If speed thrills, these teams are built to be the most thrilling this season.
Before the 2019 regular season begins, MLB.com is ranking the fastest teams in baseball. Using Statcast's Sprint Speed leaderboard, which ranks every player based on his average maximum-effort speed, we compared all 30 Major League rosters to see who'll be putting the fastest team on the field.
The MLB average sprint speed is 27 feet per second. The 30 ft/sec threshold marks elite speed. Only a handful of players each year have a sprint speed that fast. The slowest runners can average 23 ft/sec or less.
With that in mind, here's how these rankings were calculated. Based on each player's sprint speed from last season, we used a point system to give a total score to each team's projected 2019 starting lineup. The point system has two components:
- Each player got an additional one-point bonus or penalty for each foot-per-second "tier" above or below average. Players within one foot per second of the league average (between 26 and 28 ft/sec) received no bonus or penalty.
• Above 28 ft/sec: +1 point | Above 29 ft/sec: +2 points | Above 30 ft/sec: +3 points
• Below 26 ft/sec: -1 point | Below 25 ft/sec: -2 points | Below 24 ft/sec: -3 points
One other note: because American League teams have a designated hitter, National League teams were assigned a "DH" slot filled by the top-projected offensive player off their bench.
Now let's get to it. Here are the Top 10 fastest teams entering 2019.
1) Royals (Speed score: 13.2)
The trio of Hamilton (34), Mondesi (32) and Whit Merrifield (45) combined to steal 111 bases last season. Throw in three more above-average runners in Hunter Dozier (28.6 ft/sec), Jorge Soler (28.3 ft/sec) and Brian Goodwin (27.6 ft/sec) -- plus pinch-runner extraordinaire Terrance Gore and young outfielder Brett Phillips -- and the Royals might run circles around every other team in the Major Leagues this year.
The Royals' goal for 2019 is to wreak havoc on the basepaths. They have the personnel to do it. Hamilton hasn't failed to steal 30 bases in a full season and has swiped 50-plus bags four times; he and Turner were the only players to reach 30 ft/sec on 100 or more runs in 2018. Mondesi was the second-fastest shortstop behind Turner, sitting just a hair shy of the elite 30+ ft/sec territory. And we haven't even gotten to Merrifield yet -- the back-to-back defending AL stolen-base king -- who is "only" Kansas City's third-fastest player by sprint speed, at 29.0 ft/sec.
Did you know about Avi Garcia's speed? Well, you do now. He was two full feet per second faster than the MLB average last season. If Garcia slots in at DH for Tampa Bay, that's a really fast player at a position generally occupied by plodders. Meanwhile, Kiermaier's upper-echelon speed is no secret, especially when he uses it to make some of the most sensational catches of any center fielder. The Rays are fast across the outfield, with Tommy Pham (28.6 ft/sec) and Austin Meadows (28.7 ft/sec) giving them excellent speed in both corners. Up-and-coming shortstop Willy Adames (28.4 ft/sec) also holds his own.
The Phillies were big winners this offseason, with all three of their marquee position-player acquisitions -- McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper -- boasting above-average speed. That's especially true for Cutch and Realmuto (28.6 ft/sec), but even though Harper's bat is a big part of what earned him $330 million this offseason, he's not slow (27.5 ft/sec). Realmuto stands out in particular. He's the fastest catcher in the Majors, and he's not just fast for a catcher. He's fast, period. At baseball's slowest defensive position, that makes a big difference for the speed rankings.
Turner is one of MLB's elite burners. He reached the 30 ft/sec mark more times than any other runner in 2018, and it wasn't close -- he did so on 145 individual runs, compared to 102 for Hamilton, the next-closest player. Robles in center field gives the Nats a second top-tier speedster, and even the slowest of their regular position players grade out with close to league-average speed.
5) Marlins (Speed score: 7.9)
The Marlins' recent rebuilding efforts netted them some speed via the trade market. Brinson's exciting tools made him the centerpiece of last winter's Christian Yelich deal, and Alfaro is one of just two catchers to average over 28 ft/sec last season ... even though the only faster catcher is the one he was traded for, Realmuto. Still, the Marlins have a sizable competitive speed advantage over most teams at backstop.
The Dodgers are interesting. They don't have a top-level speedster, but they have a lot of players who run well, and no one who really clogs up the bases. That makes perfect sense when you think about their emphasis on versatility in their roster construction. Bellinger and Taylor play both infield and outfield. Max Muncy (27.6 ft/sec) plays around the infield. Enrique Hernández (27.8 ft/sec) is a super-utility player. Even catcher Austin Barnes (27.4 ft/sec) can also play second base. Pop top free-agent signing A.J. Pollock (28.2 ft/sec) into center field, and you've got an all-around speedy team.
The 24-year-old Hampson only has a handful of big league plate appearances under his belt, but he can really run. So can Story, even though you might think of him as a power hitter first. But the 26-year-old has worked hard to take advantage of his speed, and it's paid off. Story's power-speed combo drove his push into the MVP race in 2018 -- he was second among shortstops in both homers (37) and steals (27).
Buxton is probably the fastest man in baseball. He's held the No. 1 spot on the sprint speed leaderboard in three of the four seasons Statcast has tracked (2015, '16 and '18) and he was No. 2 in the other (just behind Robles in '17). The 25-year-old is one of only two players with a sprint speed above 30 ft/sec every year since 2015 (Turner being the other).
The A's slugged their way to the AL Wild Card Game last year, but they have some pretty fast players, too. That starts with the 24-year-old Laureano, who turned out to be an impact rookie last year despite only playing 48 games, and the breakout MVP candidate Chapman. A pair of Oakland's offseason acquisitions boost the team's rating too -- Robbie Grossman (27.7 ft/sec) and Jurickson Profar (27.6 ft/sec).
The defending NL East champs get their speed from their youth movement, led by Acuna, Swanson and Ozzie Albies (28.7 ft/sec). Acuna is the most electric, a true five-tool talent who was among the Top 20 fastest players last year, just below the "elite" 30 ft/sec threshold. The 21-year-old reigning Rookie of the Year reached the 30 ft/sec mark on 52 individual runs, 12th-most of any player.