It seems fitting for me to debut with a sneak peek of the 10 best base stealers in the majors for 2018, because let’s be honest, I like to go fast (I promise I won’t reference Talladega Nights again). In my opinion, speed is one of the most exciting elements in baseball. It would be easy to look at statistics from 2017 and list the 10 athletes that led the league in steals, but we’re going to take a deeper look at the speedsters I like for the upcoming 2018 season, and we’ll be doing this for all of the major scoring categories throughout the preseason. And sure, you’ll see plenty of the usual suspects, but who knows, maybe I’ll throw in a few surprises as well. Included next to each player are Razzball’s own 2018 fantasy baseball ranking and FantasyPros most recent Average Draft Position (ADP).
10. Jose Peraza – 2B/OF (169th overall on Razzball/FantasyPro ADP 230.3)
Jose Peraza has established himself with the Cincinnati Reds as an every day player. Peraza more than doubled his plate appearances from 2016 to 2017 and stole 23 bags on a team that steals a ton of bases.
Villar is an extremely talented ball player. Since joining the Brewers in 2016, he has proven to be one of the biggest headaches for opposing catchers. In Villar’s first season with Milwaukee, he stole a ridiculous amount of bases to lead the league with 62. Last year, however, Villar struggled and lost playing time, which is responsible for his drop in productivity from 2016 to 2017. The Brewers retooled this season trading for top-level talent in Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. The team’s talent and potential to make the postseason should motivate Villar enough to return to form or somewhere in the neighborhood
Jose Altuve, standing at only 5 feet 6 inches and 165 pounds2017 World Series Champion, 2017 American League MVP, 2017 Hank Aaron Award, 2017 Sports Person of the Year, and AP Male Athlete of the Year beating Tom Brady and LeBron James. In a Sports Illustrated story by Tom Verducci (December 11, 2017), Altuve is quoted saying, “people feel embarrassed because they’re short or skinny or fat or whatever, that’s something I never had in me.” He really proved that size does not always matter in sports. Year in and year out, Altuve is tops in hits and batting average. Last season he finished with 32 stolen bases and was caught six times. On one of the most dangerous offensive teams in baseball, Altuve will have too many opportunities to fall much further down than this.
Whit Merrifield burst onto the scene last season with the Kansas City Royals. He proved to be an important piece of their team with a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 3.9 and earned his playing time nearly doubling his games played and plate appearances. Merrifield has pop in his bat as well, which is one reason why he’s not higher on this list. Given that 84 of his 257 hits were doubles, triples, or home runs, that alone makes it harder to steal bases. While 26 of his 34 steals were from 1st to 2nd base, he did show a willingness to take 3rd base and was successful eight times on nine tries.
Surprise alert! Delino DeShields Jr. Not only does he share a name with his father, but also shares his foot speed on the field. According to Baseball-Reference, Delino DeShields Sr. played in the majors from 1990-2002 and swiped 463 bags in his career. DeShields Jr. has already displayed what he can become since being brought up to the majors in 2015, stealing 25 bases in his rookie season, and finishing for a tie for eighth place in steals last season with 29. DeShields Jr. is currently listed as the Rangers starting CF and should he hold that spot, he should remain in the top-10 in stolen bases.
Starling Marte had his 2017 season cut short due to a failed drug test for a banned substance. Marte played 13 games before the 80-game ban. It is safe to say he never really had the opportunity to get himself going last year, which is why he ended the season with only 21 stolen bases. In 2016, Marte finished 3rd with 47 steals. I expect him to get back to 2016 form if he can remain healthy, and stay out of trouble.
I went back and forth between Buxton and Marte in the four spot, but ultimately decided Buxton belongs here because of a ridiculous 97% success rate. Remember this list is not solely based on who will steal the most bags, but expresses who the most talented base stealers could be, and he was only caught one time in 2017. Buxton has been considered one of the top prospects in baseball since the day he was drafted 2nd overall in 2012. He finally debuted for the Minnesota Twins in 2015 but has struggled to acclimate. His numbers may not stand out compared to others on this list, but he has improved each year, and began to show why he was always considered a top prospect. In August alone last year, he batted .324 with eight home runs and eight stolen bases. Buxton boasts the second fastest sprint speed in the majors as Stat Cast clocked him at 29.9 mph. I doubt he will continue to steal bases successfully at the same rate, but I can envision the Twins letting him loose more often in the near future.
Sweet Dee Gordon! An absolute blur when his team needs a free 90ft. Dee led the league in 2017 with 60 stolen bases. Also led the league in caught stealing at 16, which contributed to his 79% success rate. Gordon is one of the only guys on this list below 80% in SB%. His athletic ability and hustle alone is the reason why he gets so many opportunities to run. He beats out ground balls that most other ball players can-not. According to www.baseball-reference.com, Gordon has led the league in singles in two of the last three seasons because he is always a threat to beat out a throw. Gordon had 39 infield hits, which was 13 more than the next guy and 54 of his steals came when he took 2nd base.
This guy can flat-out run. The only player I can compare him to is Willie Mays Hayes from the 1989 film “Major League.” I picture 243 pairs of batting gloves nailed on the walls throughout his home to represent each stolen base he has throughout his first five years. Something tells me he’ll need more wall space by the time he retires. Hamilton joined the Reds in 2013 and stole 13 bases with only 22 plate appearances. Since his first full season in 2014, he has not been held below 56 stolen bases. MLB.com Stat Cast has him as the fastest sprinter at 30.1 ft./sec. So why is he not #1 on my list? Compare Hamilton’s career OBP (.296), not including his first season that only consisted of 13 games with my #1 (.354), and you’ll find that he simply isn’t on base as much as some of his competitors.
Turner has quickly become one of, if not the best base stealers in all of baseball. Don’t get me wrong; he is NOT the fastest sprinter because all-out sprint speed has been measured. According to MLB.com, Turner ranks 4th in sprint speed covering 29.1 ft./sec. on the base paths. He has, however, been one of the more efficient base stealers as he swiped 46 bags while being caught eight times in 2017 in an injury-riddled season. It is easy to imagine the already aggressive Nationals team that finished 13th in the league with 2,248 stolen base opportunities, will jump into the top ten in opportunities with a full season from Turner. He still finished 3rd in MLB, even with 248 less plate appearances than Gordon and 186 fewer plate appearances than Hamilton. Simply put, give Turner about 200 more opportunities than last season to get on base, and he’ll likely finish as the top base stealer or close to it in 2018.