Born to run: The fastest prospects in baseball
Speed. It’s one of those tools that can’t be taught, but how to use it effectively on the basepaths can. There have been plenty of players who could flat-out fly who never learned to properly steal a base, and plenty of players with good speed who were more effective at that nuance of the game.
This week, we’re looking at which prospect for each team has the best speed, many at or close to the top of the 20-to-80 scouting scale. It’s an interesting mix of recognizable names on prospect lists and those who don’t appear on team Top 30s because their other tools don’t measure up to their wheels.
A player hasn’t stolen more than 50 bases since Dee Strange-Gordon swiped 60 back in 2017. Perhaps one of the prospects below will be ready to run his way to the big leagues soon and break that barrier.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Dasan Brown, OF
Blue Jays fans might have gotten excited that Toronto took an Ontario prep player with its third-round pick in 2019. They should have been doubly excited to see a player with legitimate 80-grade speed added to the system. Brown uses his speed both on the basepaths and in center, where he is a good bet to stick. His full-season debut will come at last in 2021, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him near the top of the Low-A or High-A stolen base leaderboards.
Orioles: Adam Hall, SS
A debate could be had between Hall, the O’s second-round pick in 2017, and Mason Janvrin, a 14th-rounder in 2019, but we’ll take Hall’s better acceleration over Janvrin, who might be a touch better at top speed. Hall has been a legitimate basestealing threat thus far in his career, with 22 steals in short-season ball in 2018 and 33 more in his full-season debut in 2019, successfully stealing at an 80 percent clip.
Rays: Vidal Brujan, 2B/SS (MLB No. 50)
Brujan’s ability to be a plus hitter with a good chance to stick up the middle makes him a Top-100 prospect. His plus-plus speed pushes him firmly into the middle of that pack. Brujan stole 103 bases between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, most among all Minor Leaguers in that span. His wheels also allow him to pick up a few more hits and extra bases on balls that reach the gaps. As Tampa Bay gets crowded on the dirt, Brujan’s speed could also earn him Major League looks in center -- whatever it takes to get his run tool in the lineup.
Red Sox: Jarren Duran, OF
There's continued debate inside and outside the Red Sox organization as to who's faster between Duran and Gilberto Jimenez, and we're currently siding with the former. A seventh-round pick out of Long Beach State in 2018, Duran not only has plus-plus speed but also some burgeoning power after making some swing adjustments at Boston's alternate training site in 2020. He owns an impressive pro résumé that includes a SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game appearance in 2019, an MVP performance in the Puerto Rican Winter League playoffs and a .400/.500/.640 line at the Caribbean Series this winter.
Yankees: Isaiah Pasteur, OF
Pasteur has been clocked as fast as 6.2 seconds in the 60-yard dash and regularly gets from the right side of the plate to first base in less than four seconds. A 13th-round pick out of George Washington University in 2018 -- when he was the Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year -- he has 21 steals in 78 pro games despite batting just .228.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: Quentin Holmes, OF
Holmes parlayed his top-of-the-scale speed and tag as the fastest player in the 2017 Draft into a $998,970 bonus in the second round that June. The New York high school product has struggled in pro ball, however, batting .176/.242/.275 with a 35 percent strikeout rate and 30 steals in 44 tries over 160 games.
Royals: Nick Heath, OF
Heath is technically the reigning Minor League stolen base champion after swiping 60 bags between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, beating out former organization mate Khalil Lee by seven in the category. The Royals valued his speed so much they added him to the 40-man the following November and gave him 15 games in the Majors last season, six of which he entered as a pinch-runner. Heath’s lack of other plus tools, other than his ability to cover ground on defense, will likely limit his impact, but a future as a late defensive replacement/pinch-runner extraordinaire is in full view.
Tigers: Parker Meadows, OF
Players standing at 6-foot-5 don’t typically come with plus speed, but the 2018 second-rounder certainly does. In fact, he might have the slight advantage in athleticism over his older brother, Rays outfielder Austin Meadows. Even as the younger Meadows’ hit tool dragged in 2019 at Class A West Michigan, his speed (and 16 steals) helped buoy his prospect status. That tool specifically will be what allows Meadows to challenge better overall prospect Riley Greene for the title of future Detroit center fielder.
Twins: Aaron Whitefield, OF
Since signing out of Australia for $70,000 in May 2015, Whitefield has run his way up the organizational ladder, making his big league debut in 2020, when he, not surprisingly, made two pinch-running appearances. He’s swiped 30 or more bases three times, including in just 51 Rookie-level Gulf Coast League games back in 2017. While the jury is out whether he’ll hit enough to use that speed regularly in the big leagues (career .637 OPS), he understands how to steal a base, with 115 steals and a 77.7 percent success rate.
