How two of baseball's fastest friends are bringing speed back

Outrunning cars, driving defenses crazy and the race to 100 bags

February 20th, 2024

Victor Scott II, No. 4 prospect for the Cardinals according to MLB Pipeline, was born to run.

Both of his parents were track and field stars. His father is in the Morris Brown College Hall of Fame for the sport. Vic Sr. once lost a race to his son ... while driving in his car.

"[My dad] was working at the time. His shift would start at 7 a.m., he was a police officer," Scott told me during a recent visit to New York. "He would go work out at 4:15 and he told me, 'If you wanna come work out, I'll be leaving at 4:15.' The next morning, I remember him pulling off and I ran to the nearest stop sign to see if I could beat him there. I ended up getting there before him and he was like 'OK, you actually wanna do it.'"

Chandler Simpson, the Rays' 20th-ranked prospect, has also been incredibly fast from Day 1. He did hill sprint after hill sprint as a kid growing up in Georgia and was a bunt master in Little League. He got on base nearly every at-bat, even though everybody in the ballpark knew he'd be squaring up at the plate.

"Yeah, I mean, I was little when I was little," Simpson said during his New York visit. "I was on the smaller side, so [bunting] would always be my game. I just bunted away and I still try and do that."

Chandler Simpson (left) and Victor Scott II (right). (Photo by Gabby Ricciardi)

The similarities don't end for Scott and Simpson at just being fast.

They're both 23 years old, they both grew up in Atlanta, they're close friends and, most significantly, they led the Minor Leagues in stolen bases during the 2023 season with 94 apiece. It was the most in a single MiLB season since 2005, when Billy Hamilton stole 155 and Delino DeShields Jr. had 105. Scott actually almost had 95 steals, but a late-season scoring change erased his total by one.

The two were fiercely competitive about who would get the stolen base title all year long. An aggressive, I'm-better-than-you attitude needed for the scheming, conniving activity they've become so adept at.

"We talked like every day or every other day," Scott said. "Just to kind of see how he's doing. But also to see where he's at with his stolen bases."

"Most definitely I'm looking at his stats," Simpson smiled. "I'm seeing where he is on the leaderboard, and I'm like, 'OK, maybe I need to get a couple walks, take a couple pitches, maybe get some bunts down so I can get on base a couple times more and get some bags.'"

And it's not just the stolen base record. The two compete in nearly everything they do: Word games, jumping ability and who can talk faster than the other.

"I don't know, he says a lot of words," Scott joked. "So probably Chan."

If you can imagine it, the two were also on a team together back in 2021. They batted 1-2 in the lineup for the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders in the summer wood bat Northwoods League, driving opposing defenses crazy -- reminiscent of the Juan Pierre/Luis Castillo Marlins days in the early 2000s.

"I was leadoff and he batted second," Simpson recalled. "I would bunt, he would bunt. You know, first and second. Steal, steal. Three-hole would hit a single, 2-0 in five minutes. The pitcher is sick."

It's a preview of the kind of excitement the two want to bring to their respective organizations at the big league level someday. Scott has a chance at making the Cardinals out of spring camp this year, and Simpson may not be far behind. The goal? 100 steals. No matter what level they're at.

"I feel like the goal is to get to 100," Scott said.

"Yeah, I feel like that's the goal every year," Simpson reiterated.

Scott has a pretty good Cards mentor for that: Vince Coleman. The last man in the Majors to hit the 100 mark back in 1987 and a speedster who also made a living driving opposing pitchers mad. The two have discussed how to take leads, how to read pitcher pickoff tendencies and when the best times might be to swipe a bag.

"Yeah, we've exchanged contacts and keep in contact now," Scott said. "He asks me how I'm interpreting the game and things to look for. He talks to me about first step and how to drive off my back leg."

The two young prospects have something else working in their favor: the new rules. With pickoff attempts limited and larger bases, steals were way up in the Majors in 2023. It helps to make their natural, throwback skillset even more coveted. And it's also all good for the game -- creating more action, more electrifying moments and more fun for the fans.

"Hitting home runs, slugging percentage, it all still matters now," Scott said. "But, kind of having those different elements of, 'OK, when is this guy gonna steal a base? How's he gonna impact the game with his legs?' It all means something to the both of us now. It's becoming prevalent in today's game."

"It's a good way for us to let the new generation of kids know that there are other ways to impact the game," Simpson said. "You can play baseball and make it to the big leagues not by just hitting the ball over the fence. You can get in scoring position, you can hit a single, you can steal second and it's just like a double. Steal second and third and it's just like a triple. We're just trying to inspire and motivate."