Don't blink: These NL East speedsters can fly

May 15th, 2020

Of the five tools used to evaluate a player’s overall ability (hitting, power, speed, arm strength and fielding), speed stands alone as the category taking both offense and defense into consideration.

Whether it’s a foot race to first base to end or extend an inning, a steal to breathe life into a team’s postseason hopes or the make-or-break factor behind a 5-star diving catch, there’s no denying the importance of speed’s role in baseball.

The National League East boasts some of the fastest players in the game, with two players in the division ranking in the top five in the Majors in sprint speed last season, according to Statcast. In this week’s NL East notebook, asked its beat reporters to make a case for their team’s fastest player.

Here are the results:

Albies averaged 4.04 seconds while running from home plate to first base last year. Per Statcast, Albies’ average ranked fifth among those Major Leaguers with at least 150 opportunities. Looking strictly at Bolts (any run that registered a Sprint Speed of at least 30.0 feet per second), Ronald Acuña Jr. had 44 in 211 competitive runs (20.8 percent) and Albies had just 20 in 276 competitive runs (7.2 percent) last year.

Still, while Acuña has displayed elite speed on a more frequent basis, when looking simply at the speed tool, you’ve got to go with Albies, whose home-to-first average was just .03 seconds slower than the average produced last year by an older but still extremely fast Billy Hamilton. -- Mark Bowman

In their 27-year history, the Marlins have had just three players steal four bases in a game. Berti joined the list on Sept. 24, 2019, swiping four bags against the Mets. Berti joined Dee Gordon (who did it twice in 2015) and Luis Castillo (once in '00). A super-utility player who promises to get ample playing time -- either in the infield or center field -- when the season starts, Berti is among the fastest players in the Majors. According to Statcast's Sprint Speed metric, Berti's average was 29.8 feet per second in 2019, which ranked 13th overall. Of his 145 competitive runs tracked by Statcast, 35 were termed Bolts. (A competitive run is 27.0 feet per second.) From home plate to first base, the right-handed-hitting Berti had a time of 4.13 seconds, which is tied for 37th best among all players. Left-handed batters are naturally closer to first base, and their times are typically faster than right-handed hitters. In other words, Berti can fly. -- Joe Frisaro

No surprises here: According to Statcast’s Sprint Speed metric, Rosario is the fastest Met, and it’s not particularly close. The 24-year-old’s sprint speed of 29.2 feet per second is tops on the team, followed by Brandon Nimmo at 28.5.

Billed as one of the game’s fastest prospects coming up through the Mets’ system, Rosario’s speed has manifested itself in extra-base hits more than stolen bases at this point in his career, though he has worked diligently with Mets coaches in an attempt to change that. Last year, Rosario was the only NL player to steal at least 19 bases and hit seven or more triples, though he also led the league in getting caught stealing 10 times.

Rosario will need to improve upon that if he wants to become the team’s leadoff hitter. Although Rosario regularly led off against lefties last season, he has not yet done enough offensively or on the basepaths to warrant taking the full-time job away from Nimmo or Jeff McNeil at this point. -- Anthony DiComo

Turner doesn't just have the best speed on the Nationals -- he's one of the fastest in Major League Baseball. Last season, Turner topped the Majors with 122 Bolts, nearly double that of second-ranked Adalberto Mondesi’s 68. He also ranked second among all players with a Sprint Speed of 30.4 feet per second, per Statcast, trailing only Arizona's Tim Locastro (30.8). Turner has finished in the top five among NL players in stolen bases every year since 2016, including finishing first in '18, when he swiped 43. Only five seasons into his big league career, the 26-year-old Turner is already the Nationals' all-time leader with 159 stolen bases (fifth in franchise history), ranking third in stolen-base percentage (84.13 percent) and 21st in total stolen bases among active players. -- Jessica Camerato

Quinn is one of the Phillies’ most exciting players because of his first-class speed. Last season, he tied for the fourth-fastest average Sprint Speed in baseball at 30.1 feet per second, according to Statcast. Only Arizona’s Locastro (30.8), Washington’s Turner (30.4) and Minnesota’s Byron Buxton (30.3) ran faster out of 489 qualified runners (minimum 25 competitive runs). When Spring Training got cancelled in March, Quinn found himself in a good battle with Adam Haseley for regular playing time in center field. Health is always a concern with Quinn, but if he feels good, the Phillies’ lineup is more dynamic, and the defense improves immensely. -- Todd Zolecki