Speed kills on the baseball field, and the Rangers have a lot of it.
Entering Wednesday, Texas led the American League in stolen bases with 96 through 124 games. Sure, that’s due in part to the club’s philosophy of creating chaos on the basepaths and trying to get free 90s whenever possible, but the Rangers’ group of speedsters helps the process.
Here’s what Statcast defines as sprint speed:
Sprint speed is Statcast’s foot speed metric, defined as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window” on individual plays. For a player’s seasonal average, the following two types of plays currently qualify for inclusion in Sprint Speed. The best of these runs, approximately two-thirds, are averaged for a player’s seasonal average.
- Runs of two bases or more on non-homers, excluding being a runner on second base when an extra-base hit happens
- Home to first on “topped” or “weakly hit” balls.
The Major League average on a "competitive" play is 27 ft/sec, and the competitive range is roughly from 23 ft/sec (poor) to 30 ft/sec (elite). A Bolt is any run above 30 ft/sec. A player must have at least 10 competitive runs to qualify for this leaderboard.
Specifically, Thompson, the Rangers’ No. 28 prospect, has set the world and the basepaths on fire since his debut on Aug. 4. He is fifth on the team in stolen bases with six -- after already swiping 49 bags in Triple-A this year -- and consistently wreaks havoc on opposing defenses, while forcing errors every time he’s on base.
What he’s lacked so far in purely driving the ball to all fields, he’s made up for with a plethora of infield singles and forced errors.
“It’s pressure, pressure, pressure,” interim manager Tony Beasley said. “It speeds everything up. It just opens up for us another opportunity to get free 90s and create more scoring opportunities because of the pressure that he puts on opposing teams.”
Beasley said what makes Thompson so impactful is his understanding of the first three steps when stealing bases.
“It’s unbelievable,” Beasley said. “You look up, and you can't get him. Bubba sees things that other players don't see as far as what pitchers are doing. He just has a knack for it. He has a mindset to try and get the bags and he’s not afraid. In his mind, ‘If I’m on first, I’m getting to second until you show me that I can't.’”
Beasley said that after Thompson’s callup, he feels like he has three center fielders no matter what the configuration is between Thompson, Taveras and Adolis García, who also has an above-average sprint speed of 28.2 ft/sec.
It begs the question: who is the quickest player the Rangers have?
It’s been long said that White was the fastest and most athletic player in the organization since he was acquired as a Minor Leaguer from the A’s in December 2018. Taveras is Texas’ former top overall prospect with an elite skill set all around and Thompson’s speed has been lauded by every prospect site in baseball.
García, Semien and Duran, while all fast and thrive in basestealing, don’t measure to those three.
Beasley, for what it’s worth, didn’t hesitate when asked.
“Bubba’s the quickest by far,” he said. “When he moves, it’s full speed right away. I think Eli’s the fastest if they ran a 60-yard dash or 40-yard. But him and Bubba would be neck and neck. Taveras has top-end speed as well. What a luxury, I get to have all three of them. They can change the game. I would love to see those guys to be the type of players they can be and they can really impact the game for us.”