White Sox: James Beard, OF
As a Mississippi prep outfielder with 80-grade speed, Beard drew obvious comparisons to Billy Hamilton. The fastest player in the 2019 Draft ran a 6.21-second 60-yard dash on the high school showcase circuit and hit .213 with nine steals in his 31-game pro debut.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Jordyn Adams, OF
With true 80-grade speed on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, Adams -- who had the chance to be a wide receiver at the University of North Carolina had he not signed -- uses his speed exceptionally well in the outfield, where he could be a plus defensive center fielder in time. Adams is still learning the nuances of basestealing, with the potential to swipe a lot more than the 16 bases he stole during his 2019 full-season debut.
Astros: Jordan Brewer, OF
A wide receiver who generated interest from Big Ten Conference football programs before he dislocated his shoulder as a high school senior, Brewer has well-above-average speed as well as plus raw power. He was the Big Ten Player of the Year and led Michigan to a second-place finish at the College World Series in 2019, when the Astros made him a third-round choice. He has yet to show off his quickness much as a pro, missing time with a toe injury in his debut summer and having surgery on his left knee last spring.
A’s: Buddy Reed, OF
A tremendous athlete who was a three-sport star back in high school and then went on to patrol the University of Florida outfield before the Padres nabbed him in the 2016 Draft, Reed was sent to the A’s to complete the Jurickson Profar trade in December 2019. His wheels help make him a Gold Glove-caliber defender in the outfield, and he stole 51 bags back in 2018, then 23 more with a move to Double-A in 2019, though he’ll have to hit more to get to use that speed in Oakland.
Mariners: Jonatan Clase, OF
Clase joined the Mariners organization for just $35,000 in July 2018, and he had a very strong pro debut in the Dominican Summer League, hitting .300/.434/.444 over 63 games. He also finished fifth in the DSL with 31 steals and showed plus range in center field. Clase wasn’t able to run rampant in the United States in 2020 due to the shutdown, but he should get a green light this season.
Rangers: Zion Bannister, OF
Signed for $836,000 out of the Bahamas two years ago, Bannister played high school ball in Maryland before moving back home. An intriguing athlete with projectable raw power, he has clocked a 6.3-second 60-yard dash. He played in six games in Rookie ball at the end of 2019 but has yet to swipe his first pro base.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Justin Dean, OF
It would be fun to see Dean, Cristian Pache and Drew Waters race each other, but Dean gets the edge just for being a more prolific basestealer. Taken in the 17th round of the 2018 Draft, Dean swiped 16 bases in his pro debut, then led the South Atlantic League with 47 steals during his first full season of pro ball in 2019.
Marlins: J.D. Orr, OF
Orr led NCAA Division I with 60 steals and 83 runs at Wright State in 2019, spurring the Marlins to make him a $2,500 senior sign in the ninth round. He used his top-of-the-scale speed to run wild in his pro debut as well, pacing the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League with 57 runs and a .469 on-base percentage while finishing second with a .352 batting average and 29 steals (albeit in 46 tries).
Mets: Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF
A lot of the 2020 19th overall pick’s game involves projection. Will he eventually be an above-average hitter from the left side? Can he grow into some power? One thing is true right now. Crow-Armstrong can play a heck of a center field. The California native was arguably the best defensive outfield prospect in the 2020 Draft crop, and he retains that title in the Mets' system. His plus speed will also be a weapon on the basepaths, and those abilities to track down balls and swipe a few bags will be what stands out most as he grows into the pro side of the game.
Nationals: Cody Wilson, OF
The 24-year-old outfielder wasn’t ranked among Washington’s Top 30 prospects at the end of 2020 and (spoiler alert) won’t be there to begin 2021 either because of the way his offensive skills have lagged since he was a 2018 13th-rounder out of Florida Atlantic. But the Nationals are a big believer in the way Wilson, who stole 22 bases in 77 games for Class A Hagerstown in 2019, can fly and have said this spring they believe he could start in a Major League center field today. Wilson is a non-roster invitee this spring and could show off that ability in Grapefruit League action.
