These are baseball's 10 fastest teams

March 12th, 2020

Home runs are all the rage these days. But there's a reason Hank Aaron, who hit 755 of them, said the triple is the most exciting play in baseball. Speed is just fun to watch.

So, here are MLB's fastest teams.

Using Statcast's Sprint Speed metric, we graded every team from fastest to slowest based on its projected full-strength starting lineup for the 2020 season. Before we get to the results, here's what you need to know.

First, there are two key benchmarks to remember for Sprint Speed:
• MLB average = 27 feet per second
• Elite speed = 30+ feet per second

Now, the scoring system:

  1. Each player gets a + or - for how far above/below average his Sprint Speed is.

Trea Turner, whose Sprint Speed was an elite 30.4 ft/sec last season, gets +3.4 for the Nationals. Albert Pujols, at 22.5 ft/sec, gets -4.5 for the Angels.

  1. For every foot-per-second "tier" above or below average, players get an extra 1-point bonus or penalty.

28+ ft/sec: +1 | 29+ ft/sec: +2 | 30+ ft/sec: +3
Below 26 ft/sec: -1 | Below 25 ft/sec: -2 | Below 24 ft/sec: -3

  1. Finally, teams get an additional point for each above-average runner in their starting lineup.

The Cubs, who have eight regulars with above-average speed, get +8 added to their total. This rewards teams for their speed depth across the board, not just their high-end speed.

Add everything up and you get the final speed score for all 30 teams.

A few last things to note:
• For teams with key players injured, those players still count unless they're confirmed out for the long term (for example, Andrew McCutchen counts for the Phillies, since he's due back in April and should play most of the season).

• If a player doesn't have a 2019 Sprint Speed because he was injured, we're using the Sprint Speed from his most recent season. If a player wasn't in the Major Leagues (like Luis Robert), we're using the median Sprint Speed for his position (so for Robert, the projected starter in center field for the White Sox, it would be 28.5 ft/sec).

• For American League teams, we're looking at the starting nine position players, including the designated hitter. For National League teams, we're using the starting eight position players, plus their best bat off the bench (as in, who'd be the DH if they had one).

Without further ado ... These are the top 10 fastest teams for 2020.

1) Blue Jays -- Speed score: +19.6
Fastest player: Teoscar Hernández -- 29.1 ft/sec
Number of above-average runners: 7

Speed peaks young. The Blue Jays are young. OK, so Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (26.3 ft/sec) is there to hit rockets, not tear up the basepaths. But fellow legacies Bo Bichette (28.4 ft/sec) and Cavan Biggio (28.3 ft/sec) are fast -- Biggio stole 14 bases as a rookie without being caught a single time. Even catcher Danny Jansen (27.3 ft/sec) has above-average speed, which only six of the league's expected starting catchers have.

2) Padres -- Speed score: +19.3
Fastest player: Fernando Tatis Jr. -- 29.3 ft/sec
Number of above-average runners: 6

Tatis' 16 steals and six triples in 84 games as a rookie were no accident. The 21-year-old all-around phenom had 18 "bolts" last year -- those are individual runs with elite 30+ ft/sec Sprint Speed -- putting him in the top 7% of MLB even though he only played half a season. The Padres also have a lot of speed across their outfield, even after trading Manuel Margot: Tommy Pham (28.7 ft/sec), Trent Grisham (29.1 ft/sec), Wil Myers (28.3 ft/sec) and Franchy Cordero (28.8 ft/sec).

3) Phillies -- Speed score: +18.5
Fastest player: Scott Kingery -- 29.1 ft/sec
Number of above-average runners: 7

J.T. Realmuto is the best all-around catcher in baseball. He's not fast for a catcher, like Jansen. He's just fast. In the five seasons of Statcast tracking, Realmuto has averaged a 28.7 ft/sec Sprint Speed, the same as his 2019 mark. Realmuto has 28 bolts since '15; no other catcher has more than two. Having an athletic catcher like him is a huge competitive advantage when it comes to team speed.

Also noteworthy: Bryce Harper's 28.3 ft/sec Sprint Speed in his debut season in Philadelphia. That was Harper's first season above 28 ft/sec since Statcast began tracking, and the superstar outfielder stole 15 bases to go along with his 35 home runs.

4) Cubs -- Speed score: +15.2
Fastest player: Javier Báez -- 28.6 ft/sec
Number of above-average runners: 8

Fittingly, the Cubs are led by El Mago, whose baserunning magic is a big part of his nickname. It's not just the double-digit steals for Báez, it's the ability to take the extra base at will. And Báez always has the will.

The Cubs are full of versatile stars like third baseman Kris Bryant (28.2 ft/sec) and catcher Willson Contreras (27.8 ft/sec), who can both handle the outfield on top of their normal positions. Every one of their regulars but Anthony Rizzo has above-average speed, giving them the most "fast" players of any team.

