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Ranking the fastest teams in MLB

Statcast's Sprint Speed metric allows us to rank projected lineups
MLB.com @_dadler

The fastest players in baseball are obvious. Speed catches the eye. Players like Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon, Byron Buxton, Trea Turner and Kevin Kiermaier tear up the basepaths and make sensational defensive plays game after game.

But who are the fastest teams? Fast players are valuable throughout the lineup and across the diamond, so it's only natural to wonder which of the Major League clubs are putting the fastest team on the field. With some help from Statcast™, we can try to rank them.

The fastest players in baseball are obvious. Speed catches the eye. Players like Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon, Byron Buxton, Trea Turner and Kevin Kiermaier tear up the basepaths and make sensational defensive plays game after game.

But who are the fastest teams? Fast players are valuable throughout the lineup and across the diamond, so it's only natural to wonder which of the Major League clubs are putting the fastest team on the field. With some help from Statcast™, we can try to rank them.

Statcast™'s Sprint Speed leaderboard ranks all players based on their average top speed, in feet per second, on maximum-effort runs. The MLB average sprint speed is 27 feet per second. The 30 feet per second mark is the threshold for truly elite speed -- only Buxton (30.2 feet per second) and Hamilton (30.1 feet per second) breached that territory in 2017.

So how to rank the teams? Based on players' sprint speeds from last season, we'll use a point system to give a total score to each club's projected 2018 starting lineup (based on MLB.com's depth charts).

Sprint Speed = 30 feet per second or faster: 5 points
Sprint Speed = 29-29.9 feet per second: 3 points
Sprint Speed = 28-28.9 feet per second: 2 points
Sprint Speed = 27-27.9 feet per second: 1 point
Sprint Speed = 26-26.9 feet per second: 0 points
Sprint Speed = 25-25.9 feet per second: minus-1 point
Sprint Speed = 24-24.9 feet per second: minus-2 points
Sprint Speed = 23.9 feet per second or slower: minus-3 points

Once each player is assigned a point total, we can tally up the numbers for each starting lineup and get a team score.

Here are MLB's fastest teams:

THE CHAMP

Twins: 11 points
Fastest: CF Buxton (30.2 feet per second), SS Jorge Polanco (28.4 feet per second), 2B Brian Dozier (28.1 feet per second)
Slowest: C Jason Castro (25.9 feet per second), 1B Joe Mauer (26.7 feet per second), 3B Miguel Sano (26.9 feet per second)

Buxton leads the Twins to the top of the league. His blazing speed makes a huge impact on both sides of the ball. On the bases last season, Buxton set the Statcast™ record for fastest inside-the-park home run on Aug. 18 (13.85 seconds), and he had the year's fastest triple on Sept. 2 (10.52 seconds). In center field, his brilliant play produced an MLB-best 25 Outs Above Average, Statcast™'s metric for outfield defense.

THE RUNNERS-UP

Nationals: 10 points
Fastest: SS Turner (29.2 feet per second), LF Adam Eaton (28.9 feet per second), CF Michael A. Taylor (28.1 feet per second)
Slowest: C Matt Wieters (25.0 feet per second), 2B Daniel Murphy (26.5 feet per second)

Speed-wise, the Nationals are led by Turner, their leadoff hitter, who stole 36 bases last season and is fast enough to play both premium positions, shortstop and center field. But a lot of their other key players are fast, too. The return of Eaton from injury (18 Outs Above Average in 2016, third best in MLB) should set up the Nats with one of the faster outfields in baseball -- Taylor and Bryce Harper (28.0 feet per second) also have well-above-average speed.

