Running prospects 2010

The Cubs would score runs in more innings, and thus do better in low-scoring games, if they had hitters who were better adapted to the top of the order. Obviously, Byrd is not a leadoff hitter, nor does Baker belong anywhere other than six through eight. Can either of them bunt, or hit and run, or beat out an infield hit and swipe second ahead of Lee and Ramirez? Fukudome is old and slow. It’s a funny thing about Theriot and Fontenot. By reputation they are “scrappy,” but really they are the opposite. They are not small-ballers. Both men try to play bigger than they are. Theriot bunted in the lead run against Houston last week, but bunting is not his game. (That particular bunt was barely fair and was crossing the foul line when the first baseman opted to field it.)

Help is on the way, though. Tennessee leads the ten-team Southern League in stolen bases (and most other offensive categories including BA and OPS). Tennessee has three speedsters, Campana, Guyer and Castro, who are off to fast starts in AA and could conceivably slot into the Cub lineup, at one or two, later this season.

Peoria is second in the sixteen-team Midwest League in steals. Center fielder Jose Valdez is tied for first in the league with 9 SBs, while shortstop Hak-Ju Lee is third with 7. Last night, Lee reached twice and stole second and third both times. He scored one of the runs in a 2-1 win.

Below is a system-wide (Peoria through Iowa, plus Boise when they get going) base-stealing spreadsheet that I will try to update at least weekly.

Notes, June 10:

Players ranked by steals per game rather than raw steals.

Several of the higher ranking base stealers in this list–Valdez, Campana, Jackson–have been caught stealing too many times. The higher the level, the harder it is to steal. What will be left of a 65-70% success rate when a player has climbed the rungs to the majors? On the other hand, base stealing is a craft that must be practiced and studied, so let’s call it a learning curve and hope for improvement.

The list also doesn’t have a column for times picked off. As a box-score watcher, I can attest that the top runners here have been picked off many times this season. I haven’t yet found a stat source that gives this number.

July 4:

Valdez is really the king atop this list, because he has the same 27 SBs as Campana, but in many fewer opportunities. Valdez has 47 hits and 17 walks this season, compared to Campana’s 90 hits and 26 walks.

July 21:

The only players with an SB/Game ratio above .20 are also the top five: Valdez, Campana, Lee, Guyer and Jackson. Jackson has made a solid recovery from a stumbling start.

Just below .20 are Ha, Adduci, Watkins and Snyder. Guyer and Snyder get special mention for their over-90% success rate. Also above 90% is Tony Thomas. His 10 of 11 is a big improvement over 13 of 26 last season.

The Cubs have no shortage of applicants for the position that Ryan Theriot will vacate, probably via offseason trade. Theriot is a base stealer, so it matters that Lee, Watkins, Thomas, LeMahieu and Barney all have double-digit SBs.

August 3:

I have added a right-hand column that multiplies success rate by steals per game, yielding a single number that I then use to order the rows. The result is that Hak-Ju Lee moves up from third to second. Valdez, Lee and Campana are bunched together at the top, followed by Guyer and then by Jackson, Snyder, Fuld and Watkins in the next group.

August 24:

Brandon Guyer is atop the list. Throw in a double-A hitting line of .332/.386/.580(/.967) plus ten outfield assists and you have probably the most underrated Cub prospect.