MLB Prediction: Every Team’s 2014 Stolen Base Leader
Predicting Every Team's Stolen Base Leader for 2014
In just a few weeks, the 2014 baseball season will get underway. That we know. What we don’t know is how the season will turn out until all of the games are played. One of the most exciting things in baseball is the stolen base. Games can be won or lost on the base path and having a player who can steal bases penciled in a lineup can change the complexion of a team. Over the years, the stolen base has been on the decline, but still is a major part of the game. There was a stretch when it wasn’t uncommon to see a player swipe 100 bases. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. There are a few players in the Major Leagues now or really close who could potentially get there again, but only time will tell.
One of the things that are very enjoyable about the offseason into Spring Training are the debates that go along with baseball. Who is going to win the World Series? Who is going to hit the most home runs? Are the moves made by a certain team enough for them to get to the next level? There are many predictions out there available to everyone. Some you agree with, some you disagree with, but in the end, they are predictions that are solely based on factors the person doing the predicting came up with.
Here is a team-by-team prediction as to who is going to lead their team in stolen bases in 2014. Some of the names you will see on this list may be more obvious than others.
Arizona Diamondbacks - Paul Goldschmidt
Emerging as one of the better players in baseball, Paul Goldschmidt can do it all. The Arizona Diamondbacks rely on “Goldy” as he is referred to by his peers to hit for average, power, drive in runs and even steal bases. In 160 games last season, Goldschmidt stole 15 bases which is down from 18 the year before. On a team that doesn’t boast too much speed, Goldy will be lead the team in steals in 2014. Another player of note who made an appearance in the desert last season is infielder Chris Owings. He has the ability to swipe bases as well, but won’t get enough playing time to surpass Goldschmidt.
Atlanta Braves - B.J. Upton
There was so much buzz surrounding the Atlanta Braves and the moves they made last year to bring them all the way to the top. Winning 96 games is impressive, but none of that matter if you don’t take home the trophy. After a relatively disappointing 2013, B.J. Upton battled through one of his worst seasons as a pro. The perennial 30-plus base stealer saw drop-offs in stolen bases, average, etc. This will be a bounce-back year for Upton who has averaged 36 stolen bases a year. If he can get on base the way he used to, he could potentially steal 35-40 bases.
Baltimore Orioles - Jemile Weeks
One of the busiest teams this offseason has been the Baltimore Orioles. Free-agent signings and trades have kept them busy as they look to keep pace with other American League East powerhouses. =One of the players the Orioles brought in is Jemile Weeks. He was acquired by the Orioles from the Oakland Athletics in December which now gives the Orioles a base-running threat. Weeks has decent speed and will lead the team providing he gets enough playing time.
Boston Red Sox - Shane Victorino
The World Champion Boston Red Sox are re-vamped and ready to make a run at defending their title. Players who have helped the Red Sox have moved on and new faces have emerged. One player who seems to always get the big hit when needed is the “Flyin Hawaiian,” Shane Victorino. He has averaged 30 stolen bases per season over his 10-year career. I am not sure he will get to his career average, but he will lead the team in 2014. Twenty steals is definitely a possibility for the 33-year-old.
Chicago Cubs - Starlin Castro
The Chicago Cubs seem to be the team that is in perennial rebuild mode. There are some decent young players on this team now who could lift them, but not quite to where they want to go. Leadoff hitter Starlin Castro will lead the Cubs in stolen bases in 2014. Castro who is entering his fifth season in Major League Baseball, stole a career-high 25 bases in 2012 and could very well be close to that again this season. The Cubs don’t have much speed beyond Castro, but that all could change.
Chicago White Sox - Adam Eaton
The Chicago White Sox were involved in a three-team trade that landed them Adam Eaton from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The acquisition instantly gives manager Robin Ventura a leadoff hitter who has the ability to steal bases. Eaton will most likely battle Alexei Ramirez for the top honor, but I still see Eaton with a slight edge. The White Sox have a couple of young guys in the system who could see some time in 2014 who also have speed, but won’t get into enough games to challenge Eaton and Ramirez.
Cincinnati Reds - Billy Hamilton
This selection was one of the easiest on this list. Speedster Billy Hamilton will easily take the high honor for the Cincinnati Reds. Hamilton burst onto the scene in 2013 stealing 13 bases in 13 games. There is a possibility of 60 stolen bases as long as Hamilton stays healthy and continues to get on base. He is one of the faster guys, if not the fastest in the league. It is hard to think anyone can challenge Rickey Henderson’s record, but if there is a chance, Hamilton could be the one to do it.
