Straw runs to claim mantle of MLB's fastest

With Marisnick gone, young outfielder wants to be new speed weapon

February 25th, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- is not the fastest man in baseball, which is hard to believe when you see the Astros’ outfielder/infielder using his streak-of-lightning speed to circle the bases.

That distinction lies with Arizona outfielder Tim Locastro, whose 30.8 feet per second sprint speed was the top in the game last year. Straw is on his heels -- literally -- with a sprint speed of 30.1 feet per second, which was tied for fourth-fastest last year behind Locastro, Washington’s Trea Turner (30.4) and Minnesota’s Byron Buxton (30.3).

Straw weirdly doesn’t like running in general, but he understands how it could help his career. He said Astros strength and conditioning coach Brendan Verner is pushing him to become the fastest man in baseball.

“Verner would wear me out about it last year and kind of pushed me and motivated me,” Straw said. “I’ll probably work with him a lot this year and try to be the quickest in the league.”

When the Astros traded Jake Marisnick to the Mets in the offseason, a door swung open for Straw to run through. Marisnick was the Astros’ backup outfielder/pinch-runner and was a Gold Glove-caliber defender. Straw brings speed to the outfield but also adds the dimension of playing in the infield.

Straw, 25, played in 56 games for the Astros last year, going 8-for-9 in stolen bases. He started eight games in center, three in left and one in right and made his first career appearance in the infield, getting into 26 games at shortstop and four at second base. He’s expected to play more second base this spring.

“If you can play shortstop, you can play second base,” he said. “I’m sure they’re going to move guys around me and there will be some guys I play around. It will be a fun spring.”

Running at 30.1 feet per second is equivalent to 20.5 mph, which is technically illegal in some school zones but lethal on a baseball field. When it comes to Myles per hour, there’s no slowing down Straw, who stole 70 bases in the Minor Leagues in 2018. Straw said staying in the fast lane comes down to saying in shape.

“I do run a little bit, not as much as probably people think I do,” he said. “Definitely staying in shape and watching my weight and not getting too heavy for myself.”

Of course, you have to get on base before you can steal a base. Straw posted a .378 on-base percentage in 128 plate appearances with the Astros last year and has a .394 career OBP in the Minors.

Astros third-base coach Gary Pettis played in an era when speed was a bigger part of the game than it is today. Power is such a weapon now that teams wait for homers and don’t try to manufacture runs as much anymore. Pettis, who stole 354 career bases in 11 years, played with speedy Devon White with the Angels and was among the fastest in the game in his era with Willie McGee and Vince Coleman of the Cardinals and, of course, all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson.

“The first thing is you have to be a guy that wants to do it, that wants to steal the bases,” he said. “You’re going to slide, you’re going to hit the ground and someday it’s not going to feel good. You have to be able to withstand the pounding, but the guys that did it well also enjoyed it.

“It was fun. Stealing a base was fun to me. I’m pretty sure Myles feels the same way and I think the more experience he gets, the more times he’s on base, the more reads he gets, he’s going to be something special.”