Phillies: Casey Martin, SS
Martin was as tooled up of a prospect as anyone in the 2020 Draft class, with his speed as good as anyone from the class. Martin regularly recorded run times that would give him 70-80 grades on the scouting scale. It helps him defensively, with range at short and the kind of speed that would work well in center field as well, and he’s still learning how to steal a base, though he did go 24-for-27 in attempts during his college career at Arkansas before the Phillies nabbed him in the third round.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Garrett Mitchell, OF (MLB No. 65)
Depending on your view, Mitchell might have been the steal of the 2020 Draft when he fell to the Brewers at 20th overall. (His Type 1 Diabetes played a role in that drop.) The former UCLA outfielder was MLB Pipeline’s No. 6 prospect in that Draft, and a big reason why was his plus-plus run tool. Mitchell stole 23 bags in 77 games between his sophomore and abbreviated junior season with the Bruins. With a long gait at 6-foot-3, Mitchell covers lots of ground in center and should stick there in his new system.
Cardinals: Tre Fletcher, OF
Fletcher’s place in the 2019 Draft was a question mark after he moved back home to Maine, where it was much more difficult to scout him. One thing everyone -- including St. Louis, who grabbed him in the third round -- could agree on was that his plus speed and athleticism made him a true prospect. The rest of Fletcher’s game remains raw, particularly when it comes to his swing, but his wheels give him the chance to steal 20-plus bases at the top level.
Cubs: Zach Davis, OF
Davis started just 56 games in four years at Texas Tech, but his 80-grade speed prompted the Cubs to take a 32nd-round flier on him in 2016. He's fairly one-dimensional, but he has swiped 102 bases in 268 games as a pro while advancing to Double-A.
Pirates: Ji-Hwan Bae, 2B/SS
Bae, No. 9 on our Top 10 second base prospects list this year, is all about making contact, drawing walks and getting on base. He spent last summer at the Pirates’ alternate site, but he’s yet to play above the South Atlantic League. At that Low-A level in 2019, he swiped 31 bases in just 86 games, tying him for fourth in the league, while he also topped the circuit in batting average and finished third in OBP.
Reds: Jacob Hurtubise, OF
Hurtubise had been drafted in the 39th round out of Army by the Mariners but didn’t sign, going back to get his degree in 2020. He then signed as an undrafted free agent with the Reds before his legs stood out during his introduction to the organization at instructs. Hurtubise graduated as Army’s, and the Patriot League’s, all-time leader in stolen bases with 105, including 42 as a sophomore in 2018 and 45 in 2019.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs – Corbin Carroll, OF (MLB No. 47)
Anyone looking for a testimonial on Carroll’s plus-plus speed tool might want to talk to Northwest and Arizona League catchers from 2019. That year’s 16th-overall pick made a quick impression with the D-backs by stealing 18 bases and only getting caught once in his debut campaign. With the help of his above-average arm, Carroll’s speed makes him a near lock to stay in center, and that heightens his profile to that of a top-50 prospect.
Dodgers: Jake Vogel, OF
The Dodgers paid Vogel a well over-slot $1,622,500 in the third round of the 2020 Draft because they valued his athleticism, which includes plus-plus speed. The California prep product ran the fastest 60-yard dash (6.15 seconds) at the 2019 Perfect Game National Showcase and uses his quickness to make things happen on the bases and cover ground in center field.
Giants: Simon Whiteman, SS/2B
The Giants may have found their three fastest farmhands in the 2019 Draft, when they took outfielders Hunter Bishop (first round) and Grant McCray (third), as well as Whiteman (ninth). Whiteman has 65-grade speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, led the Ivy League with 34 steals in as many attempts for Yale that spring and then swiped another 31 bases in 69 games while reaching Low-A in his pro debut. He also graduated from Yale with a degree in chemical engineering and was nominated for a Rhodes scholarship.
Padres: CJ Abrams, SS (MLB No. 8)
Abrams is the highest-ranked prospect of this group -- and with good reason. In a skill-set filled with promising tools, Abrams’ speed is by far the loudest, coming in at a top-of-the-line 80 on the scouting scale. The 20-year-old uses his speed to pick up base hits, turn doubles into triples and steal his share of bases. Fernando Tatis Jr.’s 14-year contract extension might mean Abrams will move off short in the long term, but the wheels will allow him to be a defensive asset anywhere up the middle.
Rockies: Bladimir Restituyo, 2B/OF
Restituyo was one of 17 players to receive a six-figure bonus in the 2017-18 international signing period from the Rockies, joining the organization for $200,000. After hitting .300 and stealing 16 bases in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2018, he brought his 70 speed to the United States and played across two levels, swiping another 22 bags in 75 games. Signed as a shortstop, he’s played second and a lot of center field.