Predicting this year's stolen base leader

February 19th, 2024

Thanks to a number of rule changes, base stealing was back in vogue last season.

There were 3,503 stolen bases across MLB in 2023, the most in a season since 1987 and over 40% more than we saw in 2022 (2,486).

In this new environment, the bar has been raised for the number of steals a player needs to wear the stolen base crown. Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. led all players with 73 steals in 2023, the most for any individual player in a season since José Reyes swiped 78 bags in 2007.

Who should be considered the favorites to lead the Majors in steals this year? And who are some speedy dark horses to watch closely? asked a panel of five writers to make their picks in each category and explain their thinking.


1. , OF, Braves
2023 SB: 73 (1st in MLB)

Acuña’s speed isn’t what it was before his ACL tear in 2021, but that didn’t stop him from leading the Majors with 73 steals a year ago, in the process becoming the first player in MLB history to join the 40-homer, 70-steal club. Knowing how ambitious Acuña is -- he once said he wanted to produce MLB’s first 50-50 season, a goal that’s still in play for the 26-year-old -- I don’t expect him to suddenly start running less just because he made history in 2023.

-- Thomas Harrigan

2. CJ Abrams, SS, Nationals
2023 SB: 47 (5th in MLB)

Wanna take a guess at which player led all of the Major Leagues in stolen bases in the second half? Yep, it was Abrams, whose 33 thefts topped even Acuña (32) and Corbin Carroll (28). And Abrams did that while hitting .246 with a .306 OBP, so if he can push those numbers north even a little bit in 2024, the former top prospect will have a good chance to make a run at the steals crown. That should be feasible for a 23-year-old who makes enough contact (18.3 K%) and has above-average sprint speed (28.6 ft/sec).

-- Jason Catania

3. , OF, A’s
2023 SB: 67 (2nd in MLB)

Ruiz nearly chased down Acuña last year, finishing six steals shy of the NL MVP despite playing 27 fewer games and making 45 fewer starts. (He missed about a month of time with a right shoulder subluxation but led MLB with 24 steals after returning on Aug. 5.) Ruiz was efficient, too, with an overall 83.8% success rate. That was impressive for a 24-year-old rookie who boasted 97th-percentile sprint speed but may still be learning some finer points. Ruiz swiped 85 bases in just 114 Minor League games in 2022, and while his questionable bat might limit his Major League ceiling -- he had a .309 OBP last year -- there is also no real reason for the A’s to limit his green lights when he does reach base.

-- Andrew Simon

4. , OF, D-backs
2023 SB: 54 (3rd in MLB)

Carroll has the elite speed and lineup situation to challenge Rickey Henderson's steals record if he really wants to. With any luck … he'll want to. Carroll's been one of the fastest players in the game since he debuted, and he's only 23, so that speed isn't going anywhere. He gets on base more often than Ruiz, giving him more stolen base opportunities. And he has more reason to run than Acuña, since the D-backs need Carroll as a sparkplug on the bases more than the juggernaut Braves offense needs Acuña to fill that role. Carroll broke the 50-steal mark as a rookie but that might be only scratching the surface.

-- David Adler

5. , SS, Royals
2023 SB: 49 (4th in MLB)

If it wasn’t for Acuña's historic 41-homer/73-steal campaign in 2023, we’d be talking a lot more about Witt’s tremendous power-speed performance last year. At 23 years old, he belted 30 homers and stole 49 bases, falling a single steal shy of becoming only the fourth player in AL/NL history to join the 30-50 club (also Acuña, Eric Davis and Barry Bonds). As he enters his age-24 campaign, and in the wake of his 11-year, $288.7 million contract extension with Kansas City, can we really consider 60 or more steals out of the question for Witt?

-- Manny Randhawa


While one could offer different interpretations of a dark horse, our criteria here were simple: The player must have finished with less than 30 stolen bases in both 2022 (when only six players reached that mark) and 2023 (when 18 did so under the new rules).

1. , OF, Brewers
2023 SB: 0 (N/A)

One of the fastest players on MLB Pipeline’s list of baseball’s Top 100 prospects, Chourio (No. 2 overall) has a good chance to make his big league debut on Opening Day this season after signing an eight-year, $82 million contract with the Brewers in December. And that means Chourio, who turns 20 in March, will have ample opportunities to show off his wheels in the Majors after swiping 44 bases over 128 games in the Minors a year ago.

-- Thomas Harrigan

2. , 2B, Brewers
2023 SB: 26

Turang’s .218/.285/.300 line in 448 plate appearances as a rookie last year is both a worrying sign and an encouraging one when it comes to his 2024 outlook for steals. On one hand, if that level of production continues, Turang probably will lose playing time and not get the chance to pile up thefts. On the other hand, going 26-for-30 despite a sub-.600 OPS suggests that even a modest improvement at the plate could have Turang and his 96th-percentile sprint speed running wild. The 24-year-old was a first-round Draft pick and touted prospect who owns a .365 OBP in extensive time at Triple-A, so such a step forward is not out of the question.

-- Andrew Simon

3. , SS, Yankees
2023 SB: 24

Volpe isn't the pure speed burner that some of the favorites here are, like Carroll, Ruiz or Witt. But basestealing's not just about raw speed, and Volpe just knows how to swipe a bag. The 22-year-old learned the Yankees' hop-step lead technique and ripped through the Minor Leagues with 33 steals in 2021 and 50 steals in 2022. Then he put up that 24-steal rookie season in New York even when he was scuffling at the plate (.283 on-base percentage). If -- no, when -- Volpe taps into his offensive potential and starts getting on base more, he'll have way more chances to steal. And he'll take them.

-- David Adler

4. , OF, Red Sox
2023 SB: 24

Whether it’s with the Red Sox or another club in need of outfield help -- the Padres are one team that has been connected to him in trade rumors this offseason -- Duran could play his way into a chance to steal a ton of bases in 2024. A heralded prospect while coming up through the Boston farm system, Duran finally broke through with a strong season in the Majors last year following two underwhelming showings in 2021 and 2022 -- in 362 plate appearances, he hit .295/.346/.482 with 24 steals in 26 attempts. If the 27-year-old can keep producing at that level or higher, he should get a chance to play more regularly and show what he can really do on the basepaths.

-- Manny Randhawa

5. , SS, D-backs
2023 SB: 1

Lawlar isn’t assured of making the D-backs’ Opening Day roster, but MLB Pipeline’s 11th overall prospect should start pushing Geraldo Perdomo at short sooner than later. Once that happens, the 21-year-old -- who flashed a top 10 sprint speed of 30.0 ft/sec and recorded nine bolts in 13 competitive runs (69%) after debuting last September -- will start causing havoc on the bases for an aggressive team. Lawlar has 70-grade speed and has shown a knack for base-stealing efficiency (75 SB, 11 CS) in his two full Minor League seasons after being the sixth overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.

-- Jason Catania