Cleveland Indians - Jason Kipnis
The battle for stolen base leader for the Cleveland Indians was as close to a tie in my opinion as it got. Last season the Indians signed free agent Michael Bourn to be the team’s leadoff hitter and stolen base threat. Also in the mix was a player named Jason Kipnis. He has the ability to get on base slightly more than Bourn, but his power is the reason he is lower in the lineup. Both will get plenty of chances to swipe bases, but in the end, I had to go with Kipnis
Colorado Rockies - Carlos Gonzalez
There have been many rumors over the last couple of years involving the Colorado Rockies and a few of their top players. The one player who has been able to produce in every facet of the game is outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. He hits home runs, drives in more runs and also steals bases. Gonzalez will be the Rockies' leader in steals in 2014. Drew Stubbs is another player in the lineup who is capable to contend for the top spot too, but I am giving Gonzalez a slight edge.
Detroit Tigers - Austin Jackson
In one of the bigger trades this offseason, the Detroit Tigers traded power hitter Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for leadoff man Ian Kinsler. Although Kinsler is a stealing threat, I feel that Austin Jackson will take the top honor. Jackson doesn’t get on base as much as Kinsler, but that won’t deter him from stealing more bases. The Tigers have a new look to them and a new manager at the helm. I look for Jackson to steal over 20 bases this season.
Houston Astros - Jose Altuve
The battle for the stolen base crown for the Houston Astros was also another difficult one. The Astros acquired leadoff hitter and speedy outfielder Dexter Fowler from the Colorado Rockies this offseason. Although Fowler picks them up and puts them down as quick as just about anyone, Jose Altuve will be the guy in Houston on the base path. Altuve has the ability to get to 40 stolen bases, although it's not extremely likely. Twenty-five or 30 is more reasonable for the 5-foot-5 second baseman. The Astros had a terrible season last year with no place to go but up. They made some moves that will help, but they are years away from contending.
Kansas City Royals - Alcides Escobar
There are plenty of players with speed on the Kansas City Royals. There are players who have been there, players who are on their way there and players who were brought in to compete. Leading the way for me is going to be shortstop Alcides Escobar. I was going back and forth over this decision. The other player who has a chance is the newly acquired Norichika Aoki. He was brought in from the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade back in December and is now the Royals' leadoff man. That was also taken into consideration, but I just feel that Escobar will come out on top.
Los Angeles Angels - Mike Trout
Mike Trout is the best player in the game today. We could be on the verge of talking about him as one of the best of all-time. Trout is a guy who has all of the tools and will soon be the richest player in the game. His range in the outfield, the power in his bat, his speed, etc. This was a no-brainer and perhaps the easiest prediction in the history of predictions for the Angels. Trout can steal 40 bases or more. Depending on how they want to use him, trout could even see 50.
Los Angeles Dodgers - Yasiel Puig
In years past, Matt Kemp’s name would be the one mentioned here and on every prediction list for every offensive category for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kemp’s knee injury was enough to stay away from him on this list. Taking over the top spot is the Cuban sensation, Yasiel Puig. He is a sparkplug for this organization and can pretty much do anything. He will be the new Matt Kemp for the Dodgers for years to come.
Miami Marlins - Christian Yelich
With a team that has as low a payroll as the Miami Marlins and just so many young players, it was relatively difficult to pick who will lead the team. Christian Yelich seems the most likely to steal the most bases for the Marlins in 2014. Another notable player on the roster who will fall just short is Adeiny Hechavarria.
Milwaukee Brewers - Jean Segura
The Milwaukee Brewers have two players that could eclipse the 40-stolen base mark this season. Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura. Gomez has seen his stolen base total increase over the last three years. Segura played in his first full season with the Brewers in 2013 and swiped 44 bases. He will leadoff this season for the Brewers and will end up leading the team overall in stolen bases.
Minnesota Twins - Brian Dozier
The Minnesota Twins are coming off another bad season. This season has the potential to be a bit better, but it will still be a struggle. Brian Dozier, who is slotted in the No. 2 spot in the batting order will steal the most bases for the Twins. Pedro Florimon was also in consideration, but his injury is what kept me away. Top prospect Byron Buxton will eventually be the guy for this category, but he is still a bit away from making this lineup.
New York Mets - Eric Young Jr.
Five outfielders and three spots is what made this selection the most difficult. The New York Mets added some outfield pieces to try and improve on their second-straight 74-88 season. One player who was brought over last season could be the team leader in steals, but also could be the player left out. There are things that won’t be decided until the Mets head back north making for an interesting Spring Training. Eric Young Jr. will lead the team in steals this season if he gets to play everyday. My prediction is that he is going to win the left field job, so topping the list will be easy. Another player who was considered was the Mets' first free agent signing, Chris Young.
New York Yankees - Jacoby Ellsbury
It is never dull in the Bronx. The New York Yankees were very busy this offseason signing just about everyone they could. They are vastly improved and fans all over feel so much better about this coming season than they did last year. Former enemy Jacoby Ellsbury is now on the Yankees, and barring injury will lead the team in steals. Ellsbury could potentially swipe 50-plus. At the bottom of the order is the speedy Brett Gardner who also has the ability to steal -- just not quite as much as Ellsbury.
