This is each position's stolen-base leader

June 7th, 2020

After previously looking at every position’s all-time home run, hit, RBI and Wins Above Replacement leader, we’ll now turn our focus to the stolen-base leader at each spot on the diamond.

Because nearly every position's all-time steals leader played in the early 1900s, when the game looked a lot different than it does today, we’re going to stick to players who debuted during the Live Ball Era (since 1920) for this list.

For the purposes of this story, a player must have played at least two-thirds of his games at a position in order to qualify as its leader. Any player who played at least two-thirds of his career in the outfield (regardless of the specific outfield position) qualified in the outfield spot at which he played the most.

Catcher: Jason Kendall, 189
Kendall spent most of his career playing for a non-contending Pirates club, which obscures how productive he was for nearly a decade. During nine seasons with Pittsburgh, Kendall hit .306/.387/.418, made three All-Star teams and averaged 3.4 bWAR per year. He was also a threat on the bases, stealing 15-plus bags five times in that span and topping 20 stolen bases three times. Kendall is the only catcher in the Modern Era (since 1900) to record 20-plus steals in three different seasons.
All-time leader: Roger Bresnahan, 212
Active leader: Russell Martin, 101

First base: Jeff Bagwell, 202
Bagwell is one of two players in big league history (Joe Carter is the other) to have a 30-30 season while playing at least half of his games at first base, and he did it twice -- recording 43 homers with 31 steals in 1997 and 42 homers with 30 steals in ’99. The Hall of Fame first baseman tallied 10 or more steals in 10 seasons -- including eight straight from 1992-99 -- and swiped 202 bases in his 15-year career.
All-time leader: Jack Doyle, 518
Active leader: Paul Goldschmidt, 127

Second base: Joe Morgan, 689
Amazingly, Morgan collected 689 stolen bases in his career without ever leading the league in any season, thanks in large part to Cardinals speedster Lou Brock. Morgan ranked second in the National League seven times, with Brock leading the NL in five of those seasons and Davey Lopes doing so in the other two. He also had a third-, fourth- and fifth-place finish. Morgan reached the 60-steal mark three times -- first in 1973, and again in his two MVP Award-winning seasons (’75, ’76).
All-time leader: Eddie Collins, 741
Active leader: Dee Gordon, 330

Third base: Howard Johnson, 231
The hot corner hasn’t been a position replete with speed merchants during the Live Ball Era, but Johnson averaged 30 steals per season from 1987-92. HoJo posted a career-high 41 steals in 1989, falling four home runs shy of becoming the second member of the 40-40 club.
All-time leader: Arlie Latham, 742
Active leader: Todd Frazier, 72

Shortstop: Bert Campaneris, 649
While Brock dominated the NL stolen-base leaderboard in the 1960s and '70s, Campaneris was doing the same in the AL, leading the league in steals six times from 1965-72. The A’s shortstop also finished second with 62 steals in 1969 and third with 54 in ’76. Campaneris stole a total of 649 bags over 19 years in the Majors, recording 50 or more in seven seasons.
All-time leader: Honus Wagner, 723
Active leader: Elvis Andrus, 302

Left field: Rickey Henderson, 1,406
The incomparable Henderson re-wrote the history books during his career, setting a Modern Era single-season record with 130 stolen bases in 1982, taking the all-time steals record away from Brock in ’91 and claiming the runs-scored record in 2001. He was also the career walks leader for three-plus years until Barry Bonds surpassed him in 2004. Henderson swiped 1,406 bags overall; Brock is a distant second with 938.
All-time leader: Henderson
Active leader: Brett Gardner, 267

Center field: Willie Wilson, 668
Wilson had at least 20 stolen bases in 15 straight seasons, from his rookie year in 1978 to his age-36 campaign in ’92. That included an MLB-leading 83 steals in 1979 and 79 the following year. The long-time Royals center fielder also stole 59 bases in both 1983 and ’87.
All-time leader: Billy Hamilton (1888-1901), 914
Active leader: Billy Hamilton (2013-present), 299

Right field: Ichiro Suzuki, 509
After a successful career in Japan, Ichiro hit the ground running in his 2001 rookie season, leading MLB in hits (242) and steals (56) and winning a batting title (.350 average) for the 116-win Mariners. The outfielder was named the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year as a result. Ichiro never led the league in stolen bases or reached 50 steals again, but he averaged 37 steals per season from 2002-11.
All-time leader: Patsy Donovan, 518
Active leader: Shin-Soo Choo, 151

Designated hitter: Hal McRae, 109
An early beneficiary of the DH rule, McRae was a consistent bat for the Royals from 1974-83, hitting .300/.362/.470 (130 OPS+) in that span. He also could run a bit, stealing 109 bases in his career, although he wasn’t especially efficient (58.3% success rate).
All-time leader: McRae
Active leader: Shohei Ohtani, 22

Pitcher: Bob Gibson, 13
The fact that Gibson is the stolen-base leader among Live Ball Era pitchers should tell you all you need to know about hurlers on the bases over the past century. Among pitchers who debuted in 1920 or later, Gibson, Rip Sewell and Greg Maddux are the only three to tally at least 10 stolen bases. Gibson didn’t attempt a single steal until his seventh year in the Majors, but he ended his Hall of Fame career with 13 swipes.
All-time leader: Tony Mullane, 112
Active leader: Zack Greinke, 9