Here at Jays From the Couch, we love a good steal and we hope the Blue Jays feel the same.
It seems like forever since the Blue Jays lineup had a good leadoff batter. It seems like forever since the Blue Jays lineup had a real base stealing threat.
They tried Kevin Pillar and Devon Travis atop the order but neither fits the model of a leadoff hitter. The last time Toronto had a prototypical leadoff hitter in the lineup was when they traded for Ben Revere for 56 games in 2015. Revere batted .319 with .354 OBP and 7 SB during his time in Toronto.
It is true that the stolen base has lost its value. Teams are looking for bats who can clear the wall but a look at the Blue Jays sortable stats quickly reveals Toronto lacks base stealing speed. Kevin Pillar leads Toronto with 13 stolen bases with three Jays tied for 2nd place with 3. Toronto has 35 stolen bases in 2018 which places them in 2nd place…..from the bottom. Only the Oakland A’s (28) have fewer SB than Toronto.
The previous Front Office preached collecting athletic position players; unfortunately, many of these players were slow to develop (Anthony Alford) or never did (D.J. Davis) or have failed to stay healthy (Dalton Pompey and Alford).
Don’t look now but several of Toronto’s prospect appear to possess game-changing baserunners with a chance to bat at the top of the order. I am going to go level-by-level listing the levels top five stolen base leaders, except for the Gulf Coast League where only two players stood out. For good measure, I will include Fangraphs wSB and SP stats to provide an idea of how each player’s speed is valued and how much each player’s speed impacts the game. Lastly, I included the league leaders for wSB, SP, and SB, for the top four levels, to see where our prospect rate.
|Dwight Smith Jr.||0.3||4.1||8|
Despite having a down year, it appears that Roemon Fields will finish as the leader in the stolen base department in Buffalo for the second year. Still, 23 is very disappointing for the speedy outfielder. I would have liked to see more SB attempts from Dalton Pompey and Anthony Alford. Tim Lopes has sneaky speed, stealing 19 in 2017 for the Fisher Cats.
If Pompey or Alford can stay healthy and produce, both fit outfielders could fill the role of a leadoff with their OBP and SP.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
|2.5 (1.0)||7.7 (7.0)||19 (7)|
(Prior to trade)
|0.6 (0.3)||7.5 (6.8)||5 (8)|
Jonathan Davis would likely be challenging Bo Bichette for the NH lead in the SB department. JD’s 26-for-29 total SB marks is an improvement over his 2017 numbers of 20-for-34. Bo’s SB shouldn’t come as surprise after swiping 22 bases in 2017.
While Davis gets on-base enough, he strikes out too much to be a leadoff batter. He would fit nicely in at the bottom of a lineup turning the order over with speed. Bo fits the model of a leadoff to a tee.
Dunedin Blue Jays
|1.6 (1.9)||6.8 (8.4)||16 (12)|
|-1.6 (-0.2)||4.7 (4.8)||8 (3)|
It seems as though Joshua Palacios‘ at the leadoff spot is written in pen. Palacios is a smart base runner and advanced hit with extra-base power, he is not a base stealing threat. Palacios is more of a 2-hole hitter. Unfortunately, the D-Jays don’t have elite speed on their roster.
Kevin Smith has shown an excellent combination of speed and power with a total of 28 SB and 22 HR between Lansing and Dunedin. His K-rate is too high for the top of the order (111 in 115)
A #BlueJays team with … speed?
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) August 13, 2018
Kinda says it all.
Samad Taylor leads the system in the SB department with Reggie Pruitt being more effective with a better success rate. Samad Taylor owns a 74% success rate while Pruitt owns a 81% success rate. Pruitt (.303 OBP) looks more like a #9 hitter while Taylor (.330 OBP) and Chavez Young (.354 OBP) could fit at the top of the order.
|Otto Lopez |
|0.3 (0.2)||7.6 (8.8)||10 (1)|
|Vinny Capra |
|0.7 (0.0)||5.8 (2.5)||8 (0)|
The 22-yr-old Kirwer is being used out of the leadoff spot and leads the C’s in almost every offensive category. Unfortunately, his 11/44 BB/K rate fits better further down the lineup. Brandon Polizzi has a better BB/K rate (14/19) but doesn’t hit enough (.217) at this stage in his development. Otto Lopez has shown more speed in his game since joining the C’s with 16/16 BB/K and .393 OBP looks perfect at the top of the order.
Rookie Ball (Bluefield, DSL, and GCL)
|Luis De Los Santos||0.3||7.9||6|
|DSL Blue Jays|
|GCL Blue Jays|
Make sure you click the arrow to see the GCL Blue Jays enters.
Prospects tend to run more in Rookie Ball and in more cases speed diminish as players mature and add muscle. Let’s not make too much of these numbers. Although GCL’s Steward Berroa has posted back-to-back seasons with good SB numbers, stealing 20 SB in 2017.
Teoscar Hernandez stole two bases in 4 Triple-A games and three in 101 games with the Blue Jays. Last year in 105 Triple-A games Teo swiped 16 and zero SB in 26 games with Toronto.
We keep hearing that the Blue Jays don’t steal or play small ball as a result of its roster construction, ‘It’s not their game’, is what we’re told. With Hernandez already an everyday player **cough DH**, Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis, and Pompey (if stops yelling at his manager) knocking on the door next year, Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins will need to hire a manager more willing to use the speed at his disposal. It is time this team learns how to manufacture runs and gamble running into some outs along the way.
*Featured Image Credit: Roy JFtC
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.