Oakland Athletics - Coco Crisp
The anomaly that is the Oakland A’s keep surprising. The A’s won 96 games last year, but weren’t able to do enough to secure a Championship. A nice balance of young and veteran players have been the small market team's key to success. Coco Crisp, who will turn 35 at the end of the season, stole 49 in 2011 and still has the ability to do it. Crisp will leadoff for Oakland and be on the top of the list when the season is done.
Philadelphia Phillies - Ben Revere
The Philadelphia Phillies had a disappointing 2013 and would like to put that behind them. The Phillies have gone through changes, as all teams do during the offseason. There are some new faces in place in Philly this year which will likely improve the team overall by year’s end. It was a two-man race for stolen base leader for the Phillies. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins and outfielder Ben Revere are the best base-runners on the team with Revere having an edge. Revere will lead the team in steals this year, but could have some competition as soon as Cesar Hernandez makes the jump to the major leagues.
Pittsburgh Pirates - Starling Marte
The Pittsburgh Pirates surprised everyone last season by making the playoffs. It was the first time since 1992 that playoff baseball was being played in the steel city. That is a very long time for a proud fanbase. With an enormous amount of talent and one of the faces of Major League Baseball, the Pirates are going to be good for a long time and could potentially even get better. I went with Starling Marte as the team’s leader in stolen bases. It was all due to protection in the batting order and the fact that he is leading off. Andrew McCutchen was also thought about, but it is Marte who will win out in the end. There is even more speed on the way for Pittsburgh once top prospect Gregory Polanco is ready. Exciting times for the Pirates.
St. Louis Cardinals - Kolten Wong
The World Series runner-ups will be making a push to bring another title to St. Louis. The St. Louis Cardinals won 97 games last year and will most likely do it again this year taking experience gained from their younger players. The Cardinals sent David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels for Peter Bourjous. He gives the Cardinals a leadoff hitter with speed who has the potential to steal some bases. He was almost my choice to lead the team, but something intrigued me about youngster Kolten Wong. He could possibly steal 20 bases as long as he can get on base at a better pace.
San Diego Padres - Everth Cabrera
There were a lot of questions surrounding my selection for the San Diego Padres. In the end, there was no way I could deny the base-running ability of Everth Cabrera. He has a history of stealing bases, but also has a 50-game suspension for PED use under his belt. The speculation of what type of player he can be without PEDs was almost enough to choose Will Venable over him, but in the end, I decided to stick with Cabrera.
San Francisco Giants - Hunter Pence
It may not be the prettiest display of base-running, but Hunter Pence will wind up leading the team in steals in 2014. There is no denying Pence’s talent or his work ethic. He has an odd swing and batting stance, but does get the job done. The San Francisco Giants knew that and locked the outfielder up long-term at the end of last season. Angel Pagan could have been the other choice for the Giants.
Seattle Mariners - Michael Saunders
Even with all of the players the Seattle Mariners brought in to improve their roster, with the likes of Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, it will be homegrown talent Michael Saunders who will head the list of base stealers in the Emerald City. Kyle Seager was also considered and could very well take the spot away from Saunders, but for now it is the latter's.
Tampa Bay Rays - Desmond Jennings
Sometimes you just have to feel bad for teams in the American League East. The small market Tampa Rays have to do everything in their power to compete with the rest of the division and actually do it. A solid scouting staff has supplied the Rays with a tremendous pool of talent now and for years to come. Desmond Jennings is the player I see leading the way for the Rays. The outfielder is in his fifth season with the Rays, but will be playing in his third full season. Jennings has stolen 20, 31 and 20 bases the last three seasons. Another player to keep an eye on in Tampa is Hak-Ju Lee.
Texas Rangers - Elvis Andrus
The situation in Texas was another difficult one. It seems as though most teams have one or two guys who can really pull away from the rest of the team in reference to stolen bases. The Rangers are no different. Elvis Andrus is the popular choice. Andrus stole 42 bases last season and is a perennial 30-base stealer. Outfielder Leonys Martin was also considered, but for now it is Andrus.
Toronto Blue Jays - Jose Reyes
Base stealing can be a thing of beauty. There is no player on this list who has been able to do it as long as Jose Reyes. When healthy, he is the best there is. Problem is he can’t always stay healthy. Reyes has stolen over 60 bases three times with a career high of 78 in 2006. He has lost a step now that he is getting a little older, but he can still run. It will be interesting to see if he can reach 450 stolen bases for his career. He is at 425 now.
Washington Nationals - Denard Span
There were plenty of high expectations in D.C. going into last season. The Washington Nationals didn’t quite live up to all of it mainly because of how good the Atlanta Braves were, but nonetheless, they are projected to run the National League East this year as long as everyone is healthy. This is one of only a handful of teams that has three potential stolen base leaders: Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and my pick, Denard Span. He leads off for the Nationals and has a slight edge over the rest.