SAN DIEGO -- Travis Jankowski is fast. He's always been fast. By nature, being fast in Major League Baseball usually leads to high stolen-base totals.
It does not -- as Jankowski is quick to point out -- make you a "base stealer."
"For me, when you see a guy stealing 30 bases, but getting caught 15 times, it's like: 'Dude, you don't get it. You're just a runner. You don't understand base stealing,'" Jankowski said. "That's why base stealing is starting to trend down. There are more runners in baseball than base stealers."
The "dude" he's referring to might as well be himself from two seasons ago. Jankowski swiped 30 bags, but was caught 12 times. With the game shifting toward power and away from small ball, those were 12 outs that ran the Padres out of RBI opportunities.
In 2018, however, Jankowski is a base stealer in the truest sense. He swiped his 20th base on Tuesday night against the Angels. He's been caught just four times. In the National League, only Billy Hamilton and Jarrod Dyson have at least 15 steals this year and a higher success rate.
"We've turned him loose," said Padres manager Andy Green. "We've put the keys in his hands and said, 'Whenever you want to: Go.' He's earned that trust, and he's run really well with that trust."
Of course, it wasn't quite as simple as saying, "Go." Bullpen catcher Griffin Benedict and first-base coach Skip Schumaker compile thorough reports on the tendencies of opposing pitchers. Those reports are distributed to Padres hitters, and it's up to the hitters to take advantage of the information.
The task is easier said than done. Jankowski watches film on those pitchers, so he feels comfortable understanding those tendencies. He needs to know what those pitchers will do when he reaches first base.
"They give me information, and I just apply it," Jankowski said. "That takes all the risk out of it. That's why my percentage is higher this year than previous. I'm looking for one thing, and if I don't get that one thing, I don't run."
In Schumaker's eyes, that's the mark of an elite base stealer. Not only does Jankowski know when to run. He knows when not to run.
"He's going at the right time, every time," Schumaker said. "If he doesn't get it, he doesn't go. It's an incredibly smart way to steal bases."
Jankowski's 20 steals going into Wednesday's game against the Angels, place him tied for 20th in the Majors. That total is assuredly more impressive for a fourth outfielder with 300 plate appearances than for, say, Michael Trout.
Jankowski has been on base 102 times this season. Every player above him on the stolen-base list has reached base far more frequently.
"He's obviously fast," Schumaker said. "But he works hard on tendencies, and he's become, for me, the best base stealer I've ever played with or coached. ... If everybody in the ballpark knows you're stealing, and you can still steal, that's a true base stealer."
Jankowski has managed to extrapolate serious value from stolen bases.
To the organization, Jankowski, 27, is an incredibly valuable piece -- one that could be part of a winning club in the future. He's elite defensively at all three outfield spots. He reaches base at an above-average clip against right-handers. And he's an excellent baserunner.
"Unique separates you," Jankowski said. "If I can do those types of things -- defense, on-base, baserunning, and separate myself from the pack in one way or another, that's what keeps you around for a long time. If I'm going to be a fourth outfielder for the rest of my career, I'm never going to be mad about that. The goal will always be to be an everyday guy. But fourth outfielder's not a bad fallback."
• Lefty Eric Lauer threw an intensive bullpen session Wednesday, in which he simulated multiple innings by resting for a few minutes between pitching stints. Green noted, "It's definitely a possibility he gets a rehab start or two." Lauer is recovering from a left forearm strain.
• Right-hander Luis Perdomo threw a bullpen session on Tuesday, his first since he landed on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain in late July. The Padres haven't mapped out a progression for Perdomo's return.
• Add Bryan Mitchell (right elbow impingement, currently on a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore) into that mix, and the Padres have three starters moving toward a return. They already have a full rotation with several prospects they'd like to continue to see pitch.
"We have a lot of days off in September, so it's going to be hard to go with a six- or seven-man rotation," Green said. "We'll make some decisions as the next month unfolds to put some guys in positions to start, and some guys might be relegated to a different role."