am counting on Grossman for 15-20 SBs for three reasons: 1.) he’s batting lead-off for the Tigers and should have guaranteed ABs, 2.) he has a career 12.7% BB% for his career including 10 BBs in 38 plate appearances this year, and 3.) the Tigers have nothing to lose. Why not just let him run wild? 

Remember when I said Marwin Gonzalez had 2 of Pedro Severino’s 3 allowed stolen bases? Here’s who got the third! As for Vazquez’s other SB – he swiped that one against Mike Zunino who is currently leading the league in stolen bases allowed with 8. What’s the opposite of leading in this instance? Don’t expect more than 5 SBs from Vazquez unless he’s just bored and wants to mess with his opposing catchers.

Willson Contreras hasn’t stolen more than 5 bases in a season. While his 27.2 sprint speed really isn’t bad and he’s one of the better hitting catchers in the league — I wouldn’t bank on double-digit stolen bases. 

Joey Gallo: 40/20 threat?! I drafted Gallo in many leagues so I’m hoping so. However, I’m realistic. That means 50/30 baby!!! Gallo at his best can get on base at a great clip (take a look at 2019’s injury-shortened season) and Rangers manager Chris Woodward was second in stolen base attempt percentage last year. With health (a HUGE ask) and 2019’s plate skills — 40/10 isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. 

Locastro is a perfect 28 for 28 on SBs to start his career. He’s also tied with Trea Turner with the fastest sprint speed so far this season. So why aren’t we talking about Locastro as a potential first-round pick?! *Looks at literally any other statistic* Oh…

Rojas has the same plate approach issues as Tommy Edman. Rojas is 10th in the league in contact rate so far this year (89.1%), but has the 4th worst average exit velocity. Contact rate doesn’t mean anything if you can barely reach the infield grass. Rojas will be lucky if he somehow reaches double-digit SBs. 

 
  1. Ex Babycakes fan says:
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    You left out Miles Straw -I’ve seen him play in the minors- he has to be right up there with the speediest of the speedy.— ex- Babycakes fan

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry Klug says:
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      Unfortunately, I wrote/submitted this article before Straw got last night’s steal.

      • Ex Babycakes fan says:
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        Where does Straw land on sprint speed ?

  2. Myles Straw says:
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    I got 3 too homie!

    • Foxman says:
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      But you ain’t got no face Myles, so no need for the straw homie.

    • Kerry Klug

      Kerry Klug says:
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      My bad Straw man, I wrote/submitted this article before you got #3!

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