PEORIA, Ariz. -- Anyone who watched baseball in 2023 at the Major or Minor League level can tell you that the stolen base is on the rise. But the Mesa Solar Sox turned things up a notch Friday afternoon in an 8-7 defeat to the Peoria Javelinas at Camelback Ranch, swiping nine bags as a club.
The Yankees' Caleb Durbin and the Athletics' No. 7 prospect, Max Muncy, racked up three steals apiece, with James Triantos (CHC No. 9), Kenedy Corona (HOU No. 11) and Nelson Medina (Yankees) adding one stolen base each. The total sets a new Arizona Fall League record dating back to 2005, with the previous high having been seven.
"I think we're just trying to take advantage of any and every opportunity we can on the bases," said Durbin. "I mean, we both got pretty good wheels, but as a team, it's an attitude to steal bases. And we're going to try to scrap it as much as we can."
At the Major League level, 80 percent of basestealers were successful during the regular season, a new record. The advent of pitchers being able to attempt a pickoff just twice before needing to either record an out or risk allowing the runner to advance a base -- a system that underwent extensive trial and error in the Minor Leagues -- has allowed the stolen base to become rampant.
Individually, Durbin and Muncy's three-steal day ties them atop the leaderboard for most stolen bases in a contest this year at baseball's finishing school. Four stolen bases from a single runner in an outing has been achieved just once dating back to 2005 (Ronnie Dawson, '18).
Muncy came just shy of posting a 20-20 campaign last year (19 homers, 19 steals), his first full season as a pro. Those numbers slid a bit in 2023 as he got his first taste of the upper levels with Double-A Midland, but he has proven uncatchable thus far in the Fall League. Muncy is one of four AFL participants to amass at least seven stolen bases without being caught.
As a unit, the Solar Sox have been tremendously efficient on the basepaths. With Durbin leading the premier fall circuit with 17 steals, Mesa has gone 54-for-61 (88.5 percent) on stolen-base attempts. The team has, quite literally, followed in the footsteps of the leader.
"I think that's just the attitude of our whole entire team, just trying to do what he does," said Muncy of Durbin. "I've been learning from him in the Fall League. He's got the shuffle, shuffle, go kind of steal method and I've been watching him and I just thought today, 'Man, I'm gonna try it out' and it worked a couple of times."
Durbin, who has slashed .329/.451/.534 over his 20 Fall League contests, ranked fourth among all Yankees prospects during the regular season with 36 stolen bases despite playing in just 69 games between High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset. He has stuck with that all-out approach on the basepaths as he puts a cap on his first year in the organization.
"It's a big part of my game," said Durbin. "I'm trying to put the ball in play and get on base as much as I can because I know I can wreak some havoc out there."
For all of the dashing and diving Friday, Mesa's most exhilarating moment on the basepaths came on an offering gone awry. After Durbin singled to leadoff the third, he promptly swiped second before advancing to third on a wild pitch. When the ball similarly scooted away in the next at-bat, the 23-year-old broke for home and narrowly avoided the tag of Dominic Keegan (TB No. 9) and emphatically clapped his hands upon popping up and seeing the home-plate umpire spread in a safe call.
At the start of the day, Durbin knew that he was Fall Stars Game-bound. But just prior to first pitch, the Fall League announced that Muncy had won the American League's final vote, securing him a spot as well. The game, which will air live on MLB Network from Sloan Park at 8 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MST, will feature both of the duo's stolen-base stylings.
"I was excited," said Muncy of hearing the news. "I thank the fans, everyone that voted for me. I appreciate that. I get to join [Durbin], so we'll see how many bases we can steal in the [Fall] Stars Game."