Video: WSH@MIL: Turner burns up basepaths vs. Brewers

Yankees: 10 points
Fastest: LF Brett Gardner (28.7 feet per second), SS Didi Gregorius (28.3 feet per second), CF Aaron Hicks (28.1 feet per second)
Slowest: 1B Greg Bird (25.9 feet per second), C Gary Sanchez (26.3 feet per second)

The Yankees might not jump off the page as boasting top-tier speed -- their monster power rightfully draws the most attention -- but as a team, they have a lot of above-average runners. Even if they don't have an elite speedster like Buxton, Bird and Sanchez are their only truly slow runners. Even goliaths Aaron Judge (27.7 feet per second) and Giancarlo Stanton (27.5 feet per second) rank above average in terms of sprint speed.

White Sox: 10 points
Fastest: 2B Yoan Moncada (29.3 feet per second), CF Adam Engel (29.3 feet per second), SS Tim Anderson (29.3 feet per second)
Slowest: C Welington Castillo (25.1 feet per second), 3B Matt Davidson (25.4 feet per second), 1B Jose Abreu (26.9 feet per second)

Statcast™ has shown that Sprint Speed peaks young, and the White Sox are a young team. The 22-year-old Moncada made his highly anticipated team debut last year and showed some of what he could do, and the team hopes he'll turn into a star in coming seasons. Engel was excellent in center, with his 16 Outs Above Average tying him for third best among all Major League outfielders.

Video: CWS@TEX: Engel sprints 127 feet for four-star catch

RIGHT BEHIND

Padres: 9 points
Fastest: CF Manuel Margot (29.3 feet per second), LF Jose Pirela (28.9 feet per second), RF Wil Myers (28.6 feet per second)
Slowest: 3B Chase Headley (25.7 feet per second), C Austin Hedges (26.3 feet per second)

The Padres could have an even faster outfield than the Nationals. Margot's 17 steals and excellent play in center (8 Outs Above Average, tied for 14th in MLB with Taylor and the Twins' Max Kepler) helped him finish sixth in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. And Myers' move to right field to accommodate Eric Hosmer at first base isn't putting a plodder in the outfield. Myers started his career as a right fielder, and his 28.6 feet per second sprint speed last season was the best among first basemen, far ahead of most of the pack.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Red Sox, Braves, Phillies, Reds, Dodgers, D-backs: 8 points

The Reds, like the Twins with Buxton, are led by their elite speedster, Hamilton (30.1 feet per second). But they don't have enough speed at other positions to put them over the top.

Video: SD@CIN: Statcast™ measures speed of Hamilton, Margot

The Dodgers are more like the Yankees -- a powerhouse team that doesn't blow you away with speed but has above-average runners all around. Cody Bellinger (28.4 feet per second) gives L.A. a big edge over other teams at first base, nearly a full foot per second faster than the next closest, the Padres' Hosmer (27.6 feet per second).

Video: NLCS Gm1: Statcast™ measures Bellinger's steal in 6th

The Red Sox don't have an elite speedster, either, but their young core is all fast. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts all averaged sprint speeds over 28 feet per second. In Arizona, the D-backs' addition of Steven Souza Jr. wasn't just a partial replacement for J.D. Martinez's power in right field, it was also a big upgrade in speed (28.3 feet per second for Souza, compared to Martinez's 26.8 feet per second).

Video: BOS@TEX: Statcast™ measures Betts' four-star catch

And the Braves and Phillies are akin to the White Sox -- young teams with fast, exciting talent in development. Players like Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies (28.9 feet per second) and Philadelphia outfielder Nick Williams (29.0 feet per second) are among those to watch in 2018.

THE X-FACTOR

Marlins

The Marlins don't have a high score, but they have tons of speed potential. It's the excitement of the unknown -- top Miami prospect Lewis Brinson, No. 7 prospect Magneuris Sierra and No. 17 prospect Braxton Lee could all get significant playing time in the outfield, and all look like they have top-tier speed. But we don't yet have the Statcast™ data to place Brinson and Lee on the Sprint Speed leaderboard, and Sierra didn't have quite enough runs to qualify in 2017. In his limited playing time, though, he averaged a sprint speed of 29.9 feet per second, which would have tied him for third in baseball.

Video: STL@MIA: Statcast™ measures Sierra's sprint speed

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

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