By the way, that flexibility also makes their lineup hard to project. This exercise assumes David Bote (27.6 ft/sec) at second base, Albert Almora Jr. (28.4 ft/sec) in center field and Ian Happ (27.8 ft/sec) as the bat off the bench. But if you subbed, say, Nico Hoerner (28.7 ft/sec) and Steven Souza Jr. (28.1 ft/sec) into a couple of spots, the Cubs' speed stays extremely deep.

5) Braves -- Speed score: +14.1
Fastest player: Ronald Acuña Jr. -- 29.4 ft/sec
Number of above-average runners: 5

Acuña chasing the 40-40 club was a must-follow storyline of the 2019 stretch run. There's no reason he can't do it again in 2020. Heck, he wants to go 50-50. Acuña is one of the premier power-speed threats in the game, and very few players have the talent to put together a 41-homer, 37-steal season like he just did. The Braves' trio of young guns leads the way -- Acuña, Ozzie Albies (28.6 ft/sec, 15 steals, eight triples) and Dansby Swanson (28.7 ft/sec, 10 steals) are just really fast.

6) Dodgers -- Speed score: +14
Fastest player: Cody Bellinger/Gavin Lux -- 28.8 ft/sec
Number of above-average runners: 6

The true superstars in today's game do it all. Bellinger is the Dodgers' best hitter, best fielder and fastest runner. That's why he's the reigning NL MVP. Bellinger's elite speed (22 bolts in 2019) lets him steal bases, turn outs into infield hits and track down balls as a Gold Glove outfielder. He's a five-tool star. Oh yeah, and now he's being paired with another one in Mookie Betts (27.9 ft/sec in '19, 28.2 ft/sec overall since '15), who's averaged 24 steals in his five full big league seasons. The Dodgers have a unique duo.

7) Nationals -- Speed score: +13.8
Fastest player: Trea Turner -- 30.4 ft/sec
Number of above-average runners: 4

Turner is a true elite speedster. The leadoff man for the World Series champs has had a 30+ ft/sec Sprint Speed in all five years of Statcast tracking, and Turner's 30.4 ft/sec mark in 2019 makes the Nats one of just two teams with a projected starter at the 30+ level entering 2020. (The Twins, with Byron Buxton, are the other, but their team speed is dragged down by slow Bomba Squadders.) Turner, of course, uses his speed to steal lots and lots of bases. He's averaged 39 over the past four years, despite an average of only 114 games played per season. He swipes bags at a pace of 56 per 162 games.

The Nationals are buoyed by high-end speed. Besides Turner, they also have Victor Robles (29.3 ft/sec), one of the rangiest center fielders out there. Robles' +23 Outs Above Average on defense led MLB last season. The Turner-Robles combo is one of the fastest out there. Turner had an incredible 122 bolts last season -- the next-closest runner was Adalberto Mondesí … with 68. Robles had 57, sixth-most in MLB.

8) Cardinals -- Speed score: +13.1
Fastest player: Tyler O'Neill -- 29.9 ft/sec
Number of above-average runners: 6

The Cardinals have a lot of fast players. There's the talented young trio of O'Neill (a borderline-elite 29.9 ft/sec, 21 bolts), Tommy Edman (29.4 ft/sec, 23 bolts) and Harrison Bader (29.5 ft/sec, 47 bolts, double-digit homers and steals the past two seasons). And there's the stellar up-the-middle infield combo of Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong (both 27.6 ft/sec, and 24 stolen bases for Wong in '19).

Actually, St. Louis would rank near the very top of the heap if not for Yadier Molina. Molina might be a Hall of Famer one day, but right now, with his 22.8 ft/sec Sprint Speed, he's MLB's second-slowest runner, ahead of only Pujols. If Yadi had even middle-of-the-pack speed for a catcher, the Cards would be a top-five fastest team.

9) Rays -- Speed score: +9.9
Fastest player: Kevin Kiermaier -- 29.4 ft/sec
Number of above-average runners: 5

Kiermaier can run down absolutely anything in center field. He may be the sport's most game-changing defender (+17 Outs Above Average last year), and he averages 15-20 steals a year. The Rays have a young, talented, fast core with shortstop Willy Adames (28.3 ft/sec), outfielder Austin Meadows (28.1 ft/sec) and second baseman Brandon Lowe (27.7 ft/sec). No, we don't have Statcast on Yoshi Tsutsugo yet, but he will likely ... not fall into that group.

10) Indians -- Speed score: +9.8
Fastest player: Oscar Mercado -- 29.5 ft/sec
Number of above-average runners: 5

Rounding out the top 10 fastest teams of 2020 is the Tribe. It starts with the dynamic duo of Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez. Cleveland's two team leaders aren't just superstar hitters, they're all-around talents (27.5 ft/sec, 22 stolen bases for Lindor; 27.8 ft/sec, 24 stolen bases for Ramírez).

The Indians' fastest player is actually their sophomore center fielder, Mercado, who got down-ballot AL Rookie of the Year votes last season. Mercado's close-to-elite speed helped him steal 15 bases and accumulate +5 Outs Above Average defensively in '19.